Now that Utah has been shaken up by a major earthquake, we thought this blog would be particularly timely.
Here are a few questions you may have been reviewing in your head as you felt the world shifting around you and considered aftershocks and even future earthquakes: What should I do if an earthquake wakes me up in the night? Do I stay in bed? Or do I try to get to a doorway? Move outdoors? Will it scare my kids if I talk about what they should do during an earthquake? Could an earthquake open a crack in the earth that I might fall into? How long do most earthquakes last? Are earthquakes more likely to happen at certain times of the year or during certain kinds of weather?
If you are like me, you don’t have easy answers to basic questions about earthquakes. Educating yourself by reading articles such as this one may help you develop a sense of inner peace as you learn what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.
Before an Earthquake
Talk to your kids. Discussions on the topic of natural disasters reduce fear, especially for children. Tell them what an earthquake is, and what they should do if they feel one. Dispel unwarranted fears that they may have. Answer their questions. Depending on their age, assure them that they will not be left alone and that you will be nearby to help.
Be aware of the qualified engineers and the building regulations and inspections that are legislated in developed nations. Although these safeguards may not be perfect, construction regulations have saved thousands of lives in countries where they have been instituted, in comparison to countries where building standards are loose and safety regulations unenforced.
Keep a flashlight and shoes close to each person’s bed. In the event of a nighttime emergency, a flashlight and rubber-soled shoes (to protect feet from debris and shattered glass) would allow people to move around the home.
Keep enough food, water, and medicine in your home to last for two weeks. Keep the gas tank of your car half full at all times. Secure tall bookshelves to the wall, along with water heaters and gas appliances.
According to experts, there is no such thing as ‘earthquake weather’ or an ‘earthquake season.’ Realizing that scientists cannot predict earthquakes with precision and living with this uncertainty is the human condition, but if you’re prepared, you can find greater peace without knowing what the future holds.
During an Earthquake
In modern homes, the doorways are no stronger than any other part of the building. Standing in a doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury in an earthquake: falling objects and shattering glass. You are safer either remaining in place or, possibly, rolling yourself under a sturdy table or desk.
Most earthquakes last 10-30 seconds according to specialists at the University of Utah, which means you probably won’t have time to move once an earthquake begins. And even if you do, it may not be safe to move. Still, it’s worth noting that the safest place to be during a quake is in an open field where nothing can fall on you.
Remember that the quake itself will not kill you. Despite what we have seen in movies and cartoons, the ground does not open up and “swallow” people or things during a quake. If a road cracks, it will not crack deep enough to engulf a human.
So why are earthquakes dangerous? It’s not the earthquake itself that poses a danger, but the falling objects or collapsing structures. Whether you are inside or outside in the event of an earthquake, one of the most unsafe places to be is next to a building’s exterior walls and windows. Therefore, experts advise against running outside or to other rooms during an earthquake. Stay inside if you are inside, and stay outside if you are outside. If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head.
If you are not in bed in the event of an earthquake, drop and cover (your head). Injuries may be avoided if you drop yourself to the ground rather than being thrown to the ground by shaking. Covering your head may protect your face and brain against flying objects.
After an Earthquake
Be aware that indoor sprinkling systems and fire alarms are frequently activated during an earthquake, even though there may not be a fire in the building. If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking stops before you try to go out of doors. Use stairs rather than an elevator to exit a building. If you smell gas, get out of the building as quickly as possible. If you don’t smell gas, exit carefully, watching out for shattered glass and debris, and checking for debris that could fall on you before you exit the building.
Expect aftershocks and prepare yourself mentally for the possibility. Treat aftershocks the same way you would treat an earthquake: drop and cover. Aftershocks happen in the minutes, days, and even months after a major earthquake.
If you end up with unsafe conditions due to damages from the earthquake, don’t put yourself in danger. Contact qualified Davis County disaster clean up specialists to help you get things back in order. They are properly prepared and trained to deal with disaster risks that could pose threats to others.