Earthquake Safety: What to Do
First and foremost—what should you do in the event of an earthquake? The short answer, according to the Earthquake Country Alliance: Drop, Cover and Hold On!
- Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees.
- Cover your head and neck with one arm. Crawl underneath a sturdy desk or table if nearby, otherwise crawl to an interior wall away from any windows.
- Hold on until the shaking stops. If you’re under a table or similar, hold onto it with one hand and move with it if it shifts. If you’re not under a shelter, cover your neck and hands with both arms.
No matter what situation you’re in, the “Drop, Cover and Hold” method is recommended for protecting yourself during an earthquake. Research conducted by the ECA from official rescue teams all over the world who have searched for trapped people in collapsed structures agrees that the “Drop, Cover and Hold” method is the most appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. Studies of earthquake-related death and injuries conducted over the last several decades show that a person is much more likely to be injured or killed by a falling object—such as a television set, lamp, bookcase, vase, any kind of glass, etc.—as opposed to being injured or killed by the building itself collapsing. Following the steps of the “Drop, Cover and Hold” method should protect from most of these injuries.
In the event that you may be in an environment or situation where the “Drop, Cover and Hold” method doesn’t seem applicable—take a look at the situations below, put together by the Earthquake Country Alliance, and study the proper protocol to remember for future use.
- Bed – If you’re in bed, stay in bed. The best thing to do is flip to your stomach to protect your vital organs and then cover your head with a pillow. Many earthquake injuries that have been studied occurred in the process of a person moving from out of their bed.
- Stadium / Theatre / Lecture Hall – There are two options in this situation: either follow the standard “Drop, Cover and Hold” procedure, or remain seated, then lean over your legs and cover your neck and head with both arms. After the shaking stops, keep your head covered and carefully exit.
- Driving – If you’re on the road, pull over to the shoulder and set your car’s parking brake. If possible, avoid overpasses, power lines and other hazards. Stay inside your vehicle.
- Walker / Wheelchair – If you’re using a walker or wheelchair, the steps you’ll follow are now “Lock, Cover and Hold”. For walker-users, first lock your wheels. Then sit in your walker and cover your head and neck with both arms. Similarly, for wheelchair-users, lock your wheels, then lean forward over your legs and cover your head and neck with both of your arms.
Earthquake Safety: What to Prepare
It’s important to remember that basic utilities like gas, electricity and water may be unusable after an earthquake—so a “disaster” kit should be assembled ahead of time to be used in these circumstances.
Safety.com recommends that the kit hold supplies that your family would need to survive without outside aid for at least three days following an earthquake.
Some important items that your kit should include…
- Water – The Department of Homeland Security recommends one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
- Food – Any kind of non-perishable foods such as granola bars, protein bars, peanut butter, dried fruits, canned meats (such as tuna, salmon and turkey), trail mix and nuts are all good choices. Your food supply should be enough to last you for at least three days.
- First-Aid Kit – A basic medical supply kit should be kept, containing at least an assortment of band-aids, ointments, cold medicine, pain relievers (Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc.) and any kind of specialty prescription medication that you or a family member may not be able to get access to if the pharmacy closes. The medication you choose to keep in your kit will be reflective of you and your family. For example, you may also need to keep a rescue inhaler or an epi-pen in your kit if a family member warrants it.
- Alternative Lighting – A selection of flashlights, camping lanterns, hand-crank flashlights, candles and/or other forms of alternative lighting should be kept on-hand in case of a power outage.
- Pet Supplies – Don’t forget to keep a stock of food and water for your pets as well! (Also make sure to have an extra emergency bottle of any medications that your pet may need.)
- Batteries / Battery Packs – Keep a stock of AA, AAA, 5V, D, or whatever style of batteries that most of your electronics will take. This is important for keeping your flashlights, lanterns, radios and any other electronics powered. You can also keep a few battery packs charged and stored to use for charging phones, tablets and other larger electronics.
Earthquake Safety: According to the Experts
Emergency Programs Manager
Office of Emergency Management
Municipality of Anchorage
1305 E Street, Anchorage, AK 99501
(All below information attributed to Audrey Gray)
The most important thing that people can do to prepare for an earthquake is to mitigate your living space, whether that be a dorm room, apartment or a house. There are many ways to do this, but the most important things to do are:
- Do not hang heavy pictures or shelves on the wall above your sleeping space.
- Use earthquake straps to hold your TV onto the stand or mount your TV to the wall
- Secure bookshelves to the wall—Put a bungee in front of books to keep them from falling off of the shelves
- Place locks on your cabinets to keep them closed during severe shaking.
- Secure pictures to the wall with earthquake putty and earthquake picture hangers.
Think about baby proofing your space….baby proofing is earthquake proofing!
If people have questions about earthquakes and earthquake preparedness, they can contact Audrey Gray, the Emergency Programs Manager for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The OEM also has a website (www.muni.org/departments/oem) that has many resources for all of the hazards the Municipality faces, and in many different languages too.
Additional resources that people should know about that can assist with earthquake information and earthquake safety, include:
- The Office of Emergency Management website: www.muni.org/departments/oem
- Preparedness materials: www.ready.gov
- USGS website on current earthquake information: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/
- Alaska Earthquake Center: https://earthquake.alaska.edu/
- Great Alaska Shakeout: https://www.shakeout.org/alaska/
- Red Cross: www.redcross.org
Lastly, a few important tips for people to know in regard to earthquakes and earthquake safety.
- Make a plan for how you are going to communicate with your friends and family. Texting usually works when calling doesn’t. In addition, sometimes calls to long-distance numbers will work when local numbers will not work when the cell service is overwhelmed, so always have an out-of-state contact everyone can check in with to ensure all are okay.
- It’s also encouraged that all residents get out and volunteer for a local response group to enhance their preparedness skills.