What to do when an earthquake hits

California is prone to serious earthquakes. Do you know what to do if disaster strikes? Prepare yourself and your family so you can correctly, and automatically, react when shaking starts. Your best effort to stay safe during an earthquake is largely dependent upon where you’re located.


You’re indoors, stay indoors. Get yourself under a desk or table and hang on to it. Adopt the Drop, Cover and Hold on method. Dropping from where you are to your hands and knees shields you from being knocked down and the bent over position protects your vital organs. Cover your head and neck with one arm. At this point, make an effort to crawl underneath something sturdy. With your off-hand, hold onto shelter until the shaking stops. If there is no shelter, hold onto your head and neck with both arms and hands.

Avoid the kitchen and stay away from windows, fireplaces and heavy furniture or appliances. Despite the frightening shake and resulting panic, do not rush downstairs or outside of a building while it’s shaking. Safely grounding yourself is ideal, as moving exposes you to fallen glass and debris.
You’re outdoors, get in the open. Avoid buildings, power lines, chimneys and essentially anything that could potentially fall on you.

You’re driving, stop. Carefully move your car as far from other motorists as possible. Don’t stop under a bridge, overpass, tree, light post, powerline or sign. Stay inside your car until the shaking stops. When the shaking subsides and you resume driving, pay close attention to breaks in the pavement, fallen rocks or trees, and any road damage at bridge approaches.

You’re in a mountainous area, pay attention. Look for falling rocks, landslides, trees and any other debris that may have been loosed by quakes.

You’re near the ocean, assume Tsunami protocol: Find the protocol here: http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/?page=safety

You’ve safely braced for impact and the shakes now stopped. Now what?

Still be alert. Expect aftershocks and prepare yourself for fallen debris, such as glass, by wearing sturdy shoes. As soon as possible, check for injuries. Assess the situation and move forward accordingly – apply pressure to a bleeding wound, use clean gauze or cloth if possible and administer CPR if someone is not breathing. If there’s severe injuries, seek medical help and do not attempt to move seriously injured persons.

There’s an abundance of potential hazards that can result from a quake. Below are common ones you should be aware of. Here’s what the U.S. Geological Survey suggests:

• Fire hazards--put out fires in your home or neighborhood immediately, call for help

• Gas leaks--shut off main gas valve ONLY if you suspect a leak because of broken pipes or odor

• Damaged electrical wiring--Shut off power at the control box if there is any danger to house wiring

• Downed or damaged utility lines--do not touch downed power lines or any objects in contact with them

• SPILLS--clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other harmful materials such as bleach, lye, gas

• DOWNED OR DAMAGED CHIMNEYS--Approach with caution--don't use damaged chimney (it could start fire or let poisonous gases into your house

• FALLEN ITEMS--beware of items tumbling off shelves when you open doors of closets and cupboards

• CHECK FOOD AND WATER SUPPLIES--Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass

• If power is off, plan meals to use up foods that will spoil quickly or frozen foods (food in the freezer should be good for at least a couple of days)

• Don't light your kitchen stove if you suspect a gas leak

• USE BBQ or camp stoves, outdoors only for emergency cooking

• If your water is off you can drink supplies from water heaters, melted ice cubes or canned vegetables (AVOID drinking water from swimming pools or especially spas--it may have too many chemicals in it to be safe)

Source: USGS 


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