Earthquake Preparedness: How To Survive

Earthquakes are among some of the most destructive natural disasters on Earth. In 2004, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami which killed 230, 000 people across 14 countries. Experts stated this earthquake had the longest faulting durations ever observed, lasting between 8 and 10 minutes each. The Japanese 8.9 magnitude earthquake in 2011 triggered a tsunami and caused damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and resulted in 15, 891 lives lost. A few days ago South Japan was again hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and fortunately there were no casualties. On April 25th of this year, Nepal was also hit by a 7.8 earthquake and again on May 12th by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake. Nepal suffered losses of 8,675 and 153, respectively. These earthquakes are among the deadliest recorded natural disaster events of modern times.

Earthquakes are unpredictable. Technology has been developed to warn populations before an earthquake gets deadly, but it can really only give a few minutes of warning before an earthquake or tsunami hits. Would you know what to do if faced with an earthquake emergency? Do you know how to prepare and increase your chances of survival when a major earthquake hits? Some people think standing in a doorway is a good idea, but no matter how many times you’ve seen someone do this in a movie, it’s totally false. Unless that doorway is structurally reinforced, you’re likely to get hurt and pinned down by debris when a big one hits.

Earthquakes are natural calamities that can happen anytime without warning unless detected. Therefore it’s very important for people – especially those who live in earthquake-prone areas – to have the knowledge, the know-how and the quick survival methods during and after an earthquake. Mild tremors may not be a cause for much panic, but one should have an action plan ready just in case a more severe tremble occurs.

What Causes an Earthquake?

An earthquake is a sudden and rapid shaking of the Earth, which is caused by the shifting of continental plates of the Earth’s surface. For millions of years, these tectonic plates have shaped the Earth. Some movements are gradual and others are sudden. For instance, if tectonic plates lock together they will eventually reach breaking point, snapping and releasing an enormous amount of energy which causes an earthquake. Most earthquakes happen on the plate boundaries, but some earthquakes happen in the middle of plates.

Be Prepared: Before, During and After an Earthquake

The tips and guides below will provide you with essential information on how you can protect yourself, your family and possibly some of your possessions before, during and after an earthquake.

Before The Earthquake

Earthquakes can happen with little to no warning. Identifying the possible hazards ahead of time and executing plans in advance will reduce the chances of injuries or death. Below are 6 things you should do before an earthquake.

  • Plan and practice earthquake drills. Doing this will ensure you know what to do when an earthquake actually strikes. You and your family will be able to react accordingly and automatically when the ground starts to shake. Learn the safe areas in every room of your home. If possible, have some areas reinforced. Practice a drill with your family and remember to stay away from glass fixtures that can shatter.
  • Check for any hazards in your house. All shelves should be securely fastened to walls. Any breakable or heavy items should be stored at a low level and in closed cabinets. Any heavy, hanging items should be placed far away from beds or sofas or where people converge. Check the water heater and gas connections. They should be securely tied to the wall. Deep cracks should be checked and repaired. If you’re not sure how to do it, consult experts. Pesticide, flammable products and other dangerous chemicals should also be stored securely in low cabinets.
  • Educate your kids, yourself and other family members. Watch how-to videos about earthquake preparedness and teach your kids how to dial the emergency numbers or have a list of them near the phone. Teach family members how to turn off the gas, electricity and main water switches.
  • Create an emergency communication initiative. Just in case anyone gets separated during an earthquake, you should have a plan on how to reunite or communicate. Ask an out of town relative or friend who won’t be affected by earthquakes to be the central contact person. Make sure everyone in the family knows their address, phone number and full name. If you lose someone, the first thing you should do is contact an emergency number, but you can also ask your family contact if they have heard from the missing person.

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  • Establish priorities. Important paperwork should be placed in a bag that can be grabbed quickly during an earthquake. Other items that are important to your family should be sorted and easy to grab only if safe to do so.
  • Gather emergency supplies. Medicine, first aid kits and survival kits are a must. Pack enough to last you at least 3 days.

During The Earthquake

Do not panic and keep your head clear so that you can make the right decisions during an earthquake. You should also be aware that earthquakes sometime give foreshock, meaning a bigger earthquake will follow.

  • If you’re indoors. Take cover and drop to the ground. Take cover under a sturdy table or other strong furniture. Hold on and wait until it stops. If there’s no sturdy table or furniture, cover your head and face with your arms and try to crouch in an inside corner of the house. Avoid going near glass windows and anything else that could fall. If you’re in your bedroom, use a pillow to protect your head and go under the bed for protection. If your doorway is strong or reinforced, try to go there. Stay inside the house until the earthquake subsides. Go out only if it’s safe to do so. If you’re in a crowded place, try not to panic and head for the nearest fire exit. Do not use elevators because they may get shut down. Be careful of electrical wires and don’t use any flammable devices because the gas lines may be damaged during the earthquake. If you’re trapped under debris, do not light a match because gas pipelines may be damaged and it may cause a fire. If you can, cover your mouth with a handkerchief or your clothes, as this will prevent you from inhaling too much dust. Tap the wall or a pipe so rescuers can hear and locate you. As a last resort, you can shout at the rescuers to hear you.
  • If you’re outdoors. If you happen to be outside when an earthquake strikes, do not make a hasty retreat to go inside any building or any unsafe interiors. If you’re outside, stay there. It’s best to move away from buildings to avoid any debris. If there’s an open space, try to run there. Avoid electrical lines or any other structures that might crumble easily and pin you down. Remember most casualties during earthquakes are direct results of falling debris. If you’re living in coastal areas, be aware of tsunami warnings.
  • If you’re in a car. Stop quickly as safety permits and stay inside your vehicle. Do not stop near buildings, trees, power lines or utility wires. Once the earthquake has stopped, proceed carefully. You will more than likely be directed by emergency staff if the roads are damaged.

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After The Earthquake

Even though the earthquake has stopped, there is a high chance that aftershocks will follow, so be careful. Avoid any damaged walls or furniture because it may come crashing down with just a single touch. Try to check if the gas and water lines are leaking. If there’s a leak, shut the main valves. If you sense that some of the electrical fittings were damaged, turn off the main power line. Check yourself and your family for any injuries and go to the nearest medical facility if needed. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes to prevent being injured by broken glass, nails or other broken objects. If you have to sift through debris, use leather gloves. Eliminate small fires if there are any. Clean up any chemical, medicinal or pesticide spills. If you have a portable, battery operated radio or a working phone listen to updates or instructions on your local station.


Knowing will increase your chances of survival during an earthquake. Get informed and make sure to stay safe!


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