Earthquakes can be frightening as they strike with little to no warning. Depending on the intensity of the shaking, sometimes these natural disasters can be destructive, while other times we hardly notice them.
Knowing what to do and where to be when an earthquake occurs can make the experience less scary. So, where is the safest place to be if an earthquake strikes?
Importance of Being Prepared
Before answering that question, it’s essential to understand the importance of being prepared for an earthquake. Unlike natural disasters that occur seasonally or with some warning, like hurricanes, droughts, and winter storms, earthquakes can happen unexpectedly and at any time of the year.
With that in mind, we strongly encourage you to:
- Educate yourself so you know what to do if an earthquake occurs.
- Develop an earthquake preparedness plan for your family.
- Prepare your home to make it safer and less likely to suffer damage.
- Make an earthquake emergency kit with all the essentials (this kit can also serve as an emergency kit for other natural disasters).
- Properly store the kit, so it’s readily available when you need to take action.
Taking these steps is even more crucial if you’re in an area that experiences a high amount of seismic activity, such as the West Coast or Rocky Mountain areas of the United States.
The more prepared you are, the better you will be able to respond in the event of an earthquake and the safer you will be.
What Causes Earthquakes?
Earthquakes are caused by movement of the tectonic plates, which are large plates that make up the Earth’s crust. When these plates shift or collide, they can release energy, which causes the ground to shake and vibrate.
The strength and intensity of an earthquake are measured on the Richter scale, ranging from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most intense.
Understanding the Risks
In order to understand the safest place to be during an earthquake, it’s important to know the risks involved. Earthquakes can cause a variety of secondary dangers, including structural damage, fires, and tsunamis. Additionally, they can be accompanied by aftershocks, which can occur days or weeks after the initial quake.
Therefore, when preparing for an earthquake, your response or evacuation plan should also address these risks. But don’t worry; our expert-crafted action plans and guidebooks cover all the steps you need to take before, during, and after an earthquake.
The Safest Place to be During an Earthquake
So, where is the safest place to be during an earthquake? There are two ways to answer this question.
- The simple answer is exactly where you are when the shaking starts. Yes, you read that right! It’s safest to seek cover wherever you are rather than moving to a different location. There are specific actions you can take whether you’re outdoors, indoors, in a crowded area, or near a body of water, which we’ll explain later.
- However, ideally, it’s safest to be inside and quickly move under a sturdy table when the shaking starts. We know that’s not always possible, though, so here are the safest things you can do depending on where you are.
If you’re inside:
- Stay inside and seek cover under a sturdy table or desk. Try to move away from windows, doors, heavy furniture, and loose objects. Cover your head and neck with one hand and hold on with the other.
- If you cannot drop to the floor, stay in your seat and cover your head. If you’re in a wheelchair, make sure to lock your wheels.
- Grab something to shield your head, like a pillow, tray, or other object. Only do this if it’s easily accessible; it’s best to get under a table as soon as possible.
- If you can’t take cover under something sturdy, look for an interior wall away from windows and doors. Do not stand in a doorway or under a door frame.
- Avoid being near hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, cabinets that could open, or other glass objects.
- Get to a safe place as soon as possible! Moving just a few feet during an earthquake can put you at risk of falling or being hit by falling debris and objects.
- If you’re in your bed, protect your head with a pillow. Don’t get on the floor; there may be shattered glass or sharp objects from the shaking.
- Do not run outside; drop, cover, and hold until the shaking stops.
- If you are in a high-rise building, do not use the elevators and move away from windows and exterior walls.
If you are outside:
- Move away from buildings, trees, power lines, or anything else that could fall on you. Then, once you’re in an open area, get down low and protect your head.
- If you are near an ocean, move to higher ground as soon as possible or keep moving inland. Earthquakes can create tsunamis. Don’t wait for an official tsunami watch or warning; go as soon as the shaking stops and you’re able to move safely.
- Do not run indoors; that puts you at risk of falling objects injuring you.
If you are in the car:
- Pull over and put on your parking brake. Wait inside your car until the shaking stops. Be sure to pull over in an area away from power lines, telephone poles, and over- or under-passes.
- After the shaking stops, remain extra alert when driving and avoid any cracks in the ground, fallen objects, or other hazards.
If you are in a crowded place:
- Don’t rush for doorways or the exit if you’re somewhere like a stadium, theater, or busy area. Instead, stay put, drop, cover, and hold until the shaking stops.
- If possible, protect your head and face from flying debris using your arms and hands if possible.
Staying Safe After an Earthquake
Once an earthquake has passed, it’s important to stay vigilant. Here are some guidelines for staying safe after an earthquake:
- Check for injuries or trapped people: If you or anyone around you has been injured, seek medical attention immediately. If someone is trapped and you cannot safely get to them, call 911 immediately and wait. Help the person remain calm by talking to them, having them take deep breaths, and assuring them help is on the way. Avoid trying to move anything on your own, as this could cause further movement of debris.
- Avoid power lines: Be cautious of any power lines or electrical wires that may have been knocked down during the earthquake. Don’t drive over or approach them. Instead, call your local electric company to report the damage.
- Avoid damaged buildings: If a building has been damaged during the earthquake, avoid entering it. If you need help, call an expert to assess the damage before entering.
- Check for gas leaks: If you smell or suspect a gas leak, evacuate the area immediately and call the gas company. Don’t use matches or create an open flame.
- Use the stairs: When evacuating a building after an earthquake, don’t use elevators to arrive at the ground floor; instead, use the stairs.
Earthquakes can be dangerous and destructive, but with the proper knowledge and preparation, you can stay safe.Terra Frma has many resources to help you prepare and guide you during earthquakes and other natural disasters. Get your Grab + Go Box as soon as possible and start flipping through it to know what to do if a natural disaster strikes.