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Earthquake Safety Tips

Updated on April 13, 2017
RhondaAlbom profile image

Rhonda is an award-winning travel writer/photographer at AlbomAdventures. Based in New Zealand she has visited 54 countries on 6 continents.

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Earthquake Survival Starts with Preparedness and These Earthquake Safety Tips Should Help

As a mom living on the Pacific Ring of Fire, I am aware of the damage earthquakes cause. As a former Red Cross instructor of a course entitled "Safety and Survival in an Earthquake" I am also knowledgeable on earthquake safety.

On the night I sat down to write this page, I had been jolted awake by a 7.8 magnitude quake. Even with the knowledge of an instructor and former disaster worker, I didn't do all the right things. In the moment of panic, I made poor choices. Mostly because I hadn't taken the time to regularly go over a plan of action with my family, and we were in a new house. For us, it all turned out well, but we were lucky.

As I reviewed what I know, I thought I would share it here. Remember the time to discuss earthquake safety tips is now. It's too late to look for the "instructions" once the earth starts shaking. Here you will find a simple to put in place plan. Read it, take the preparatory steps and share the information with your family and friends. Whether you get the information from this page, or somewhere else is not important. What is important is that you do it now, so you are prepared. You never know what will happen later.

I am a former instructor of the American Red Cross class "Safety and Survival in an Earthquake."

Be Prepared!

Protect yourself before an earthquake:

Prepare your house

Prepare your emergency kit

Prepare your family

Prepare Your House - When to Prepare - NOW!

Look around - see how many dangers you can spot.

Now lets go room by room, starting in the bedroom and moving out to the living areas. If you sleep for 8 hours per day, you have a one in three chance of being in bed when the next major quake hits.

  • Move the bed away from the window.
  • Remove any heavy art or objects from the walls over your bed that could fall you while you are asleep.
  • Store a pair of sturdy shoes under the bed (there could be broken glass after a quake)
  • Keep a flashlight next to each bed.
  • Bolt to the wall: your dresser; bookshelves; and anything taller than it is wide.
  • Bolt or brace water heaters and gas appliances to the walls.
  • Install latches on your kitchen cabinets which contain a lot of glass.
  • Take a First Aid course and have a good first aid book on your shelf.

If You Own Only One First Aid Book, This is It!

The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook
The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook

There are lots of great first aid books out there; this one happens to be my current favorite. The American Red Cross sets the standard in first aid and safety. As a former First Aid instructor, I have seen many editions of these books, and they have always been easy to follow and understand and loaded with step by step words and illustrations to guide you through any emergency. While have not read this specific edition, I would feel confident recommending any first aid book that American Red Cross chooses to add their name.

 

Prepare Your Emergency Kit - NOW! - Keep your emergency kit in a portable container near an exit door.

Imagine the aftermath of a major earthquake: emergency services are stretched to their limits, power may be out and stores may be closed.

You may need to be able to be self-sufficient for 72 hours.

There are lots of companies which make emergency kits, but you can also make your own. Keep it in a portable container like a backpack or small suitcase and keep it near an exit door, or if your car is kept on the street in the boot (trunk). Do not keep your emergency kit in the kitchen as this is the room which will likely have the most broken glass in a major quake.

Your emergency kit should include, at a minimum:

  • Water - 4 litres per person per day (a 3-day supply for evacuation and a 2-week supply for home).
  • Food - non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items such as tuna or dried food (a 3-day supply for evacuation and a 2-week supply for home).
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Fully stocked first aid kit.
  • Any prescription medications or medical items (recommend a 7 day supply).
  • Sanitary and personal hygiene items, including a roll of toilet paper.
  • Copies of personal documents and emergency contact information - stored in waterproof protection, like a plastic bag.
  • Cell phone with charger.
  • Extra cash.
  • At least one change of clothes per person.
  • Emergency blanket.
  • (If you have small children) diapers, other baby needs, and a toy.
  • Local map.
  • Extra batteries

Stock Your Emergency Kit to Last at Least 72 Hours

If You Don't Want to Make Your Own Kit - Check Out This 4 Person Earthquake Kit

Earthquake Kit 4 Person Deluxe Home Honey Bucket Survival Emergency
Earthquake Kit 4 Person Deluxe Home Honey Bucket Survival Emergency

Personally, I would make my own kit, but if I wanted to buy one, this one looks pretty comprehensive for surviving the first 72 hours. Have a look for yourself, and if you get a premade kit, be sure to think about some of the very personal items you might want to add for yourself.

 

Are You Prepared?

Are You Prepared?

See results

Prepare Your Family - When to Prepare - NOW!

Read and learn the material on this page NOW; it's too late to look it up whilst the house is shaking. Bookmark this page and check back periodically to be sure you will remember what to do if you are in an earthquake. Remember the first few precious seconds are wasted as you realize it is an earthquake.

  • Practice your emergency drills. You can also practice Drop, Cover and Hold On. Teach children to protect their head and neck and cover their face if they feel shaking in the night. Make it fun and they won't be afraid.
  • Have a designated meeting place outside your home, so if you need to evacuate, everyone knows where to go.
  • Select one out of town relative whom the extended family will contact for information about your safety. In badly hit regions the phone lines are often out of service so, having only one call to make is easier.

What To Do During The Quake

What to Do During an Earthquake - Remember - Don't Panic

When you feel the shaking, move to safety as defined below.

  • If you are indoors, stay inside: Drop, cover and hold on. When you first feel the shaking either get underneath a desk, table or other heavy object and hold on to the leg, or stand under a structural doorway and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • If you are in bed, pull your pillow or blanket over your head for protection.
  • If are no structural doorways or heavy tables, move away from the windows and crouch down against an exterior wall and use your arms to cover your head and neck.
  • If you are in a crowded area move away from anything that can fall on you and take cover.
  • If in a theatre or stadium, stay in your seat and get below the level of the back of the seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • If you are outdoors, move as far away from buildings as possible to prevent injury from falling glass, brick or signage. Also, stay away from cliffs and riverbanks.
  • If you are in your car, pull over to the side of the road, off of bridges and away from overpasses and power lines.
  • If a power line falls on your car, wait for assistance - do not get out.

Don't Forget To Drop-Cover-Hold On

Drop - to the ground

Cover - under a table or desk

Hold On - to the legs

What To Do After An Earthquake

What to Do Immediately After an Earthquake - Again - Don't Panic

  • Put out any fires and check the gas lines. If unsure of its safety, turn off the gas, but remember only a gas company representative can turn it back on and that might take days.
  • Check yourself and others for injury. Treat any life threatening injuries first, but do attend to all injury as hospitals may be quite filled up and you don't want an infection forming from a simple cut.
  • Put on long pants, long sleeves, and heavy shoes to help protect yourself.
  • Listen to the radio for any emergency information of instructions.
  • Clean up spilt medications, bleach, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Remember to open cupboard and closet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
  • Let your family know you are safe.
  • Listen to your battery-operated radio, as it may provide information on the quake and local advice.
  • Continue to be prepared and ready to take the appropriate safe action when aftershocks occur.

Worst Case Scenario - What to Do if You Are Trapped in a Collapsed Building - Don't Panic!

Remember, rescue workers are looking for you, but they are doing it slowly and carefully to prevent any other collapse. They often use rescue dogs or other tools to help find survivors.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with some of your clothing to reduce the amount of dust you breathe.
  • Check yourself for injuries and control any bleeding.
  • Look for light.
  • Tap or make other noise to draw attention to yourself for rescue, but save your voice and your energy. Do not yell until the rescuers are close.

Giving to the Red Cross Giclee Print
Giving to the Red Cross Giclee Print | Source

My Motivation for Writing This Page on Earthquake Safety Tips - New Zealand Earthquake - July 15, 2009

On 15 July 2009 at 9.22pm a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit just off the coast of New Zealand, where we live. According to the NZ Herald "It released the equivalent energy of 500 million tonnes of TNT, 25,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945." Here is the snapshot of the seismic map as of Wed Jul 15 12:09:30 GMT 2009. The larger the circle, the larger the earthquake. Also, the red (shows as deep purple here) is for today, orange yesterday, yellow past two weeks, and purple past five years. The map clearly outlines why they call the area around the Pacific Ocean the Pacific Ring of Fire. You can see the big circle on the Southern tip of New Zealand representing the Earthquake.

My Experience

We survived, our house survived, somehow we even still had power (unlike many). We had the knowledge and knew what to do, but this isn't our primary residence, so we were not as prepared as we should have been.

© 2009 Rhonda Albom

Share Your Preparedness or Ask Questions: - All feedback welcome

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 6 weeks ago

      You have reminded me to get my kit together!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Excellent information! I live in earthquake country. We have instituted many of these things in our home. I no longer have things on my head rest on my bed that might cause a problem and no pictures are hung over the bed just in case. I even have a hand powered flashlight just in case the battery powered one fails. It's always good to be prepared!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent page! Thank you for putting it all in one place. I too live in earthquake country, and am still relatively unprepared for a big one.

      Congratulations too on having this page selected as a rising star candidate. Voted!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Featuring this on my Emergency.Prep page on Facebook. Great information that means even more coming from one with both training and first-hand earthquake experience. Thank you, Rhonda!

    • profile image

      Ibidii 2 years ago

      Great article on Emergency Preparedness. Since I live in California we have the earthquakes daily and some good sized ones often. I was in the bay area near San Francisco from 1949 to 1997. I moved away and came back in 2011. There are all kinds of disasters in every state in the USA and all over the world. It is best to be prepared no matter where you live. You could lose your j0b or be ill to miss work or any number of reasons to need a back up plan for preparedness. A good start is to throw some extra cans in your shopping cart that you would normally eat that is good protein or vegetables that can be eaten without heating it up or any cooking. I have eaten beans from the can and it is not bad at all when you are hungry and have no way to heat food. Water is very important to have on hand and use often to recycle your storage.

    • profile image

      Ibidii 2 years ago

      Great article on Emergency Preparedness. Since I live in California we have the earthquakes daily and some good sized ones often. I was in the bay area near San Francisco from 1949 to 1997. I moved away and came back in 2011. There are all kinds of disasters in every state in the USA and all over the world. It is best to be prepared no matter where you live. You could lose your j0b or be ill to miss work or any number of reasons to need a back up plan for preparedness. A good start is to throw some extra cans in your shopping cart that you would normally eat that is good protein or vegetables that can be eaten without heating it up or any cooking. I have eaten beans from the can and it is not bad at all when you are hungry and have no way to heat food. Water is very important to have on hand and use often to recycle your storage.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image
      Author

      Rhonda Albom 2 years ago from New Zealand

      @asereht1970: They can be less scary if you are prepared.

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 2 years ago

      My country is also in the Pacific Ring of Fire so when I see news or tips about earthquake, I really read it. Thanks for the information and the tips. Earthquakes scares me a lot.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I can tell you from personal experience that earthquakes are a serious thing. This is a great lens to make people aware of being prepared. Living in Japan and experiencing the big one in 2011, we were not prepared for it. Fortunately, we live in Tokyo where we were unaffected by the tsunami.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Earthquake scare me I have been in a hurricane where I live, they can be predicted and usually end up close to where the model anticipate they will land. I think an earthquake is and extremely difficult event to predict although there have been a great number of them in the last several year. I believe there will be a huge one very soon in the US.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 4 years ago from New York

      I'm sendng this to my son and daughter-in-law who live in Tokyo. (Yes, they were there when the "big one" and Tsunami hit). I just hope they take your advice. Blessed and featured on "Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo"

    • shelleymax profile image

      shelleymax 4 years ago

      Yes Earthquakes are scary, My husband was in Christchurch when the big one struck in feb last year. best to be as prepared as you possibly can. You never know when mother nature is going to throw her toys out of the cot and give us another shake.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Excellent lens on earthquake preparedness. We live in Nevada, but we have had some minor earthquakes here. Even those were not fun. This lens is the one I'm using for the weather quest, because it is so knowledgeable. Thanks, and Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • KidsToyTeaSets LM profile image

      KidsToyTeaSets LM 4 years ago

      Very useful information - thank you.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 4 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I have just added your lens to my earthquake survival tips:)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens. I learned more than I wanted too.: I came to this page because I was assigned the task of finding a bless worthy lens about something I was scared of. Yours fits both bills! Out to Facebook and Google Plus to get the word out.

    • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

      OUTFOXprevention1 5 years ago

      Adequate emergency kits can dictatate the quality of life during and after a disaster. We have a disaster lens dedicated to just the hygiene aspect of preparation- check it out! Great lens!

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      Great tips... as a Californian, I'm aware of the damage that quakes can do. We are about 75% prepared...

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Hi Pukeko

      I too am in New Zealand. In fact in Christchurch where we have just had a 6 on the 23rd. It was only 7km from where we live and caused more mess in the house (furniture and broken items) than the February quake...the house is sound thank heaven. As you will be aware the Feb shaking was the highest ever recorded - both up and down and sideways so was more devistating than the 7.1 in September.

      Thanks for sharing your safety tips.

    • DieselJoe profile image

      DieselJoe 5 years ago

      I live near a fault too...you never know when an earthquake will happen.

    • bensen32 lm profile image

      bensen32 lm 5 years ago

      Not sure I will ever need this being from the Chicagoland area but still and interesting and informative lens. Nice job.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 5 years ago

      This is a very useful lens and one that is well-structured. Great job!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi! this is a very great lens. I just press like-button and add this lens in my lens name is "What are Earthquake" Don't miss for check its. Thanks for your sharing.

    • WorldVisionary3 profile image

      WorldVisionary3 5 years ago

      Great tips! Thumbs up.

    • profile image

      oznews 6 years ago

      Good site. Please also check my site ...... http://www.squidoo.com/latest-earthquake

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Lucky Leprechaun Angel Blessings!

    • profile image

      EarthquakePreparedness 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot for sharing such a helpful lens.

      I think all should stay prepared for a sudden arrival of an earthquake.

      We all need to know more on this.

      Please share some more information in the future.

    • Skeeeeeetz profile image

      Skeeeeeetz 6 years ago

      This is fantastic information... Thanks!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      This lens is needed in 2011 as well, I have a friend/associate in Christchurch NZ, his office is damage, but house is Ok and all the people are alive and well, he just posted in his blog.

      Rhonda take a good care, and thanks for this lens, the purple star is well deserved.

      Regards

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      @ClassyGals: I remember an earthquake when I lived in Pennsylvania in the 70s and 80s, but it was only a 4-ish, not big enough to do damage. There are a few old fault lines in the area, though!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      I was in a 7 last year on Easter. I've been taught that instead of getting up and moving to the doorframe, in modern houses, the doorframe isn't any more sturdy than the room, so the bigger priority is to cover your head in case anything falls (you can get hit or step on broken glass moving to the door). Nevertheless, the brain turns off in an earthquake -- it's such a bizarre feeling! So I moved to the door, then thought, "You idiot." Luckily I wasn't as close to the epicenter as you.

      I have been through 3 6.9 and up earthquakes and a few 5s, but still none really close -- the closest was 30 miles away, and that was in the 5 range so it wasn't too bad. I can't imagine what New Zealand is going through right now, and my heart and prayers are really going out to you.

      I can't do much to help except donate, but i will go over this page and make sure I've got everything set, because sooner or later, I know, I WILL be in a real 7. I count myself blessed I've had a few wake-up calls and dress rehearsals to nudge me into getting my house (mostly) ready. I have a 5-day earthquake kit in two bins on my patio, so that even if I can't get back in the house, I've got water, food, and vital supplies like a tent, spare clothes and a space blanket out there.

      What I haven't done is get everything totally bolted down. I've got a few bookcases that ought to be strapped.

      Thanks again for the reminder. I see a few other items on the list I need to check.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      - Glad to see that you and yours are safe and well following the latest disaster in Christchurch.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      good info

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      Good info. I am over-prepared but living in Southern California makes one paranoid.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great set of tips, I never went through a quake that large but while living in California we had plenty of rumbles. The Sylmar Quake was the biggest while I was there about 6.9.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I cannot imagine what it must be likeexperience such a severe earthquake. The nearest we have ever got to it was when we were in the path of the blast when the local oil refinery blew up 5 miles away - no structural damage for us thank goodness but we did think it was an earthquake as the house shook!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Living in Pennsylvania I don't worry much about earthquakes, but thanks for the expert tips on earthquake safety that I'll pass along to family and friends.

    • redroses lm profile image

      Jenny Campbell 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      How did you cope in the recent Christchurch earthquake? I was thinking of people there as I once stayed with them there.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 6 years ago

      Very good advice. When we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, we had an emergency kit. I've still got it at my new not-in-earthquake-country house, but we haven't updated it in a long time. This is probably a good reminder to do that.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I can imagine the fear of going through an earthquake myself, but add on the responsibility of protecting children, wow.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      I don't live in an earthquake prone zone, but I visit them a lot. This is good to know. Thanks!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image
      Author

      Rhonda Albom 6 years ago from New Zealand

      @anonymous: I have shipped things here from Amazon before, at some point in the process it takes your address, then calculates postage before you agree. However, you can save some money and make your own kit if you want, I included up above everything you would need.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I was in southland for that one last year, it was my first one as im from the uk. I wanted to get a kit sorted but never got around to it. With all this happening in chch im almost ready for anything now, just a few things left to get and that's how i ended up here :) great site, however just wondering, the survival kits on Amazon don't have shipping details to nz, can we still order them?

      Keep up the good work :)

    • RhondaAlbom profile image
      Author

      Rhonda Albom 6 years ago from New Zealand

      @Spook LM: Thanks for this too.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image
      Author

      Rhonda Albom 6 years ago from New Zealand

      @Spook LM: Thanks for the blessing

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 6 years ago

      Lensrolled to a couple of my NZ ones. I trust you don't mind?

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 6 years ago

      Frightening and so glad you are all OK again. Blessed by an Angel.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Thanks for reminding me of what I should be doing. Have lensrolled to my Paso Robles Earthquake lens and favorited.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

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