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You are here: Home > Emergency Preparedness > Disaster Preparedness Guide > How to Survive during an Earthquake

Survival Tips During an Earthquake: Knowing This Can Save Your Life

Imagine sleeping peacefully in bed, when suddenly the room starts shaking. Furniture begins moving and hanging pictures crash violently to the floor. Your home creaks and groans as the strength of its foundation is tested. What you do in the next few seconds can determine if you survive an earthquake.

Ranked as one of the most amazing phenomena of the natural world, earthquakes can be among the most deadly. While minor tremors occur under our global feet on daily basis without much notice, (in Southern California alone, about 10,000 happen each and every year) nearly all states have the potential to experience the shaking of a quake.  

According to the US Geological Survey, only five states (Connecticut, North Dakota, Florida, Wisconsin and Delaware) did NOT sustain any 3.5 or greater earthquakes in a 30 year period.  Don’t take these small geological events lightly. Even mild earthquakes can injure people due to falling objects or hazardous conditions.

Several areas, California, Hawaii, Alaska, Utah and Pacific Northwestern and Midwestern states, have added risks of devastating, cataclysmic earthquakes of 7.0 magnitude or higher.  These can strike at any time, without warning. As with all survival techniques, earthquake survival must be learned prior to the event. This is especially important for travelers to keep in mind. Visitors to quake-prone areas may not be acclimated to earthquake tips and life saving procedures. Earthquake Emergency Tool

Earthquake Survival Strategies: 
  1. “Drop, Cover and Hold On”- Earthquake related injuries in non-third world countries, are most likely to be from falling objects, rather than building collapse. Protecting your head is vital. In the scenario of being in bed when a quake hits, stay there and cover your head with a pillow if there are not any flying objects or falling hazards. 
  2. When there are unsecured flying objects (glass, ceiling pieces, or light fixtures) that can strike you while in bed, drop to the floor and attempt to cover your body by crawling under the bed and holding on. The best way to stay alive is to be underneath heavy items and move with sturdy furniture.  This allows for two essentials- shielding your head from falling objects and preventing you from being crushed between furnishings when they move.  
  3. If there isn’t room to position your body beneath sturdy furniture, drop to the floor. Hold on to the furniture or a large heavy object, while getting as close to it as possible. Firefighters are trained to find individuals in survivable voids, such as those found around large items. (However, it should be noted that predicting these areas is not science. Being under an item is still your best option) However, you may find this practice offers a measure of safety if getting under an object is not possible. Hold on until the shaking ceases. 
  4. Stay away from windows or heavy hanging items, such as light fixtures, artwork, etc. 
  5. If you are cooking, turn off the stove. Then drop to the floor and crawl to a safe spot under furniture. 
  6. Do not stand in doorways. According to Mark Benthien, Director of Education and Outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center, it’s very likely you wouldn’t be able to stand during a strong quake and these areas offer little protection from falling objects. Additionally, swinging doors or shifting framework might add injuries, not prevent them. 
  7. Buildings constructed to withstand earthquakes will be safest along interior walls. Those who live in other regions, such as the Midwest, may benefit from an inspection of their home prior to a quake for advice on shelter spots. Buildings with basements or crawl spaces, present unique structural safety issues during an earthquake. Ask an insurance risk advisor or a fire marshal for advice. 
  8. Never use elevators and stairways during an earthquake.
  9. If you happen to be outside when a quake strikes, keep away from power line areas or structures that can fall. Get down low and stay still till the tremors stop. 
  10. Those who are in a vehicle during a quake should take care not to stop on or near unstable spots, such as bridges. Avoid proximity to objects that can collapse. If you can, drive to an open area. Turn off the vehicle. Utilize parking brake and emergency flashers. Watch for further hazards and wait till it’s safe to continue. Remember, roadways may have suffered damage, so be alert to new dangers. 
  11. If you do become trapped in your home or car, stay calm. Avoid yelling or excessive breathing of building dust. Instead, try to find an object to bang or knock on to alert rescuers of your position. 
  12. Keeping a first aid kit, a ready supply of water and non-perishables and flashlight with batteries at hand is3 Day / 72 Hours Emergency Kit vital in areas with earthquake potential. Stash a flashlight and shoes or slippers near your bed. In the event an earthquake occurs, broken glass and uneven surfaces present a great risk to escaping the building. 
  13. Be aware of aftershock potential, which may cause further damage. If the structure you are in seems unsafe, try to evacuate quickly and carefully to an open area once shaking stops. Never run out doors during a quake, you are very likely to be struck by falling objects and injured.
As with all potential hazards, awareness is the first step in survival.  Be savvy to earthquake possibilities where you live and travel. Teach your family these tips and practice them with your children. Most quakes last a very short time. Living through those moments is far easier when you know the proper techniques for survival.

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