What to do Before, During, and After an Earthquake



The aftermath of a smaller earthquake

Kenneth Lee, Contributor

California is an area that is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the San Andreas Fault. There are several hundred earthquakes in California every year above 3.0 magnitude, and 15-20 greater than 4.0 according to the United States Geological Survey. Earthquakes are dangerous natural disasters that can kill or injure many people. Thankfully, most earthquakes won’t even be felt and not many will be very damaging. California however, is expecting the ‘Big One’ which is predicted to have a magnitude of 8 or higher. According to businessinsider, it is estimated that the ‘Big One’ “could kill about 1,800 people and leave 50,000 or more with injuries.” With all these earthquakes and the ‘Big One’ being expected at any moment, knowing what to do when these earthquakes happen is essential.
Before the Earthquake
Even before an earthquake occurs, there are procedures and steps you can take to help you when one does. Checking your house for items and objects that might flail around during the shaking is important, as they are the cause of many injuries. According to the California Academy of Sciences, you should be securing shelves, overhead lights, and cabinets to prevent them from moving around. Large or breakable objects should be stored lower, and any deep cracks in the building should be repaired.
Preparing supplies for an earthquake is another step to be taken. The government states that you should have a flashlight, portable radio, and phone charger that don’t require electricity and with extra batteries. Water, food, a first aid kit, sanitization for when water is limited, clothes that cover all of your skin, blankets and sleeping bags, a whistle to call for help, cash, and a fire extinguisher are also needed. “There should be enough water and food for at least 3 days and a non-electric can opener for canned food.”
Making a plan with your family is important as well. Decide on a place to meet if you are all separated when the earthquake happens, and a place in or near your house. The best places would be under sturdy furniture or in an open area away from buildings and trees. Practicing what you should do during the earthquake is also a great way to prepare.
During the Earthquake
Most people likely already know what to do during an earthquake. First, drop down where you are and get on your knees. Then, cover your head and neck with your arms. If there is a sturdy table or desk near you, crawl to it as long as you don’t have to go through debris. If there isn’t a sturdy table or desk, you can look to crawl to a wall away from windows. Hold on with one hand if you are under a table or desk and move with it if it moves. Make sure not to run outside and stay put until the shaking is over if you are inside.
There are other cases where you might not be in the best position to do these three things. Some of these cases include being in a car or being in bed. According to the government, “If you are seated and unable to drop to the floor, bend forward, cover your head with your arms and hold on to your neck with both hands. If you are in a car during the earthquake, pull over, stop, and set your parking brake. If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.”
After the Earthquake
Once the shaking has stopped, wait for a short while before getting up. Scan your surroundings for potentially harmful things like power lines and debris. If you can safely exit the building and there is an open area, you can start to exit the building by heading for the exit and steering clear of hazards. Make sure not to stay in damaged buildings as they are dangerous. Aftershocks can follow an earthquake, so if you feel shaking repeat the steps above. These can happen hours to even months after the initial shaking. Help others around you if possible and get your emergency supplies out.
You will want to listen to the radio and look on social media for instructions and information regarding the earthquake. Try to rendezvous with your family according to the plan that you made. If you are trapped and can’t get out, don’t inhale dust and cover your mouth. According to the government, “Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. Use your cell phone to call or text for help. Tap on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle, if available, so rescuers can locate you.” Don’t wait to prepare for an earthquake because earthquakes won’t wait for you. Make sure you and your family are prepared so that you have the best possible chance for survival.