Guidelines to protect yourself from an Earthquake or a Tsunami.
There are many things that you can do to protect yourself from an Earthquake. The following interesting facts about earthquakes and tsunamis will show you how to protect yourself from the dangers associated with these two types of disasters. The following points are only suggestions. It will be a very chaotic time when an Earthquake hits. If you remember half of them when the times comes – you are a better person than me. What you will be able to do – and what you won’t be able to do – is going to be very dependent upon your UNIQUE situation at the time. But the more of these suggestions that you can remember and use – the better off you will be.
As mentioned in the previous lesson – we thought it would be better to break this lesson out on its own. The previous lesson was getting a little long. This is some important information and I want to make sure that you pay attention and comprehend what is on this page.
Remember, Earthquakes have been reported in every state in the United States. So, knowing how to survive an Earthquake is one of the basic tool sets you should have in your Disaster Planning Tool Box. You never know when you will need to pull these tricks out.
So let’s start with the things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from an Earthquake.
What you can do before an Earthquake hits:
First, and foremost, is to have a plan, communicate your plan with your family and make sure they all understand the plan.
Unlike the other disasters we studied so far, (Floods, Hurricanes and Tornadoes), there will be NO WARNINGS associated with an Earthquake. You will be put into a position to react to the event. Being prepared and well planned is the best way to be ready. That includes your Family. They should all be made aware of the plan and what their responsibilities will be.
There is a very good chance that your family will not be together when the Earthquake hits. That makes having a Family Communication Plan a very important part of your plan. The Family Communication Plan will be discussed in a future lesson. For now, it is important to just know that you need to have a way to communicate in order to get the family back together after the Earthquake.
Have a Bug-Out-Bag (a special type of survival kit) ready at all times. The Bug-Out-Bag concept and how to build one will be discussed in a future lesson. Depending upon the severity of the Earthquake, you may be without power, food, water, and other things for a while. So you better be able to address these issues.
Most injuries will be caused by falling debris. Do a quick inspection around the inside of your home and make sure shelves, mirrors, picture frames, heavy items, appliance, furniture etc., are securely fastened so they won’t move or fall over during the earthquake. Heavy items should be stored closer to the floor. Reinforce overhead light fixtures and ceiling fans. You should never store heavy items above your bed. You don’t want these things falling on you during the Earthquake.
Do an inspection on the exterior of your home. Repair loose structural components like: awnings, overhangs, shutters, etc., that may come off and fall during an earthquake. Pay close attention to masonry objects like chimneys, walls and footings. Masonry objects do not have the flexibility of wood.
If you do live in an earthquake prone area, you will want to take the extra steps to install flexible utility connectors. Consider strapping your chimney – these are especially susceptible to earthquake damage.
There is a chance that your normal exit routes will be blocked in your home or even in the room that you may be caught in when the Earthquake hits. Think now, if you were trapped in any of your rooms, where are my alternative exits? Can I get out through a window? If the only exit is from a second floor (or higher) window or balcony, how do I get down? Think now how will you signal for help to get down from a higher floor. Have something in each room that can be used to attract attention so that you can alert others that you need help. These don’t need to be expensive or elaborate items. A flash light, a whistle, reflective construction tape (get a roll at the local hard store and put a few feet in each room near potential exit points), a sheet, a pillow case, or towel can even be used. [See our resource list of signaling options and devices.] You just want to attract attention so that you can get out and down from your structure.
It’s always a good idea to have clothing and shoes that you can put on next to your bed in case you are sleeping when the Earthquake hits. Having the right type of clothes and shoes will make you more effective in finding and assisting fellow family members when they need it. Stepping on broken glass, bumping into sharp objects is only going to make a bad situation worse.
Protection during the Earthquake.
Beyond what was discussed in the previous section… At the first signs of an Earthquake.
An earthquake can knock you right off of your feet. The current best practices being advised by the experts are: DROP. COVER. HOLD ON.
- DROP down to your hands and knees.
- COVER your Head and Neck.
- HOLD ON to your shelter.
If you are inside your home when the Earthquake hits:
Stay where you are until the shaking stops. DROP to your hands and knees – BEFORE the earthquake knocks you down. You want to manage the risks and threats in your immediate personal zone. When you start moving around you start adding more variables to the equation which will make things more difficult. So, focus on what is going on in your immediate area. What can I use to shelter myself from falling debris? Is there a table a desk, or something else that I can get under for protection? If so, get to it fast and DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. What looks like it is going to be falling over? What are my fastest and best options to protect myself? In an Earthquake situation, an Interior Wall will offer you more protection than and Exterior Wall. So, if you can’t find any shelter, try placing yourself up agaisnt an Interior Wall and DROP, COVER and HOLD ON if you can.
If you are in bed when an Earthquake hits; stay in bed and cover your head with your pillow.
As soon as the shaking stops: Assess the area immediately around you for any possibilities of danger; broken glass, sharp objects sticking out, sparking from damaged electrical wiring, gas lines leaking, fires, etc..
Note where the danger spots are and avoid them the best you can – then immediately do a head count for everyone that was inside the structure with you when the Earthquake hit. Find them as Fast (but Safely: If you get hurt – you will slow down and reduce the level of assistance that you will be to offer them) as you can and determine if they need any assistance. Take a command position: If you can, leverage the people who are available to help search for the other people. Assign each person (if they are capable) an area, room or floor to go check for the rest of the people and to look for any possible dangers. Have them report back to you as soon as they checked their area. If you feel that the structure has been compromised in any way – get out of the structure as soon as you can.
Prioritize the actions that need to be taken: Life & Safety, then control as many of the dangers that are an immediate threat.
Don’t try removing someone who is trapped under rubble if it is going to cause bigger problems. If you start moving debris, you can cause more debris to come down, or cause the structure to collapse even more, or cause an electrical wire to fall on the person you are trying to save. You don’t want to injure the person any more than they already are.
If you or someone does needs assistance – get the word out right away and start alerting the authorities and other people in the area. Don’t delay assistance by trying to be a hero. There are professional people who are trained to handle search and rescue, they have the knowledge and tools to handle these situation a lot better than you can on your own. The best thing you can do to help someone is communicate to the appropriate authorities what you need. Use your eyes first, communicate what type of assistance you need and where you are located, then try to help the person. Leverage all of the potential resources that you have.
Again, take a command position. You need to be a leader now. Lead with your brain, not with panic.
IF YOU CAN…You want to control any escalation of the problem. Only take these actions if it doesn’t put you or anyone else in any dangerous situation. If you decide the best action is to get out of the structure – then evacuate as fast and as safely as you can.
If you can; shut off the utilities: water, gas, electric.
If you smell gas – report to the utility company or the local authorities as soon as you can.
Check sewage lines before flushing a toilet.
Clean up any flammable or dangerous chemicals that may have spilled during the shaking.
Be careful opening any cabinet door or any other doors in the home. You don’t know if whatever was located behind them has shifted and is now leaning up against the door just waiting to fall on you.
If you find yourself trapped in the rubble, the first thing you want to do (if you can) is try to make an air space around your head and face. Remove as much debris as you can to allow yourself to keep breathing. Avoid moving too much because you will kick up dust and you may cause more debris to fall on you. Use a piece of clothing to cover your mouth and nose to control breathing in dirt and dust. Try to find something that you can bang up against to signal your location to the rescuers. Whatever you do – don’t attempt to use a lighter or match. You can spark an explosion and then the rescuers will most likely never find you.
If you are outside when an Earthquake hits:
DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. Stay put until the shaking stops.
Crouching down will lower your center of gravity. This will help prevent you from being knocked over from the shaking. Cover your head with your arms and protect yourself the best you can.
Move away from buildings. There is going to a very good chance of falling debris (glass, metal, masonry, etc.) or possibly, even the building itself falling over.
Get away from overpasses, bridges, elevated transportation structures, etc. You want to keep to a minimum (better to eliminate if you can) anything overhead. Your best bet is finding as open area as soon as possible to wait out the shaking.
Try not to be under electrical lines and move away from fuel storage places like propane tanks, gas storage tanks, gas stations, etc.
If you are in your car, pull the car over and stop; but not under power lines, utility poles, overpasses, or next to tall buildings. The best place is to stay in your car. Put the car in park, apply the parking brake, and turn the car off. Your car will offer you some protection. As soon as the shaking stops – look for a safer location.
What to do after the Earthquake.
Be very careful of the debris on the ground. It can be very sharp and could have chemicals on it that can poison you.
Be careful of debris falling from tall buildings and overpasses. Get away from them. You don’t want anything over your head.
Be alert to aftershocks.
Do not enter buildings unless it is very critical to enter them… Wait for the authorities to inspect and clear the building before entering.
If you live in a building that has an elevator; don’t use it. Use the stairs instead.
Avoid power lines especially if they are near any water that may be caused by broken water lines. This is the perfect recipe for electrocution.
Be alert for broken gas lines, the risks of fire, and the risks of explosions. Do not smoke. Do not use matches or lighters. Do not use any electrical devices that even have a remote possibility of producing a spark.
If you are located in a low lying area, make plans to move to higher grounds as soon as you can. This should be addressed in your evacuation plans, which will be discussed in more detail in a future module. If there are any dams or levees in the area – their structural integrity may have been compromised by the earthquake. Try to make it to the top of the hill. There is a possibility that the side of the hill may slide off in a landslide (weakness in the structure of the hill caused by the Earthquake).
Get away from the shoreline as soon as you can. There may be a tsunami developing. Get inland and get up high.
Now is the time to put your Preparedness Plan into Action. Aren’t you glad you got ready now? Listen to your emergency radio for news, details, and the recommended actions being reported by the experts and authorities. Monitor the social networks for information coming in from both outside of the area and within the area. Twitter is a good medium to monitor. Using social networks to gather information and for communications will be discussed in more detail in a future lesson: Communications.
There are many tools that will help you to survive the aftermath of an Earthquake. Refer to the Lesson that discusses Critical Tools for Surviving. It is highly recommended that you supply yourself with at a minimum the “Critical Tools”. Click here to go to that page to review the lesson and list.
Protection from a Tsunami.
Unlike an Earthquake, you should have some type of warning that a Tsunami is heading in your direction. The amount of time will be dependent upon your location and its relationship to where the Earthquake occurred. If you live or work near the shore line, or if you plan on visiting an area that that can be impacted by a Tsunami – know what the the Tsunami Alarm sound is like and be ready to respond quickly. As with all of your other plans – make sure that you communicate the details with your family and that everyone understands their responsibilities within the plan.
If you are close to a shoreline and you feel an Earthquake shake the ground – that is your alarm. Don’t wait for any Tsunami Warning to go off. The Earthquake is your warning. Immediately start your Tsunami evacuation plan. Monitor your emergency radio, news and social networks for any information. The longer you wait – the less time and distance you will be able to put between yourself and the Tsunami.
Monitor your emergency radio, the news, and social networks for information about the Tsunami Alert. This information will give you valuable insight into when the Tsunami is scheduled to to hit – which will have a major input into what your options are.
Research and identify where your Tsunami Fall Backlocations will be. Notice I wrote locations, plural – have a few of them in your area. This location should be:
- At least 2 miles inland.
- Be at least 100 feet above sea level.
- Can be reached within 15 minutes.
If you live in an urban setting, identify which buildings in your area that are strong enough to withstand a Tsunami wave is very important. This needs to be done now – not when the alarms go off. Many times, the local Disaster Response offices will have a list of those buildings. Parking garages, if they are tall enough, are good structures to turn to because of their open structure construction allows the waves to flow through the bottom floors with the least amount of resistance.
Plan out multiple routes to your Tsunami Fall Back location. Depending upon where you are located, there will be many people trying to get away from the shoreline – same as you. Roads and streets will be very congested and maybe even blocked. Cars may not be able to get through the congestion, if possible and if practical, bicycles can make an excellent alternative. At a minimum, you should be able to walk to your Tsunami Fall Back locations. The average person walks at around 3 mph. That means within 1-hour, you should be able to move 3 miles closer to your Fall Back location and away from the Tsunami. If the roads and evacuation routes are congested and clogged you may be better off walking than waiting for the traffic to clear. Evulate this option now and what you would do if you were faced with this situation.
If all else fails and you find yourself staring at a Tsunami heading in your direction, the best thing to do is find a sturdy and tall structure to hold onto. This could be a tree, a lamp post, a billboard sign, whatever you can. Hold on the best you can.
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