So, hopefully by this point you have inspected your home for potential hazards and fixed them. You've also created a plan for your family, made a kit, and planned for safety in various earthquake scenarios.
Now, lets talk about immediately after the quake stops.
First: Check for Injuries
- Check yourself and your family (in that order) for injuries, and treat them right away. Even a minor cut can become problematic in a disaster if infection sets in.
- If someone is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use clean gauze or cloth, if available.
- If someone is not breathing, administer CPR only if you know how (we recommend taking a CPR certification course).
- Do not move someone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further harm.
- To avoid shock, cover injured people with blankets or jackets to keep them warm.
Second: Check for Hazards
Once you and your family are out of the house and you have treated any injuries, immediately begin checking the area for potential hazards. Just because the quake is over doesn't mean that you're out of the woods.
- Gas Leaks: Turn off the gas to your home only if you suspect a leak (i.e. you see broken pipes or smell gas). Use a manual gas shut-off wrench to close your main gas valve by turning it counterclockwise. Do not try and turn your gas back on by yourself. You must contact the utility company to come and do it for you.
- Fire: Extinguish any small fires in and around your home as quickly as possible. Call for help, but do not wait for the fire department.
- Damaged Wiring: Shut off the power to your home at the main circuit breaker if there is any damage to electrical wiring. Do not turn the power back on until the damage is fixed. Loose or damaged wiring can cause fires or serious injury.
- Downed Power Lines: Under no circumstances should you approach or attempt to move a downed power lines. Keep yourself and family a safe distance away and contact the utility company or fire department. Falling Items: Be careful when opening closets, cabinets and doors, as things inside may have shifted and can fall on you. Always look up and examine the ceiling of an area before entering.
- Damage to Buildings: Also be aware of walls or floors that were severely damaged in the quake, and stay out of areas that are shifting or unstable.
Third: Decide to stay or go
Once you have assessed the damage, its time to make a decision: Is your home safe enough to stay in, or do you need to leave? This can be a difficult decision, but in some cases homes are just too damaged, and it would be unsafe to continue living there until the damage can be repaired.
Many organizations will set up shelters around areas hit by major natural disasters. If you are unable to stay in your home and cannot reach relatives to stay with, a shelter can be a great option while you get back on your feet. However, any shelters will be over crowded and lack basic services, so don't rush off to one just because your home doesn't have power. Only go to one if you really need to. If you do end up going to a shelter, be sure to tell a neighbor where you are going and contact your out-of-state contact person so they know as well.
Consider bringing the following with you when going to a shelter:
- Personal Emergency Kit.
- Any food or water that can be safely collected from your home.
- Bedding, especially blankets, that can be safely collected from your home.
- Small comfort items such as teddy bears or games for kids.
- Personal Identification and copies of household and health insurance information.
Do not bring things like:
- Pets (unless they are registered service animals for people with disabilities).
- Large, unnecessary items, like furniture or televisions.
- Valuables that might be lost, stolen or take up needed space.
The most important thing is to try and remain calm. Keeping a level head and sticking to your plan will keep you and your family alive, and can save your home from secondary accidents like fires and floods.
What other things should you do immediately after the quake? Anyone have any personal experience in this? Let us know in the comments.