According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in the past 24 hours (at the time of this writing) 27 earthquakes were recorded around the world—including Oklahoma, Kansas, Hawaii, two in California and five in Alaska. In fact, the Napa area of California just experienced its worst earthquake in 25 years.
Earthquakes occur when rock plates in the Earth’s crust move along each other across a fault line. This movement causes seismic waves, that reach the surface of the earth, causing shakes and tremors. Earthquakes can cause widespread damage and destruction. They can happen anywhere and at any time. There is nothing we can do about the natural movement of the Earth’s plates, but earthquakes also happen due to manmade explosions, volcanic eruptions and many believe from fracking (the process in which fractures in rocks below the earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting chemicals and liquids at high pressure). An earthquake often happens with no warning and many underestimate how destructive an earthquake can be. Lasting seconds to minutes, even an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the magnitude scale can produce waves more powerful than the force of gravity.
Earthquakes are unpredictable and there is no guarantee the structure you are in will sustain itself. Even if there are only minor damages to the building you seek shelter in, does not mean that there will not be chaos surrounding you. Utilities might be out, roads might be blocked, and evacuating might not be possible. If damage is slight, you may want to remain in your home. To survive the aftermath of an earthquake, you should prepare for it as you would any other disaster or emergency. Surviving an earthquake means you need to stock up on non-perishable foods, water, alternative sources of lighting and a few other items to get you through the first few days of clean up and restoration.
During an Earthquake
If you start to feel shaking, hear rattling or items start to fall off the shelf—drop, cover and hold. It is advisable for you to take cover underneath a heavy piece of furniture such as a dining room table, away from windows and large objects like a bookcase that could easily fall on you. This helps you avoid injury from falling objects. If you are in bed, it is safer to stay there while covering your head and neck.
If you are outside, find a spot clear away from trees, buildings, power lines and lights and lay down.
After an Earthquake
When the shaking stops, check yourself and everyone with you for injuries. Administer first aid if necessary. Second, check the integrity of your home. Leave the house if it appears to be unsound. Next, extinguish any fires. After attending to immediate dangers, clean up any spills of hazardous material.
If your house is undamaged or only sustained minor damages, you will probably choose to bug-in instead of trying to leave. It is highly likely that roads are damaged, closed, blocked and even impassable. Traffic due to major and minor infrastructure problems may make it impossible to leave. Avoid downed power lines and be aware if you smell natural gas. One common effect from earthquakes is damage to gas lines. You might need to shut off the natural gas to your home. Locate where the main valve is and shut it off.
Earthquakes create aftershocks—the same trembling and shaking you felt during the first one. If you feel an aftershock, return to your safety zone until it passes. Aftershocks can cause further damage to structures, so recheck your house for hazardous or dangerous spills, broken glass or further damage.
Before an Earthquake
You can become earthquake prepared right now. Pick a safe space in your home where you and your family will take cover during an earthquake. Clear the area of dangerous items that could hurt you if they fall—such as glass, mirrors and large pieces of furniture. Have an emergency supplies kit easily accessible. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you should bolt down your largest pieces of furniture, the water heater and any gas appliance with wall studs.
Earthquake Survival Kit
Pack an earthquake preparedness kit much like you would any other disaster-ready kit, with a few extras such as dust masks and tools to turn off the gas to your house, patch damages and clean up spills and broken glass.
- Water filter or purifier
- Non-perishable food
- Manual can opener
- Cooking supplies
- Plates and utensils
- First Aid kit
- Copies of important documents and phone numbers
- Warm clothes and rain gear for each family member
- Heavy work gloves
- Unscented liquid household bleach and an eyedropper for water purification
- Personal hygiene items
- Plastic sheeting, duct tape, and utility knife for covering broken windows
- Tools such as a crowbar, hammer and nails, staple gun, adjustable wrench and bungee cords
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Large heavy-duty plastic bags
- Plastic bucket for waste and sanitation
- Any special needs items for children, seniors, or people with disabilities.
- Pet supplies
- Dust masks
Do you live in an earthquake-prone area? What do you do to prepare? Share your tips and stories in the comment section.
Learn more about the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake. See State Highway 287 slumped into Hebgen Lake; damage from the August 1959 Hebgen Lake (Montana-Yellowstone) earthquake. The main residence of Hilgard Lodge is almost completely submerged in the lake. View to the northeast.