Earthquakes are one of nature’s most frightening natural phenomena. When an earthquake occurs, the ground will shake perceptively for a relatively short time, perhaps only for a few seconds or for as long as a minute in a great earthquake.

Precautions to Take During an Earthquake

  1. Try to remain calm and to reassure others.

  2. If you are in a high-rise office building, get under a desk. Do not run for exits, since stairways may be broken and jammed with people. Power for elevators may fail and stop operating. Seek safety where you are at the time of the incident and then leave calmly if evacuation is necessary.

  3. Do not be surprised if the electricity goes out or if elevator, fire and burglar alarms start ringing, or if sprinkler systems go on. Expect to hear noise from breaking glass, cracks in walls and falling objects.

  4. Do not be surprised if you feel more than one shock. After the first motion is felt, there may be a temporary decrease in the motion followed by another shock. (This phenomenon is merely the arrival of different seismic waves from the same earthquake.) Also, aftershocks may occur -- these are separate quakes that follow the main shock. Aftershocks may occur several minutes, several hours, or even several days afterwards. Sometimes, aftershocks will cause damage or the collapse of structures that were already weakened by the main earthquake.

Precautions to Take After an Earthquake

When the shaking stops, there may be considerable damage, and people may be injured. It is especially important that everyone remains calm and begins the task of taking care of one another. The first concern is for those who are hurt, and the next concern is to prevent fires. The risk of fire after an earthquake is very high.

  1. Everyone must be aware of fire procedures. After that, damage can be assessed and remedial measures begun.
  2. Remain calm and take time to assess your situation.
  3. Check for fires and fire hazards. Put out fires immediately if it is safe to do so.
  4. Help anyone who is hurt and administer emergency first aid when necessary. Cover injured persons with blankets to keep them warm. Seek medical help (911) for those who need it.
  5. Check for damage to utilities and appliances. Shut off electricity if there is any chance of damage to wiring.
  6. Shut off water lines in your suite if breakage has occurred.
  7. Do not turn on electrical switches or appliances.
  8. Do not touch power lines, electric wiring or objects in contact with them.
  9. If you detect a natural gas odor, vacate the area immediately. Do not activate any type of device that could create a spark. Once in a safe area call 911 and report a natural gas leak.
  10. Do not use the telephone except to call for help or to report serious emergencies (medical, fire or criminal) or to perform some essential service. When the emergency is clearly over, contact relatives and friends so they will know you are safe.
  11. Be certain that sewer lines are not broken before resuming regular use of toilets.
  12. Clean up and warn others of any spilled materials that are dangerous.
  13. Listen to the radio for information about earthquake and disaster procedures.
  14. Be prepared to experience aftershocks. They often do additional damage to buildings weakened by the main shock.
  15. Use great caution when entering or moving about in a damaged building. Collapses can occur without much warning and there may be dangers from gas leaks, electric wiring, broken glass, etc.

There are no rules that can eliminate all earthquake danger. However, damage and injury can be greatly reduced by following the simple rules outlined above.

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