When was the last time you practiced an earthquake drill? How often do you stock up on emergency supplies? Do you have a reliable way to keep in touch with loved ones in case a big quake happens? If you don’t have any solid answers to these questions, chances are your entire life would be severely affected by a strong earthquake. Research conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the chances of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in California over the next 30 years are greater than 99 percent. Earthquakes of this magnitude not only cause widespread damage, but they can also result in extensive injuries or loss of life. If you expect to survive and rebuild quickly after an earthquake, it’s extremely important to be prepared before a quake happens, and also to react sensibly in the aftermath.
- The Science – An earthquake is defined as the sudden movement of the ground, triggered by a release of tectonic strain which has built up over years. Earthquakes cause geographic shifts and vibrations that are so pronounced, they destabilize and destroy man-made structures. The higher the magnitude of an earthquake on the Richter scale, the more damage and injury it’s likely to cause.
- Quakes with a seismographic scale of 2.5 or less usually aren’t noticed.
- Quakes with a seismographic scale of 2.6 – 5.4 cause minor damage to buildings and structures.
- Quakes with a seismographic scale of 5.5 – 6.0 cause notable damage to buildings and structures.
- Quakes with a seismographic scale of 6.1 – 6.5 cause significant damage to buildings and structures especially in populated areas.
- Quakes with a seismographic scale of 6.5 or higher cause severe damage to buildings and structures and are inevitably accompanied by injuries or fatalities.
- Earthquake Precautions – Adequate preparation for earthquakes involves more than just reacting to them at the moment. The more preemptive measures you can take to reduce quake-damage, the less you stand to lose in the event of such a disaster.
Before an earthquake occurs, make sure to take the following protective measures:
- Get Some Earthquake Insurance: The cost of rebuilding a home after an earthquake always creates a mountain of costs. Not only can purchase the right insurance policy to supplement these costs, but it can also pay for temporary housing after the fact, or replace damaged personal belongings.
- Store Possessions Carefully: Avoid keeping heavy materials in high storage locations. Use upper shelves to store light belongings, and lower shelves to store heavy belongings. Heavy objects at a high altitude can turn into dangerous debris when shaken out of place during a quake. It’s also advisable to store breakables at lower levels because they can break into sharp fragments during the commotion of a quake.
- Reinforce your Fittings/Fixtures: Bolting down loose or dangerous furniture can prevent hazardous conditions in the aftermath of an earthquake. Items such as water heaters, refrigerators, furnaces, or gas appliances, can leak dangerous chemicals when damaged and jolted out of place. It’s also a good idea to ensure that any fixtures which are suspended from a height are anchored soundly. Lose chandeliers, for instance, can collapse if installed delicately.
- Practice Some Drills: Don’t wait for the big one to happen before thinking about how to survive it. Practice regular drills with your entire household to familiarize everyone with what to do when an earthquake happens. A good place to start is to identify specific areas of your home that would serve as a suitable shelter during a quake. Make sure your family is acquainted with these hiding spots and rehearse using them. For more specific details on how to coordinate disaster drills, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s site: https://www.ready.gov/
- When it Happens – Earthquakes can happen without warning. As wise as it is to do what you can to minimize damage beforehand, if you find yourself in the chaos of a quake, the only option you have left is to survive. This takes composure and quick thinking.
If everything starts shaking and you realize that it’s happening:
- DON’T PANIC – You may feel helpless and lost at the sight of your world tilting and trembling – but don’t let this scramble your wits. Push through your fear and react deliberately to the circumstances.
If you are Indoors
- Scan your Surroundings – Glass windows, loose fixtures, and moveable furniture are responsible for most injuries during earthquakes.
- Take Cover – Hide under any stable structure that can shelter you from falling wreckage. The easiest hiding spots to use are desks, tables, and benches. Avoid doorways because they’re exposed to flying objects. If there are no visible hiding spots around you, move away from any glass windows, loose fixtures, and moveable furniture, then drop to the ground, take cover and hold your position to brace against any rubble.
- Wait for the Shaking to Stop – Your environment won’t be stable until the shaking stops so it’s best to hold your hiding position until you are sure the earthquake has passed. Keep in mind that some quakes are accompanied by aftershocks so be cautious even after any noticeable tremors have subsided.
- Don’t take Shelter in Elevators – Earthquakes can easily damage the cables that suspend elevators and cause them to drop within their shafts. Even on the ground floor, such an incident can still end up inflicting Injury.
If you are Outdoors
- Don’t take Shelter Indoors – Being outside during an earthquake is safer than being indoors because there are fewer materials overhead that could end up collapsing. If the shaking is significant enough to throw you off-balance; drop, take cover, and hold your position until the tremors subside.
- Move away from Construction – If there are unstable structures around you such as shaken buildings, streetlights, or utility poles, move away from them to avoid their collapse.
After an earthquake has happened, remember to open cabinets carefully because the shaking could have displaced items precariously. Also, stay away from dangerous or damaged areas unless first-responders specifically ask for your help with rescue and rebuilding efforts. It takes a lot of time for people to piece their lives together after an earthquake, so if a strong quake happens, expect to have your normal routine interrupted for weeks or even months. For more information on how Adriana’s Insurance Services can help you prepare for earthquakes, visit any of our offices or give us a call at 1-800-639-7654. We got you covered!