Earthquake Preparation Guides
Prepare for an earthquake today with our earthquake preparedness planning guide. Learn what to do before an earthquake such as having the right earthquake kits and supplies. It also provides tips for what to do during and after an earthquake as well.
Earthquake Preparedness Guide
What To Do Before An Earthquake
Learn About Earthquakes
One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible after effects. Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently, and without warning at any time of the day or night. If an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.
Although there are no guarantees of safety during an earthquake, identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can save lives and significantly reduce injuries and property damage.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an earthquake hazard:
Aftershock: An earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake.
Earthquake: A sudden slipping or movement of a portion of the earth’s crust, accompanied and followed by a series of vibrations.
Epicenter: The place on the earth’s surface directly above the point on the fault where the earthquake rupture began. Once fault slippage begins, it expands along the fault during the earthquake and can extend hundreds of miles before stopping.
Fault: The fracture across which displacement has occurred during an earthquake. The slippage may range from less than an inch to more than 10 yards in a severe earthquake.
Magnitude: The amount of energy released during an earthquake, which is computed from the amplitude of the seismic waves. A magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale indicates an extremely strong earthquake. Each whole number on the scale represents an increase of about 30 times more energy released than the previous whole number represents. Therefore, an earthquake measuring 6.0 is about 30 times more powerful than one measuring 5.0.
Seismic Waves: Vibrations that travel outward from the earthquake fault at speeds of several miles per second. Although fault slippage directly under a structure can cause considerable damage, the vibrations of seismic waves cause most of the destruction during earthquakes.
Home Earthquake Kits and Supplies
Home Earthquake Kit
Earthquake Accessory Kits
Hygiene Accessory Kit
Pet Survival Kits and Supplies
Emergency Food Supplies
Emergency Lighting and Communication
Emergency Search and Rescue Supplies
Car Earthquake Kits and Supplies
Car Earthquake Kit
Emergency Food Supplies
Emergency Shelter Supplies
Office Earthquake Preparedness
Office Earthquake Survival Kits
Emergency Shelter Supplies
Emergency First Aid Kits
Emergency Search and Rescue Supplies
Emergency Sanitation Supplies
School Earthquake Preparedness
School Earthquake Survival Kits
Emergency Shelter Supplies
Emergency First Aid Kits
Emergency Search and Rescue Supplies
Emergency Sanitation Supplies
Earthquake Risk Reduction
Earthquake Risk Reduction Services
To assist those who live in California with their earthquake fastening needs, we advise that they Contact Secure-It a General Contracting Firm (fully licensed & bonded) that provides seismic consultation and services. To contact Secure-it call 1-805-522-3333 or you can visit their web site. Ask the experts! Have it done right the first time!
Earthquake Risk Reduction for the Home
In California we are counseled by the experts not to run outside our buildings during an earthquake. This is because we are not as likely to see total structural failure as in other countries. Our wood frame homes generally do very well in earthquakes. Strict building codes reduce the risk of structural failure in our modern (post 1933) masonry buildings. Our greatest risk of injury during an earthquake is from nonstructural hazards. Falling decorative pieces, fixtures, and heavy furniture account for a large percentage of the injuries. Nonstructural hazard mitigation is one of the least expensive ways to decrease the incidence of injury. Please follow our earthquake risk reduction guide for your home which contains identified hazards and some suggested solutions.
Home Earthquake Risk Reduction
Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. Repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations, anchoring overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling, and following local seismic building standards, will help reduce the impact of earthquakes.
- Secure your hot water heater
- Secure household items and furniture
- Check chimneys, roofs and wall foundations for stability. Note: If your home was built before 1935, make sure your house is bolted to its foundation. If your home is on a raised foundation, make sure the cripple walls have been made into shear walls. Call a licensed contractor if you have any questions.
- Keep breakable and heavy objects on lower shelves. Put latches on cabinet doors to keep them closed during shaking.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Repair defective wiring and leaky gas connections which are potential fire risks.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Install an Automatic Gas Shut Off
Earthquake Risk Reduction at Work
Your workplace has the legal obligation to ensure that the work environment is free of hazards to employees. This includes items that may become dangerous during the seismic activities of earthquakes. Office buildings are known to shake and shift drastically during an earthquake causing everyday work equipment into deadly hazards. Please follow our earthquake risk reduction guide for your office which contains helpful tips on ways to secure your office for an earthquake.
Office Earthquake Risk Reduction
Good employees are your most valuable assets. Protect them with a safe working environment.
EQUIPMENT AND FURNISHINGS: Strap rows of multiple file cabinets, mainframes, bookcases, etc., together. High racks should be secured together on top and to the floor on the bottom. Secure desktop computers, typewriters. Keep computer CPUs on the floor next to their workstations. Secure cabinet doors with positive latches.
Store hazardous materials correctly and educate all your employees about them. Secure freestanding, moveable partitions. A good rule of thumb is to secure anything above desktop level.
OVERHEAD: Seen and unseen objects overhead and above suspended ceilings may pose hazards to workers below. Secure all objects that are above desktop level. Check for diagonal bracing wires suspended in ceilings. Ensure proper restraint of "stem" light fixtures and fluorescent light panels. Securely attach decorative ceiling panels, spotlights, speakers, air conditioning units, etc.
Check above suspended ceilings for poorly attached ducts, cables, etc.
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT: Shock hazards exist if unsecured electrical equipment breaks its connection or exposes energized lines. Unsecured equipment may short out the power in your office building.
Secure any electrically powered equipment. Have back-up power generator for emergency lighting and to protect computer against data loss. Insure that generators, their fuel tanks, battery packs, and fuel lines are properly secured.
Secure emergency lighting: Secure telecommunication equipment, switches, and control boxes.
PLANT EQUIPMENT: Loss of plant equipment may prevent you from continuing your business after a quake. Secure water heaters, furnaces, boilers, fans, pumps, heating, ventilating, air conditioning equipment, and the ducting or pipes that go with them.
HAZARDOUS MATERIALS: Unsecured or improperly stored hazardous chemicals may force your business out of an otherwise undamaged building. Secure large containers of production chemicals or cleaning supplies. Ensure that all toxic items are in the correct container and properly labeled. Ensure that all employees know what to do in case of a spill. Keep all large containers or vats of toxic, hot, or hazardous items covered to prevent surging in an earthquake.
EMPLOYEES: Establish an education and awareness program for work and home. Encourage family involvement. Encourage employees to be prepared at home and at work. Give each employee specific instruction regarding hazards, safety warnings, emergency plans and supplies.
NEIGHBORS: Find out what your neighbors do. Their enterprise may put your business in jeopardy. You may need to plan for problems related to their potential problems.
What To Do During An Earthquake
Do you know what to do during an earthquake? It's definitely something to include in your earthquake preparedness plan. Learn about what actions you can take to increase your chances of survival when the earth starts shaking.
What To Do During An Earthquake: When Indoors
Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
When you feel an earthquake, duck under a desk or sturdy table. Stay away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets, heavy mirrors, hanging plants, and other heavy objects that could fall. Watch out for falling plaster and ceiling tiles. Stay undercover until the shaking stops and hold onto your cover. If it moves, move with it.
DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn't’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
If in bed when the earthquake strikes, hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway.
Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on. DO NOT use the elevators.
If you are in a HIGH-RISE BUILDING, and not near a desk or table, move against an interior wall and protect your head with your arms. Stay indoors. Glass windows can dislodge during the quake and sail for hundreds of feet.
If you're in a CROWDED STORE OR OTHER PUBLIC PLACE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall.
If you're in a WHEELCHAIR, stay in it. Move to cover, if possible, lock your wheels, and protect your head with your arms.
If you're in the KITCHEN, move away from the refrigerator, stove, and overhead cupboards. (Take time NOW to anchor appliances, and install security latches on cupboard doors to reduce hazards.)
If you're in a STADIUM OR THEATER, stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over then leave in a calm, orderly manner. Avoid rushing toward exits.
What To Do During An Earthquake: When Outdoors
Stay there. If you're OUTDOORS, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, electrical wires and poles. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
If you're on a SIDEWALK NEAR BUILDINGS, duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster, and other debris.
If you're DRIVING , pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, power lines, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
What To Do After An Earthquake
If you have been fortunate to survive a catastrophic earthquake, you still won't be out of the clear yet. The days after an earthquake can be just as dangerous as the seismic event itself. Learn what you can do to survive after an earthquake.
What To Do After An Earthquake: Remaining Calm
Be prepared for aftershocks, and plan where you will take cover when they occur. Check for injuries. Give first aid, as necessary. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
Stay informed. Listen to a battery-operated radio or television. Listen for the latest emergency information. Tune to the emergency broadcast station on radio or television. Listen for emergency bulletins.
Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away unless police, fire, or relief organizations have specifically requested your assistance. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called "tidal waves"). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.
Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.
Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire. Avoid broken glass
What To Do After An Earthquake: Communications
Immediately after an earthquake, your phones will probably not work. Most of our normal methods of communication will be interrupted. Telephones will be out, the mail won't be delivered (you may not have a home to deliver it to), or you may be isolated at work and unable to travel to your family. This could be because of damage to switching centers, local phone lines, and trunk lines. It could be that power to operate the phone system itself is unavailable.
The number one cause of phone failures is too many phones off the hook at one time. A number will be off the hook because they were knocked over in the shock, but a larger number will be because everyone is trying to call friends and family. This overload can damage the phone companies switching system. To prevent this damage, whole sections will shut down automatically when a certain percentage of phones are off the hook.
It's normal, after trouble, to want to check on your family, or let family know you're OK. But, we need to limit our calls if we want the system to work at all. Use the telephone only for emergency calls. The solution to this problem is to have out-of-state contact for all your family members. This way all your relatives and friends will not be tying up the phone lines trying to get you, and you them. Long distance lines do not go down from too many calls or phones falling off the hook. Another advantage is that if an earthquake shuts down the long distance lines, these lines will be one of the first lines returned to service. You will be able to reach someone out of state before you could reach someone next door.
We also recommend that you go to a pay phone to make your calls. These lines will be put in service before residential phone lines. The load on phone lines is less very late at night or early in the morning. The combination of a pay phone, calling long distance, and early morning calling is your best chance for communicating with your family.
When you reach your out-of-state contact KEEP IT SHORT, and quick. The phone system may go out again at any time. Give your condition and the condition of the family members you know about. Get information on members who are not with you. Tell them you'll call them to chat in a few days. Then say good-by, and hang up.
Out-Of-State Contact Cards should be carried by all family members and friends. The use of Out-of-State Contacts has helped many families ensure each other's safety following previous California earthquakes
What To Do After An Earthquake: Inspect Utilities
Check gas, water and electric lines. If damaged, shut off service. If gas is leaking, don't use matches, flashlights, appliances or electric switches. Open windows, leave building and report to Gas Company. TURN OFF YOUR GAS METER at the main/shut off valve.
If your building has suffered extensive damage, such as large cracks in the walls or in the concrete slab floors, etc. AND you suspect the gas lines may have been damaged. If you smell gas don't turn on or off any switches. Don't use any open flame to check for leaks. Don't turn on any battery-operated flashlights, unless they are safety rated waterproof lights. Chemical light sticks are a safe source of light in the event of a gas leak. It is very dangerous, and therefore not recommended that you go searching for gas leaks inside any damaged building. After an earthquake, aftershocks will continue to occur, possibly causing additional damage (or even first damage) to your building(s). Do not turn the gas valve back on after an earthquake, unless a qualified person has checked extensively for gas leaks. A qualified person or gas company employee will have to relight all the pilot lights.
GAS SHUT OFF: Locate main gas shut-off (usually outside the house) at the gas meter. The valve is usually on a pipe coming out of the ground, going into the gas meter. Turn the valve crosswise to the pipe (see the large example on the "Utilities" page under "Before the Earthquake." All the pilot lights in and around your home (stove, furnace, clothes dryer, swimming pool/spa heater, water heater, etc.) will go out when you turn the valve off. You will need to have the gas company, or another qualified individual, relight every pilot when the gas is turned back on. Forgetting to relight all the pilot lights could result in a dangerous gas buildup in your home. If you are concerned about your ability to turn off the main gas shut-off valve or unsure if it is in proper working order (indication of rust, etc.), or do not know how to relight your pilot lights, contact your local gas company. They can send a service representative to your house to show you the proper procedure and check the valve and pilot lights to be sure they operate properly. Clear the area around the main gas shutoff valve for quick and easy access in case of an emergency. A gas shut-off wrench for turning off the gas, should be attached to a pipe next to the shut-off valve or in another easily accessible location. Remember, if you don't smell gas or have severe damage to your home, you should not have to shut the gas off. It's your decision. Automatic gas shut off valves are an excellent way to ensure that your gas is shut off in case of a major earthquake. With an automatic shut off valve, your gas will be off even if you aren't home at the time. For installation, contact Secure-It a General Contracting Firm.
ELECTRICAL SHUT-OFF: Locate the main electrical shut-off.
Your house may be equipped with fuses or circuit breakers. If your house has fuses, you will find a knife switch handle or pullout fuse that should be marked "MAIN." If your house has circuit breakers, you may need to open the metal door of the breaker box to reveal the circuit breakers (never remove the metal cover). The main circuit breaker should be clearly marked showing on and off positions. Turn off all the small breakers first, then turn off the "main". If you have any sub panels adjacent to the main fuse or breaker panel, or in other parts of the house, in an emergency be safe and shut them off too. Shorts can sometimes develop to cause a circuit to bypass the breaker or fuse. Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
WATER SHUT OFF: Locate the main water service pipe into your house (probably in the front at the basement level). You will see a gate valve on the pipe. If you know you have leaks after an earthquake, you can shut off all water in your house with this valve. You may wish to pai
What To Do After An Earthquake: Helping Adults Cope
Having just experienced the shock and pain of a disaster, you will be very busy for the next few days or weeks. Caring for your immediate needs, perhaps finding a new place to stay, planning for clean up and repairs, and filing claim forms may occupy the majority of your time. As the immediate shock wears off, you will start to rebuild and put your life back together. There are some normal reactions we may all experience as a result of a disaster. Generally, these feelings don't last long, but it is common to feel let down and resentful many months after the event. Some feelings or responses may not appear until weeks or even months after the disaster.
Some common responses after an earthquake include:
- Headaches or Nausea
- Loss of Appetite
- Inability to Sleep
- Lack of Concentration
- Increase in Alcohol or Drug Consumption
Many victims of disaster will have at least one of these responses. Acknowledging your feelings and stress is the first step in feeling better.
Other helpful things to do to cope after an earthquake include:
- Talk about your disaster experiences. Sharing your feelings rather than holding them in will help you feel better about what happened.
- Take time off from cares, worries, and home repairs. Take time for recreation, relaxation or a favorite hobby. Getting away from home for a day or a few hours with close friends can help.
- Pay attention to your health, good diet, and adequate sleep. Relaxation exercises may help if you have difficulty sleeping.
Prepare for possible future emergencies to lessen feelings of helplessness and bring peace of mind.
- Rebuild personal relationships in addition to repairing other aspects of your life. Couples should make time to be alone together, both to talk and have fun.
- If stress, anxiety, depression, or physical problems continue, you may wish to contact the post-disaster services provided by the local mental health center.
- Reread this periodically over the next few weeks and months. Being aware of your feelings and sharing them with others is an important part of recovery and feeling normal again soon
What To Do After An Earthquake: Helping Children Cope
Children may be especially upset and exhibit exaggerated emotions following the disaster. These reactions are normal and usually will not last long.
Some problems that you may experience with your children after an earthquake:
- Excessive fear of darkness, separation, or being alone
- Clinging to parents, fear of strangers
- Worry Increase in immature behaviors
- Not wanting to go to school
- Changes in eating/sleeping behaviors
- Increase in aggressive behavior or shyness
- Bed-wetting or thumb sucking
- Persistent nightmares
- Headaches or other physical complaints
Some things that will help your child feel better after an earthquake:
- Talk with your child about his/her feelings about the disaster. Share your feelings too.
- Talk about what happened; give your child information he/she can understand.
- Reassure your child that you are safe and together. You may need to repeat this reassurance often.
- Hold and touch your child often.
- Spend extra time with your child at bedtime.
- Allow your child to mourn or grieve over the lost toy, a lost blanket, or a lost home.
- If you feel your child is having problems at school, talk to his/her teacher so you can work together to help your child.
Usually a child's emotional response to a disaster will not last long. But some problems may be present or recur many months afterward. Your community mental health center is staffed by counselors skilled in talking with people experiencing disaster-related problems.
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