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How to survive an earthquake
Earthquake safety begins before the earthquake. Proper construction and personal preparation will help you to be ready.
During an earthquake: Drop, cover, and hold on!
In a nutshell: Drop, cover and hold.
- Drop to the floor. Get on your hands and knees.
- This helps you to stay steady and allows you to move quickly and safely to cover.
- Move no more than a few steps; acting quickly is important.
- Take cover. Get under a sturdy table or desk (or similar cover).
- If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture.
- Keep away from heavy, tall furniture that is likely to fall, such as bookcases.
- Keep away from windows.
- Hold a cushion above your head if possible - many injuries in quakes are from flying objects being tossed through the air. You can also use your hands folded over your head, as a form of protection.
- Hold onto something if possible. The earthquake will shake things around, so holding on can help to keep you in place.
Things not to do
- Do not lie in the fetal position - this makes you prone to rolling around.
- Do not use the fire stairs in a building. They are a bad place to be in a collapse, and sidewalks next to buildings are among the worst places to be.
- Do not run. Don't run to the stairs or elevators (lifts). The ground is moving and running will be difficult and dangerous.
- Do not go outside until the all-clear is given, after the shaking has stopped. Falling debris, glass, bricks, etc., from buildings and façades injures and kills. Outside may be less safe, and you're vulnerable while moving. It's better to stop, drop and cover. (The only exception is a single storey building with heavy adobe roof.[verification needed])
Staying safe in different locations
If you're not in a position to drop and cover under a table, the following methods will help you in other situations:
- No cover: Drop down and protect the back of your neck and head with your hands, tuck your head into your body, and hold the position until the shaking stops.
- In an elevator (lift): Drop, cover and hold/cover your heads with your hand. Try to get out on the nearest floor when the shaking stops.
- In bed: Remain in place and cover your head.
- Outdoors: Move no more than a few steps away from power lines, buildings, streetlights and trees. Drop, cover and hold.
- In the car: Pull over to a clear spot, away from trees and power lines. Keep your seat belt fastened, the car stopped and stay in place. You can continue with care when the shaking stops, avoiding debris, bridges, ramps or other structures that may be badly damaged.
- At the beach: Drop, cover and hold until the shaking stops. Then move inland as quickly as possible, going to higher ground in case of a tsunami. Keep off the beach until the authorities give the all-clear.
- In the mountains, a forest, hiking/camping, etc.: Drop, cover and hold until the shaking is over. Watch for falling debris from slopes, keep away from edges of slopes and watch for trees falling. Be alert to the possibility of landslides.
Safeguarding your home
- Bolt bookshelves, water heaters, cabinets and other heavy objects to wall studs.
- Anchor things so that they will not move or fall during an earthquake - this is always important, and often the most important thing you can do to be safe. (In a country with poor construction standards, improving the safety of the structure itself may be more important.) This also prevents things from breaking.
How do I know where an earthquake is happening now?
- Beware of the triangle of life advice, that has been passed around by email and on certain websites. Some of the advice is good (stay indoors, don't run to the stairs; get low next to a sofa) and some is bad (get next to heavy objects such as a refrigerator).
Sources and citations
- NZ Get Thru - What To Do In An Earthquake, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a7T9Uf-JB4
- NZ Get Thru, http://getthru.govt.nz/disasters/earthquake/