How to Prepare for an Earthquake

It is not currently possible to predict an earthquake. Thus, it is important to equip yourself and your family with the knowledge needed to survive one.

They are among the most devastating and frightening natural disasters in the world.

This guide will help you understand what an earthquake is and how they are measured. You will also find a list of essential supplies for your earthquake emergency kit, learn how to reinforce your home and find the measures you must take in the event of an earthquake. Arm yourself with adequate knowledge now to remain safe during an earthquake.

Levels of an Earthquake

A seismograph measures the motions of an earthquake. When an earthquake occurs, the seismograph shakes with the shifting earth, measuring the earthquake’s magnitude. Earthquakes are also measured by their intensity, which includes a review of the earthquake’s effects and damage to structures and the surrounding area.

Magnitude 1.0 – 1.9

These are known as “microearthquakes” and are only felt by a few people. Typically, tremors are only felt by those within five miles of the earthquake’s epicenter.

Magnitude 2.0 – 2.9

These earthquakes are only felt by a few people. Individuals who live or work on higher floors are the most likely to feel any tremors or shaking.

Magnitude 3.0 – 3.9

These are “minor” earthquakes, as their vibrations are similar to that of a passing truck. Those who are inside buildings at the time of the earthquake, especially those on higher floors, feel tremors. Cars shake a little.

Magnitude 4.0 – 4.9

These earthquakes are known as “light” earthquakes. Many people indoors feel their effects. Objects noticeably shake and rattle, as do windows and doors. Few people outside feel any effects, though nonmoving vehicles clearly shake. Buildings and walls make cracking sounds.

Magnitude 5.0 – 5.9

Almost everyone in the area will feel a “moderate” earthquake. Those who are sleeping become awakened by dishes and windows shattering, walls cracking and unsecured objects falling.

Magnitude 6.0 – 6.9

These are considered “strong” earthquakes. Everyone in the area feels and sees the effects. Heavy objects and furniture are moved. Depending on their structure, buildings incur slight damage.

Magnitude 7.0 and Above

Earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 and above are considered “major” or “great.” Poorly built homes and buildings take considerable damage, while well-built structures take slight or moderate damage. Buildings with good quality design and construction take little to no damage.

Prep an Emergency Kit for an Earthquake

Because an earthquake can occur at any time, it is important to have an emergency kit on hand. Prepare for an earthquake by adding the following items to your disaster kit.

Food

Gather three days’ worth of non-perishable food items for everyone in the home. Non-perishable food items are those that do not quickly spoil, such as dried, canned or preserved foods. Examples of dry emergency staples include dried fruits (apricots, prunes and bananas), nuts and seeds, jerky, milk and freeze-dried foods. Canned foods include meats like pork or tuna, vegetables such as corn, beans, peas and beets.

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You can also opt for canned pasta or soups as well as fruits and vegetables preserved in glass jars. Examples of these foods include pickles, jams and sardines. Another option are meals ready to eat (MRE). These meals are quick to prepare with minimum lead time. They are available online or at military surplus stores.

Water

Include one gallon of water for each person in your household per day for a minimum of three days. Emergency guidelines recommend individuals drink up to two quarts of water per day while reserving the other two quarts for self-hygiene. Use any extra water bottles or containers you have on hand. You can also fill glass containers and store them in your refrigerator. If you have multiple plastic bottles, then store some in the freezer in case the electricity goes out.

Supplies

It is also important to have non-consumable items no hand. Include the following special earthquake supplies in your emergency kit:

  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Whistle
  • Dust mask and goggles

Other supplies you will need include a gas grill and extra canisters of gas for cooking and heating. Cookware, cutlery and cleaning supplies such as soap and a sponge are essential. Keep your tools readily available to make repairs or reinforce your home. Keep a wrench nearby so you can turn off water or gas if necessary.

Items like paper towels, bath towels and extra blankets are also needed. Do not forget to include a manual can opener, maps of your local area and a solar-powered cellphone charger. Keep a whistle to signify your location if you are trapped under rubble or debris.

Reinforce Your Home for an Earthquake

Aside from keeping an emergency kit, a good way to prepare for an earthquake is to reinforce and prepare your home. Secure as many items to a more stable structure (i.e. floor and walls) to avoid excess damage or movement. Consider the following measures to safeguard your home for an earthquake.

Inside

To avoid gas leaks, fires and possible explosions, install a main gas shut-off device somewhere that is easily accessible. Alternatively, fit gas appliances with flexible rubber connections or a gas breakaway shut-off device. Place safety film over glass windows and sliding glass doors.

Anchor large appliances to the walls using cables or heavy-duty straps. Keep heavy items stored low to the ground and secure them in place. Strap down loose items such as laptop computers or store them in drawers affixed with latches.

If it is not already, then screw your water heater into the wall and floor to keep it from moving around during a major earthquake. Use wall anchors for bookshelves, entertainment systems, cabinets and armoires. Install childproof latches inside all drawers and cabinets to keep them from opening and spilling their contents.

Structurally

Many older houses must be retrofitted with earthquake reinforcements. Add anchor bolts and steel plates between your home and the foundation. Brace unreinforced chimneys, concrete walls and other foundational surfaces. Brace your home’s cripple wall using sheathing.

If these measures sound too complicated, then contact a contractor who can come to your home and assess your earthquake retrofitting needs. Likewise, a contract can complete a home inspection to check for safety concerns.

Outside

Keep the grounds clear of all loose items such as kids’ toys, bicycles and other debris. Remove any unnecessary landscaping, such as older trees or empty plant pots. Avoid having potted plants or bring them into the home. Secure decorative items to concrete walls. Bring in loose items like yard décor or maintenance tools.

Emergency Protocols and Exits for an Earthquake

An earthquake can happen suddenly. As such, emergency protocols and safety measures depend on your whereabouts.

If You Are Indoors

If you are inside during an earthquake, then get low to the ground and crawl under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table. Remain there until the shaking comes to an end. In the absence of a table or desk, crouch down in an inside corner of the building and cover your head with your arms.

Keep away from windows, sliding glass doors, entryways and hanging objects like chandeliers. If you are in bed when an earthquake strikes, then stay there and cover your head with a pillow. If there is a hanging object above your bed, then move to another location. Do not attempt to leave a building while the shaking is still in effect.

If You Are Outdoors

Do not attempt to enter a building. Move away from structures, traffic lights and power lines. Stay away from sidewalks and areas directly outside of buildings, as these pose the greatest risk during an earthquake.

If you are in a moving vehicle when an earthquake strikes, then come to a complete stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Do not stop under overpasses or power lines. Likewise, move the vehicle away from buildings and trees. Remain in the vehicle until the shaking ends. Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid using roads that were damaged by the earthquake.

General Rules

Keep an updated map of escape routes in your region and highlight the nearest emergency meeting place. Show every one of age in your household where the gas, water and electricity shut-off controls are and teach them how to properly use them. Listen to the local radio or news for updates and follow orders as necessary.

If you are caught under debris, then avoid using a lighter or matches for light. Cover your face and mouth with your clothing to avoid inhaling dust. Tap on a nearby object or surface or blow your whistle to alert rescuers of your location.

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