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Earthquake Preparedness

Emergency & Survival GearBy Rob K12

An earthquake is a sudden release of energy in the earth's crust or upper mantle, usually caused by movement along a fault plane or by volcanic activity, and resulting in the generation of seismic waves. These waves shake the ground, and they can be very destructive.  Although usually associated with California, earthquakes are a natural phenomenon that can occur anywhere at any time. In 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit America’s east coast, centered northwest of Richmond, VA.  Because earthquakes are so unpredictable, it is important that you prepare for them before they happen.  View our Earthquake Checklist.

Home Preparation
Begin your preparation by building a home emergency kit, a family communication plan, and an evacuation plan.  Your home emergency kit needs to cover the priorities of survival: first aid, shelter, water, fire, food, security - and it should include any specific personal and family needs.  Children, the elderly, and pets will require special attention.

Your emergency kit should contain a first aid kit, nonperishable, canned or freeze dried emergency food, water and means to purify water from other sources, and light sources such as flashlights with spare batteries and bulbs, battery operated lanterns, and candles.

Add a battery operated or hand-cranked radio to monitor emergency stations and stay informed.  Solar chargers add a lot of value to your kit by letting you recharge your electronic devices.  Also include tools such as wrenches and pliers for turning off utilities, work gloves, and eye protection. You’ll need these later anyway when you’re cleaning up and conducting repairs.

Falling Objects
An earthquake will shake your home and move even some of your heaviest items.  Securing your household items can reduce the risk of injury.  According to a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, 55% of injuries during an earthquake in 1994 were caused by falling objects such as toppling bookshelves.  Move heavier items to the lower shelves. Secure your water heater to the wall with metal bands. Use flexible hoses on appliances with connections to the house. Secure televisions with brackets or straps. Install latches on cabinets, and place wax or putty under smaller items to prevent them from sliding off shelves. 

Identify the location of sturdy tables and desks that can serve as cover during the earthquake.  Hold earthquake drills in your house to ensure that your family knows where the cover locations are and know how to get to them quickly.  

When The Quake Hits
The actions to take during an earthquake are to Drop, Cover, and Hold on.  When indoors, drop to your hands and knees, quickly move to cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it.  Prepare to move with the table if the shaking forces it to do so.  If you are outdoors, move to an open area and drop, cover your head with your arms, and hold on to the ground.  Avoid potential hazards such as trees, power lines, signs, buildings and vehicles.  If you are in a vehicle, pull over and set the parking brake.  Remain in the vehicle, stay low, and cover your head until the shaking stops.  If power lines fall on your vehicle, stay in it until the lines are removed.

The old advice of standing under a doorframe no longer applies, unless you live in a soft structure and the doorframe is the sturdiest part.  Modern homes and buildings are designed so that the entire structure is as sound as the doorframe.  Taking cover under a desk or table anywhere inside a modern building is the safest place to be.

Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes come without a warning.  Because of their unpredictability, the most effective way to be prepared for an earthquake is to have a plan already established. 

Rob K12 is the owner and chief instructor at K12 Survival Solutions. He is a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has extensive experience all over the world. He is a graduate of the “C” level SERE school and earned his Wilderness First Aid certification from the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School.