Helpful Tips On What To Do During An Earthquake

I was triggered to write this article in view of the major recent earthquakes that hit certain parts of the globe within a span of two months in year 2010. Major ones were the one that hit Chile today (February 27) with a catastrophic magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter Scale and another in Haiti (January 12) with a 7.0 magnitude.

It may be normal to be paranoid or to feel scared (especially for children) of the occurrence of the said natural calamity of this enormity. We all know that several lives and properties were lost in the said earthquakes and still mortals or even the “super heroes” can not prevent these things from happening. Billions of dollars have been and will be spent for humanitarian reasons and for re-building of the needed infrastructures (road, bridges, hospitals, schools, etc.) and to return these stricken countries to normalcy. We can only do so much after the fact, to help those affected and in pain , particularly those who have nothing at all. For those who are willing to share their resources, there are various legitimate organizations on line ready to receive your donations.

I would  like to share with you some tips and guidelines which have been formulated by experts. So far, the “drop, cover and hold on” method which was taught to us during high school days' drills still holds true. Here are some:  

If Indoors
  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON on until the shaking stops. If there’s no 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.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing 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 Outdoors
  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON on until the shaking stops. If there isn’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.
  • Stay in bed if you are there 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, loadbearing 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 in a moving vehicle
  • 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.

If trapped under debris

Source: FEMA

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

For Children:

  • Parents should teach basic earthquake safety. Teach your children about earthquakes to help keep your family safe.

Important Reminder: In an earthquake, stay calm and do not run or panic. Other Related Information: What is a fault? “A fault is a fracture in the crust along which one side has moved relative to the other side. Faults can be very small or hundreds of miles long. The earth's crust is composed of huge plates that are in slow but nearly constant motion.” What causes an earthquake? “Earthquakes occur when the two sides of a fault slip suddenly against each other. For ex. the Pacific and North American plates move past each other about 1.5 inches a year. The friction between the plates causes stress, which is released when the blocks of crust slip suddenly along a fault plane. That releases waves of energy that travel through the ground, causing the shaking you feel.” What is an epicenter? “Earthquake ruptures usually begin far under the surface of the Earth. The point of origin miles down is called the hypocenter. The epicenter is the point on the surface directly above the hypocenter.” How often do earthquakes happen? “The National Earthquake Information Center (U.S.) reports 12,000-14,000 earthquakes a year around the world, or 35 a day. Throughout the world, there are one "great" (magnitude 8.0 or more), 18 "major" (7.0-7.9), 120 "large" (6.0-6.9) and 1,000 "moderate" (5.0-5.9) earthquakes in an average year. Each year, California generally gets two or three earthquakes large enough to cause moderate damage to structures (magnitude 5.5 and higher).” What is a tsunami? “Sometimes called seismic sea waves (or, incorrectly, tidal waves), a tsunami is a series of waves generated by large earthquakes that create vertical movement on the ocean floor. Tsunamis can reach more than 50 feet in height, move inland several hundred feet and threaten life and property. Often, the first wave of a tsunami is not the largest. Tsunamis can occur on all coastal regions of the world, but are most common along margins of the Pacific Ocean. Tsunamis can travel from one side of the Pacific to the other in a day, at a velocity of 600 miles an hour in deep water. A locally generated tsunami may reach the shore within minutes.”

I hope I was able to refresh your memory about this learning. Be safe!

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