Earthquakes can happen anywhere, at any time.
California is at especially high risk for earthquakes, and they occur more frequently here than they do elsewhere in the United States, leaving residents vulnerable. April has been designated Earthquake Preparedness Month to remind the public of the importance of being ready for possible earthquakes. While no one can predict when and where an earthquake might strike, the more prepared you are, the better equipped you’ll be to stay safe and to overcome challenges after one hits. Read on for some helpful tips.
BEFORE: Make a Kit & Have a Plan
Consider what might happen if an earthquake strikes while you’re at home or at work, and have a plan for both scenarios!
Discuss the possibility of earthquakes with your family and colleagues, and review what you will do if one occurs.
Designate an out-of-area point person for your family to contact in case you’re separated and cell service goes down.
Make a kit that you can grab at a moment’s notice containing all the things you might need in the event of a major disaster. Some basic items to include are extra clothing, cash, medicines, enough food and water for 3 days, a first aid kit, toiletries, flashlights and batteries, protective gear such as gloves and a face mask, and a hand-crank radio. It’s a good idea to have one at home, at work and in your car.
Earthquake-proof your home and office by securing shelves, large electronics and heavy furniture, placing items that could become debris away from beds and desks, repairing any structural defects, faulty gas or electrical lines and leaky pipes, and familiarizing yourself with how to turn off the gas lines in your home.
Identify safe spots in each room of your home and office where you can take shelter if an earthquake hits.
Review what to do during an earthquake and practice with drills that will help you avoid panic if and when an earthquake strikes.
DURING: Drop, Cover & Hold On
If an earthquake strikes, minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay there until the shaking stops.
If you’re in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and as safely as you can, making sure to stay away from buildings, trees, utility poles and wires and overpasses.
If you’re outside, move as quickly as you can into the open away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires. Then, drop and stay in place until the shaking stops. If you are in a city and are unable to avoid buildings, you may need to duck inside.
If you’re inside, drop to your hands and knees and, if possible, crawl to shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture. Then, brace yourself, cover your head and neck, and wait for the shaking to stop. Stay away from glass, outside doors and walls, and anything that might fall. If you are in bed, cover your head and neck with a pillow.
Do not try to exit the building during an earthquake, only proceed outside once the shaking has stopped and it is safe to do so.
AFTER: Ensure Your Safety & Follow Your Plan
Once the shaking stops, evaluate your surroundings and safely exit the building with your disaster kit, bypassing any debris or structural damages and turning off gas lines on the way. If you are in a vehicle, proceed with caution. The first 72 hours following an earthquake are the most critical, so prepare to be self-sufficient for at least that long.
Expect and be prepared for aftershocks, which can be strong enough to cause additional damage or injury.
Extinguish small fires, and avoid using matches or lighters near damaged areas as gas lines may have been disturbed.
Connect with neighbors, colleagues or family members and ensure that everyone is safe and accounted for. Assist others around you if it is possible to do so safely.
Tune in to the news and/or disaster alerts to get more information and heed all safety warnings in your area. If you’re near a coast, pay attention to tsunami risks, and if instructed move inland to higher ground.
Only use the phone to notify authorities if anyone is trapped or seriously injured. Keep phone lines open for emergency calls if you are safe and follow your emergency plan to connect with family members if separated.
Stay away from damaged areas, and wait for instructions from authorities. Do not return home until you are told to do so. If necessary, locate shelters in your area for temporary housing.
Once you return home, do so cautiously and be careful to avoid further damage or injury. Protect yourself from broken objects and debris with gloves. Clean up spills or leaks first, and leave the area if you smell fumes from chemicals or gas.
For more helpful tips and information on how to get prepared for earthquakes, visit Ready.gov.
Remember, the best way to stay safe during an earthquake and to protect yourself in the aftermath of a major event is to prepare yourself BEFORE it happens. Take part in California Earthquake Preparedness Month by making your kits, reviewing your plan, and familiarizing yourself with the procedures you should follow.
Operation USA is Los Angeles’ resident disaster relief agency, and encourages all city residents to be prepared with a kit, a plan, and knowledge of what to do in the event of a disaster. To donate to OpUSA’s ongoing relief and recovery fund, supporting preparedness and post-disaster efforts locally and worldwide, visit give.opusa.org.