Quick Guide: How to Survive an Earthquake

Quick Guide: How to Survive an 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 is greater than 99 percent. Earthquakes of this magnitude not only cause widespread damage, but can also result in extensive loss of life. It cannot be understated how important it is for you to be prepared not just for earthquakes themselves, but also for their problematic aftermath.

The Basics

An earthquake is defined as sudden movement of the ground, triggered by a release of tectonic strain that has built up over years. Earthquakes cause geographic shifts and vibrations that are so pronounced, they destabilize and destroy property. The higher the magnitude of an earthquake on the Richter scale, the more damage and injury it is 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.

Before an Earthquake

Adequate preparation for earthquakes involves more than just reacting to them in the moment. The more preemptive measures you can take to mitigate quake-damage, the less you stand to lose in the event of such a disaster. Before an earthquake transpires, make sure to take the following protective measures:

  1. Insure your Home: Even if someone is wealthy, the cost of rebuilding a home after an earthquake hits can present a mountain of costs. Not only can purchasing the right insurance policy supplement these costs, it can also pay for temporary housing after the fact, or replace damaged personal belongings.
  2. Arrange your Furniture Responsibly: 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 turn into sharp fragments during the commotion of a quake.
  3. Reinforce your Furniture: Bolting down loose or dangerous furniture can prevent the formation of 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 that are suspended from a height are anchored soundly. Lose chandeliers for instance can collapse if installed delicately.
  4. Hold Earthquake Drills: Don’t wait for the big one to happen before thinking about how to endure 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 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/

During an Earthquake

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

  1. Scan your Surroundings: Glass windows, loose fixtures and moveable furniture are responsible for most injuries during earthquakes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t take Shelter in Elevators: Earthquakes can easily damage the cables that suspend elevators and cause them to drop within their shafts. Even at the ground floor, such an incident can still end up inflicting Injury.

If you are Outdoors

  1. Don’t take Shelter Indoors: Being outside during an earthquake is safer than being indoors because there are less 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.
  2. 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. Stay away from dangerous or damaged areas unless first-responders specifically ask for your help with rescue and rebuilding efforts. 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.