Right now, we have no system for predicting when an earthquake will occur. The only thing we know is that they will happen. Keep in mind that the majority of states in the US have some earthquake risk. That’s why we say, It’s Always Earthquake Season™!
You never know where you’ll be when an earthquake strikes. Therefore, it’s advisable to prepare in all places where you spend time each day. For most people, this means home, work, and car. Each of the places should have emergency supplies, like a 72-hour kit, that you can easily get to. One idea is to keep your 72-hour kit in your car. That way, it will be with you at home, work, or wherever you’ve driven. If that’s not practical, consider having at least a small kit at the office and your more substantial kit at home. See our checklist below for more details on what should be in an emergency kit.
Evaluate the path between your home and office. Bridges might be closed after an earthquake for damage or safety inspection. That could delay getting home for a day or two. If you are driving when a quake occurs, stop as soon as possible on the side of the road. Do not stop under bridges or overpasses. Be as far away as possible from road signs and utility lines.
Talk with your co-workers about the best place to go when an earthquake strikes. You’ll want to get into the interior of the room, away from windows and away from objects that may fall on you. A doorway is strong, but will everyone head for the same doorway? Have some food, water, and sanitation supplies at the office in the event that you're stuck there.
Have an expert assess the strength of the foundation of your home and ensure the frame is bolted to the foundation. Make sure all shelves and bookcases are attached securely to the wall. Place heavy objects on low-lying shelves. Hang heavy pictures in hallways, not over beds or couches. The same latches that make a cabinet childproof will keep contents from flying out during a hurricane. Products like Museum Putty will help to hold items in place.
Because of problems with gas leaks, you should have a tool that can turn off your gas service. Keep this in your emergency kit or right next to the gas shut-off valve.
Never use an open flame for cooking or light after an earthquake. Gas leaks are common after an earthquake because of ruptured gas pipes. Flames from a match or candle can ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Flashlights, electric lanterns, and light sticks are safe. Self-heating meals use chemical packets for heat that are also safe.
Immediately after an earthquake, most phone systems go into a mode where only calls to emergency services are allowed. You may not be able to communicate via land or cell lines. If your family works and lives within a 20-30 mile range, FRS radios may allow you to communicate. Even kids can keep one in their school backpack. Have a plan for how you’ll reach each other. For example, we’ll use channel 9 on every quarter hour until we get in touch.
Doors or windows can get jammed due to the shifting caused by an earthquake. A pry bar or similar tool will help to move debris or force open a door.
Damage can be widespread after a quake. Emergency services are likely to be overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath. Consider taking a local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class to learn how to assist in search and rescue. Emergency medical supplies can save a life by stabilizing an injury until professional help is available.
Talk through an escape route with your family and coworkers. It’s often a good idea to have an alternate route in mind, should something be blocking the first one. Have a plan about where to meet your family and how to communicate after the earthquake. It’s important to talk through plans for children who might be at school when an earthquake hits, as well as how to ensure the safety of family pets.
Earthquakes will occur with no warning. Being prepared to react wherever you are during the day or night can help keep you and your family stay safe.