Disaster Safety: Earthquake

There is no question that Mother Nature has a mean streak. Natural hazards happen across the world in many different forms, such as: earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanos, forest fires, landslides and tsunamis.

Earthquakes strike violently and suddenly, without warning.  After a major earthquake, there’s a good chance that traditional emergency response teams will be too busy to take care of you and your family. You need to PREPARE your home.

Here are some basic important measures that you can take to prepare for an earthquake.

Know what to do when the shaking begins!
Know the safest place in every room of your home. When the shaking starts there should be no confusion, the entire family should know exactly where to go. The best position in each room is under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you. Get low to the ground and hang on! Putting your hands on the floor helps balance with the violent shaking. According to the American Red Cross, teach your children to drop, cover and hold on, once the shaking starts. If you are in bed when the earthquake strikes, stay there and protect your head with a pillow. If you are outside, find a clear spot away from trees, buildings and power lines. Where ever you are when the earthquake hits, make sure you get away from windows that will likely shatter and heavy furniture that could fall on you, like a bookcase. You can eliminate certain hazards in your home by bolting bookcases and china cabinets to wall studs. Your water heater should also be strapped to the wall.

Prepare a disaster supply kit.
Your disaster kit for an earthquake should include:

* Sturdy shoes
* Portable battery operated radio
* Cash
* Emergency canned food
* Standard first aid kit
* Non-electric can opener
* Flashlights and extra batteries
* Bottled water: 2 gallons per person per day
* Make sure everyone knows how to turn off gas and water

Also, develop an emergency communication plan with your family. This is essential if family members are separated during the quake, or tragedy strikes while kids are in school and parents are at work. Develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster, keeping in mind phone lines will likely be down.

Know what to do when the shaking stops
Check yourself for injuries. Prevent further injuries by wearing sturdy shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards by turning off the gas, and remember only a professional should turn it back on. Inspect your home for damage and get everyone out if it is unsafe. EXPECT AFTERSHOCKS. Each time you feel one, drop cover and hold on! Although smaller than the main shock, aftershocks cause additional damage and may bring down weakened structures. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks or even months after the quake. Larger earthquakes have more and larger aftershocks. Just remember, the bigger the main shock, the bigger the aftershock.

Reviewing the basics
An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. Stresses in the earth’s surface push the sides of the fault together. The friction and stress across the surface of the fault builds up and suddenly slips, releasing energy in waves that travel through the ground causing the shaking that we feel during an earthquake.

Earthquakes occur most frequently west of the Rocky Mountains, although historically the most violent earthquakes have occurred in the central United States. All 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes. Forty-one states or territories are at moderate to high risk. We would all be better prepared for earthquakes if we knew when the next one was coming. However, unlike the predictable storm front, there are no warning signs for earthquakes. The best bet is to be prepared when disaster strikes.

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