Earthquakes are impossible to predict with accuracy and can strike at any time. Residents who live in a quake-prone area should have action plans in place and know how to react appropriately in the event an earthquake hits. That means having a power outage kit, phone numbers for utility emergency services, and protecting the property.
Preparing for an Earthquake
Take an objective look at your home and think about what could happen to its contents in the event of a tremor or earthquake. Go over the home itself and look for weaknesses in the structure that should be fixed so as to prevent a catastrophic fracture in the foundation. Focus on identifying items that may cause damage and injure the occupants if they fall over.
Examine the Exterior and Foundation of the Home for Problems
- Get the roof inspected for loose shingles, flashings, and gutters.
- Look over the foundation for cracks or fractures or have an expert inspect the home.
- Check the walls of the home for cracks in the wall that suggest an issue in the foundation.
- Install power outage lights in key areas around the exterior of the home.
Prepare the Home for an Earthquake
- Locate safe places in the home to wait out the activity.
- Secure heavy objects such as TVs, dressers, bookshelves, etc. with straps or anchors.
- Top-heavy objects should be connected to wall studs with metal brackets and screws.
- Use Velcro or sticky tape for delicate objects that rest on shelves and are at risk of falling.
- Make sure mirrors and other items that hang from the wall are securely affixed and won’t move independently of the structure.
- Put together an electricity outage kit that contains supplies to help you through a power outage after an earthquake.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers in different locations throughout the home.
- Stock the pantry with items that are non-perishable and are easily prepared.
Staying Safe During an Earthquake
If you are indoors during an earthquake, you should:
- Drop to the ground to prevent the earthquake from knocking you down.
- Not stand in a doorway as the doorway does not provide protection.
- Get under a table and hold on.
- Cover your head and neck with your hands and arms to minimize damage from debris.
- Stay in your location no matter where you happen to be as running can put you at risk of being injured or killed by flying debris.
- Wait for the shaking to stop.
Aftershocks are common once the main earthquake event has ceased. That means debris that was loosened by the earthquake, but not knocked down, is at risk of falling during an aftershock. It’s best to stay in place until all waves have stopped as an aftershock is almost as strong as the original. The safety tips for an aftershock are the same as the ones for the first earthquake.
What to Do After an Earthquake
Once all of the tremors have subsided, it’s safe to go outside and take a look around. You want to check for issues that need immediate attention and assess the damage to the home. Gas lines are often ruptured during earthquakes and need to be turned off as soon as possible. Local electricity outages are common and can last for days, sometimes weeks, following the event.
Some of the questions you might be asking are “The electricity is out, who do I call?” and “Who do I call for a natural gas leak?” Following are actions you should take after an earthquake:
- Make sure you’re able to move safely, and check yourself for injuries before moving from your location.
- Look for small fires that may have started.
- Avoid downed power lines.
- Call 911 to report hazardous conditions such as downed power lines, gas leaks, and fires.
- Don’t turn on appliances or electricity if you think there is a gas leak.
- Check on family, neighbors, and friends.
- Call the electric company if your power has gone out.
- Let people know you’re OK via texts or social media and provide updates.
- Check your phone for local power outage alerts in order to stay updated for the return of power.
- Only open refrigerator and freezer doors when absolutely necessary. The refrigerator can keep food cold for some time even when the power is off.
- Document damage to the home when there’s an opportunity to do so safely.
It takes time to recover from an earthquake, which means life won’t go back to normal for some time. Your power outage kit can help you get through the aftermath and minimize some discomforts.
What to Do During a Prolonged Power Outage
Modern appliances and electronics rely on a steady supply of electricity to operate properly, but when there’s a power outage after an earthquake, those units can quickly become useless. Traditional forms of powering and lighting the home become important, but they too need to be used wisely. During a prolonged power outage, you should:
- Be careful when using candles to light a room in order to reduce the risk of fire.
- If a generator is in use, make sure that the exhaust is emptying outside and not into the home.
- Stay home until the local authorities send out a general alert that it’s OK to travel.
- Consume perishables first and save non-perishable foods for later.
- Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electronics to protect them from an energy power surge when the power gets turned back on.
- Learn how to manually open and close your garage door and know how to lock the door behind you.
- If there are residents in the home who are sensitive to extreme temperatures, make arrangements to relocate them to a place that’s capable of providing a climate-controlled environment.
Living in an earthquake-prone area requires being in a state of preparedness at all times. Check backup systems regularly, keep fresh batteries in the house, and set up a power outage kit. Having everything you need at the ready can help you stay comfortable and connected while you wait for the electricity to return.