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Earthquakes
Image of cracked wall

Take a look at the collaboration between Oregon Emergency Management (OEM), the Cascadia Earthquake Workgroup and Dark Horse Comics, Without Warning.

Surviving an earthquake and reducing its health impact takes preparation, planning, and practice. Far in advance, you can build an emergency kit, identify and reduce possible hazards in your home, and practice what to do during and after an earthquake. Learning what actions to take can help you and your family stay safe and healthy in the event of an earthquake.


What to do before an earthquake

By planning and practicing what to do if an earthquake strikes, you and your family can learn to react correctly and automatically when the shaking begins.

During an earthquake, most injuries and deaths are caused by collapsing building materials and heavy falling objects, such as bookcases, cabinets, and heating units. Learn the safe spots in each room of your home. If you have children, get the entire family to practice going to these locations. Participating in an earthquake drill will help children understand what to do in case you are not with them during an earthquake.

Make sure you and your child also understand the school's emergency procedures for disasters. This will help you coordinate where, when, and how to reunite with your child after an earthquake.

During your earthquake drill:

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake would knock you down. This position protects you from falling but still allows you to move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under the shelter of a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. Try to stay clear of windows or glass that could shatter or objects that could fall on you.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.


What to do during an earthquake

Inside Safety
  • If you are inside, stay inside. DO NOT run outside or to other rooms during shaking.
  • DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake would knock you down. This position protects you from falling but still allows you to move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under the shelter of a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. Try to stay clear of windows or glass that could shatter or objects that could fall on you.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
  • DO NOT stand in a doorway. You are safer under a table. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. The doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury − falling or flying objects. Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by falling or flying objects (e.g., TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases), or by being knocked to the ground.

You can take other actions, even while an earthquake is happening, that will reduce your chances of being hurt:

  • If possible, within the few seconds before shaking intensifies quickly move away from glass and hanging objects, bookcases, china cabinets or other large furniture that could fall. Watch for falling objects, such as bricks from fireplaces and chimneys, light fixtures, wall hangings, high shelves, and cabinets with doors that could swing open.
  • If available nearby, grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and broken glass.
  • If you are in the kitchen, quickly turn off the stove and take cover at the first sign of shaking.
  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.

Outdoor Safety
  • If you are outside, stay outside, and stay away from building's utility wires, sinkholes, and fuel and gas lines.
  • The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. Also, shaking can be so strong that you will not be able to move far without falling down, and objects may fall or be thrown at you. Stay away from this danger zone - stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are outside.
  • If outdoors, move away from buildings, utility wires, sinkholes, and fuel and gas lines. The greatest danger from falling debris is just outside doorways and close to outer walls. Once in the open, get down low (to avoid being knocked down by strong shaking) and stay there until the shaking stops.

Automobiles
  • If you are in a moving automobile, stop as quickly and safely as possible. Move your car to the shoulder or curb, away from utility poles, overhead wires, and under- or overpasses.
  • Stay in the car and set the parking brake. A car may jiggle violently on its springs, but it is a good place to stay until the shaking stops.
  • Turn on the radio for emergency broadcast information.
  • If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
  • When you drive on, watch for hazards created by the earthquake, such as breaks in the pavement, downed utility poles and wires, rising water levels, fallen overpasses and collapsed bridges.

Some Specific Situations
Impaired mobility

If you cannot drop to the ground, try to sit or remain seated so you are not knocked down. If you are in a wheelchair lock your wheels. Protect your head and neck with a large book, a pillow, or your arms. The goal is to prevent injuries from falling down or from objects that might fall or be thrown at you.

High-rise buildings

Drop, cover, and hold on. Move away from windows and outside walls. Stay in the building. DO NOT use the elevators. The electricity may go out, and the sprinkler systems may come on.

If you are trapped stay calm. Try to get someone's attention by tapping hard or metal parts of the structure. That may increase your chances of being rescued.

Crowded indoor public places

Drop, cover, and hold on. Do not rush for the doorways. Others will have the same idea. Move away from display shelves containing objects that may fall. If you can, take cover and grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and glass.

Stadium or theater

Stay at your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms, or any way possible. Do not leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out carefully watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

Near the shore

Drop, cover and hold on until the shaking stops. Immediately evacuate to high ground as a tsunami might have been generated by the earthquake. Move inland 2 miles (3 kilometers) or to land that is at least 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level immediately. Don't wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards.

Below a dam

Dams can fail during a major earthquake. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, you should know flood-zone information and have an evacuation plan.



What to do after an earthquake

  • If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.

  • Turn on your battery-operated TV or radio to receive emergency information and instructions.

  • If you can, help others in need.


Children's needs

Fear is a normal reaction to danger. A child may be afraid of recurrence, injury, or death after an earthquake. They may fear being separated from their family or being left alone. Children may even interpret disasters as punishment for real or imagined misdeeds. Children will be less likely to experience prolonged fear or anxiety if they know what to expect before, during, and after an earthquake. Talking to children openly will also help them overcome fears.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Explain that an earthquake is a natural event and not anyone's fault.

  • Talk about your own experiences with natural disasters, or read aloud books about earthquakes.

  • Encourage your child to express feelings of fear. Listen carefully and show understanding.

  • Your child may need both verbal and physical reassurance that everything will be all right. Tell your child that the situation is not permanent.

  • Include your child in clean-up activities. It is comforting to the child to watch the household begin to return to normal and to have a job to do.

NOTE: Symptoms of anxiety may not appear for weeks or even months after an earthquake, and can affect people of any age. If anxiety disrupts daily activities for any member of your family, seek professional assistance through a school counselor, community religious organization, your physician, or a licensed professional listed under "mental health services" in the yellow pages of your telephone directory.



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