Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety; you didn’t do anything or you ran outside, yet you survived with no injuries. Or perhaps you got under your desk and others thought you overreacted. However, you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much large earthquakes: sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury. This is why you must learn to immediately protect yourself after the first jolt… don’t wait to see if the earthquake shaking will be strong!
In MOST situations, you will reduce your chance of injury if you:
If you are indoors during an earthquake
Ensure you do the following if you are indoors during an earthquake:
• DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
• Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
• Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
• Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
• DO NOT use the elevators.
• Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
If you are outdoors during an earthquake
Ensure you do the following if you are outdoors during an earthquake:
• Stay there.
• Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
• Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.
If you are in a moving vehicle during an earthquake
Ensure you do the following if you are in a moving vehicle during an earthquake:
• Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
• Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If you are trapped under debris
Ensure you do the following if you are trapped under debris during or after an earthquake:
• Do not light a match.
• Do not move around or kick up dust.
• Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
• Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.