The probability for an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater in the central U.S. is fairly significant in the near future, with a 25-40% chance of occurring in any 50 year time period. A quake with a magnitude equal to that of the 1811- 1812 quakes could result in great loss of life and property damage in the billions of dollars. Since it is impossible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is important that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.
The actual movement of the ground in an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most casualties result from falling objects and debris which is a result of the earthquake shaking. The duration and amount of shaking associated with an earthquake as well as the age and construction type of a structure greatly determines the amount of damage that may result. Older structures built with little or no seismic design will be the first structures to be tested by an earthquake.
Earthquakes can also cause secondary effects such as fires, liquefaction and landslides.
EARTHQUAKE MITIGATION SAVES LIVES
Protect Yourself During an Earthquake...Drop, Cover, and Hold On!
Official Rescue Teams from the U.S. and other countries who have searched for trapped people in collapsed structures around the world, as well as emergency managers, researchers, and school safety advocates, all agree that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. Methods like standing in a doorway, running outside, and "triangle of life" method are considered dangerous and are not recommended (see below).
WHAT TO DO IMMEDIATELY WHEN SHAKING BEGINS:
Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety; you didn't do anything, or you ran outside, yet you survived with no injuries. Or perhaps you got under your desk and others thought you overreacted. However, you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much large earthquakes: sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury. This is why you must learn to immediately protect yourself after the first jolt... don't wait to see if the earthquake shaking will be strong!
In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:
- DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
- COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
- HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
Wherever you are, protect yourself! You may be in situation where you cannot find shelter beneath furniture (or low against a wall, with your arms covering your head and neck). It is important to think about what you will do to protect yourself wherever you are.
HOW PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES:
For those who cannot “drop” due to mobility limitations, or for those who have other special situations, Advice for people with disabilities or access and functional needs (432 KB PDF), a document from CalEMA, explains what to do when you physically cannot "Drop, Cover, and Hold On."
Three Steps to prepare yourself and your family for an earthquake
Step 1: Get A Kit
Get an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car. This kit should include:
- Copies of prescription medications and medical supplies;
- Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows;
- Bottled water, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a flashlight;
- Copies of important documents: driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
Step 2: Make A Plan
Prepare Your Family
- Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
- Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
- It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
- You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.
- Be sure to consider the specific needs of your family members
- Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.
- Make plans for your pets
- Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter.
Step 3: Be Informed
Prepare Your Home
Prepare Your Business
- 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 electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
- Secure a water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Identify Safe Places indoors and outdoors like under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over.
- Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency by visiting: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/emergency/index.html