Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes can happen at any time, any place. What makes them so terrifying is how often they can occur with no warning at all. Knowing what to do when an earthquake strikes is an excellent idea to keep you and your family safe.
Where Do Earthquakes Happen?
It doesn’t matter where you are in the United States; all states and territories can experience an earthquake. However, there are some states where earthquakes are more likely. If you live in these regions, you should take special note of these safety tips, but remember, they do apply to everyone.
How To Prepare For An Earthquake
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you prepare three things: your family, your home, and your community. Go over these safety tips with every member of the family, no matter how young they are. Because earthquakes can hit at any time, you should have a plan in place, so you all know how to react in case there is a danger.
While earthquakes can last for 10-30 seconds, the aftershocks that occur after in the following days or weeks can be just as dangerous.
Tips for preparing your family for an earthquake:
- Discuss your evacuation with your family. Make sure to discuss an exit plan for each room and to create a backup plan in case an exit is blocked.
- Keep emergency food, water, first aid kits handy, and ensure that everyone knows where it is stored. Having copies of all important paperwork, extra prescription medicines, and other family-specific needs in the emergency kit is a good idea.
- An NOAA emergency radio should also be included in your stash so you can stay updated on any news or changing conditions even if your cell phones stop working. It can inform you of any fires caused by the earthquake or incoming tsunamis. In addition, it can act as a light source if the earthquake happens at night.
- Have a few flashlights stored near the exit so you can grab them and go.
Tips for preparing your home for an earthquake:
The real dangers from earthquakes aren’t the actual earthquake but instead objects falling on you in your home. When an earthquake hits, try to get outside into an open field where nothing can fall on you. However, if you are in the house, get under a doorway or a sturdy piece of furniture like a table. You want to try and put a barrier between you and any falling objects. Do not try to go down the stairs, use the elevator, or run outside.
Look at your home and see how it is anchored to the foundation, if it is a crawl space with weak walls, or has unbraced foundations or ones that haven’t been reinforced. It is likely a good idea to get a contractor in to strengthen your home and fix any weakness. For those who are renting, speak with your landlord about how your space has been fortified to prepare for earthquakes.
You can also:
- Place heavy or large objects on lower shelves
- Store breakable objects in low, closed cabinets that have a latch
- Fasten all heavy objects such as pictures and mirrors securely to the wall. Don’t put them right by the bed or seating areas.
- Remove or lock refrigerator wheels
- Trim tree leaves
- Store any chemicals like pesticides, weed killers, or other flammable products in a closed cabinet that can stay latched.
You should also speak with your insurance company about earthquake insurance to see if it is available.
While you might not think that an earthquake can affect you, it is better to be prepared and have a safety plan in place!