Preparing for an Earthquake

Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life. Take the following steps for proper preparation before an earthquake strikes.

Eliminate hazards in the home. Fasten shelves securely to walls placing large and heavy objects on lower shelves. Place breakable items such as bottles, foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets using latches. Brace over head light fixtures and repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
Know what to do when the shaking begins. DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON! Use safe places such as, under sturdy furniture, against an inside wall, away from glass, windows, mirrors, or heavy objects. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. If you're outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways. If you are in a vehicle, stay in the vehicle, slow down, and drive to a clear place. When the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that may have been damaged by the quake.
Know how to respond after the earthquake. Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Everyone should be taught how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information. Check yourself for injuries and protect yourself from further harm by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves. Check others for injuries and administer first aid, if necessary.
Have disaster supplies on hand. Supplies include but are not limited to: a flashlight, extra batteries, portable battery-operated radio, first aid kit and manual, canned food and at least three gallons of water per person, non-electric can opener, essential medicines (including prescription medications), cash and credit cards, special items for infants, elderly, and disabled family members, protective clothing, rainwear, and sleeping bags, and sturdy shoes.
Develop and emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another, develop a plan for reuniting. Establish an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as a contact since it's generally easier to call long distance after a disaster. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
Be prepared for aftershocks. Although smaller than the main shock, aftershocks cause additional damage and may bring weakened structures down. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
Help injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate and do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help. Remember that infants, elderly, and people with disabilities need special assistance.
Be cautious after an earthquake. Stay out of damaged buildings especially if due to aftershocks. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from the chemicals. Open closet and cupboard doors carefully - items will have shifted during the quake. Inspect your entire house for gas leaks, electrical system damage, and sewage and water line damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.
Get educated. Contact your local emergency management office, your local American Red Cross chapter, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for additional information.