Tomorrow's the day, folks! People all over Utah will be joining in the state's first state-wide earthquake drill! Let's talk about what to do during the quake.
Because there’s no way of knowing exactly when an earthquake will strike, you should be prepared to protect yourself and respond to the crisis no matter where you are. We’ve talked about what to do in a basic setting at home, but what if you’re away from home, or you’re outside? Let’s look at a few different scenarios.
At home: Sleeping
If you’re sleeping when an earthquake hits, hold on to the bed and stay where you are. If you have any artwork or décor hanging near your bed that could fall on you, protect your head and neck with a pillow. Hopefully you’ve taken our previous posts to heart and fastened all artwork or loose items securely so they won’t fall during a quake. After the shaking stops, grab your shoes (they’re by your bed now, right?) and follow your earthquake emergency plan.
At home: Cooking
Remove items from burners at the first hint of shaking, and turn off any burners and the oven—especially if you have a gas range. If you are standing near overhead cabinets or the refrigerator, move as far away as you can. Drop, cover your head and neck with your hands and arms, and wait until the shaking stops. If possible, grab something to protect your head better (even a baking sheet or a sturdy frying pan), since it’s likely that glass dishes, heavy canned food items, knives, or other dangerous items could fall and cause serious injuries.
At home: On a ladder
If you Replace yourself in this situation, get to the floor as quickly as possible. Drop, cover, and hold—and get away from the ladder if you can, since it’s essentially guaranteed to fall over. It may feel silly to do this, but it’s not a bad idea to pull a cushion off the couch or pile a couple of pillows and blankets next to you whenever you get on a ladder—giving yourself some cushion should you need to jump to the ground.
At home/Away: In a high-rise building
Working and living in a high-rise building typically means you’ll need to be prepared to protect yourself from lots of breaking glass, and it always means you’ll need to get yourself to the main floor of the building without an elevator. If you live in the building, make a personal escape plan and remain calm, as many others will be exiting the building via the stairwells as the same time. Your employer should have a plan prepared if you work in a high-rise, so be sure you know the plan. In either case, be prepared and willing to help those who may have difficulty navigating the stairways, such as the elderly or those with limited mobility.
Away: At School
If you are at school when an earthquake hits, your teacher will know what to do—first Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Then follow your instructor’s directions for evacuating the building, waiting for a head count, and contacting your family.
Parents, if your kids are at school during a quake, get to the school as quickly as you can, since typically schools won’t release the kids after an emergency unless the parent or an authorized guardian is there to pick them up.
Away: At Work
You should know your employer’s earthquake preparedness plan and understand the plans of your family members’ offices as well—knowing the plans makes getting in contact much easier.
If you work in a building with lots of windows, plan ahead to know where you can Drop, Cover, and Hold On for the best protection from breaking glass. You will also need protection from falling lights, computer monitors and printers, or other special equipment that may be a part of your work environment. Typically your desk or a table in a conference room will provide good protection, but consider other potential scenarios as well.
Away: At an event (concert, arena, sporting event)
If you are in a theater, arena, or at another similar venue, Drop, Cover your head and neck with your hands, and do your best to hold on to your bench or seat. When the shaking stops, don’t panic and run for the exit—remain calm and slowly make your way to an exit. Be sure you are aware of any hazards that may fall from above or be on the ground—and please be courteous to those around you. Pushing others to make your way out will only cause additional injuries and chaos.
Outside: Near tall buildings
The windows and non-structural elements of a building (facades, decorative details) are the first to fall during an earthquake. If you are near a tall building, get as far away as you can when the shaking starts, and don’t approach until you know there is no longer danger of additional items falling. Get to an open space or inside a safe building.
Outside: Below a dam
Total failure of a dam is not likely in an earthquake, but if you live or spend time in parks or on hiking trails below a dam, you should know the flood-zone information and have a plan for evacuating the area and getting to safety should the dam be compromised or totally collapse. Know the signal that will be given so you can recognize the sound and act accordingly.
If you’re in your car during an earthquake, stay there until the shaking stops—a car’s shocks will actually absorb a lot of the shaking and keep you fairly safe from falling items. Be sure to stop carefully if you’re en route, as you don’t want to cause an accident by swerving or stopping suddenly. Don’t stop on a bridge or overpass on a freeway if at all possible. If debris or other items fall on your car, carefully open the door when you exit, to be sure nothing will slide off the roof of your car onto you.
NOTE: If a power line has fallen on your car, DO NOT exit your vehicle. Wait until a trained professional can come to clear up the situation so you can safely get out.
We could obviously spend all day talking about this and still not cover every potential scenario. So think about the places where you spend the most time and make a specific plan for each location. The more prepared you are, and the more you consider specific circumstances, the better prepared you’ll be—even if you end up in a situation you haven’t planned for.
How about it, readers? Where do you spend your time? Do you have a plan for that location?
And to our friends who’ve been in an earthquake? Where were you, and were you ready to protect yourself?
We want to hear all about it in the comments.