How-To Tuesday: 5 Tips for Earthquake Safety

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Disaster Response and Recovery
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By: 
Greg Tucker

Earthquakes, unlike other natural disasters, strike suddenly and don't provide advanced warning time to prepare for their arrival. Knowing what to do if a quake happens can greatly reduce your risk of injury or death.

This photo shows a ground view of collapsed building and burned area at Beach and Divisadero Streets in the Marina District of San Francisco, CA, on Oct. 19, 1989. (U.S. Geological Survey/photo by C.E. Meyer)

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), more than 165 million people in 37 states live in zones with earthquake risks. Tremors of varying intensity have been recorded across most of the United States and in many areas around the world, so being ready to react when one occurs can come in handy at home or even on vacation.

As National Preparedness Month continues, here are five tips for staying safe when the ground starts to shake, rattle, and roll.

Be Prepared: Get familiar with evacuation plans for any building in which you spend time regularly. Learn how to shut off gas valves in your home, and keep an emergency supply kit in an easy-to-access location. The American Red Cross has a detailed earthquake safety checklist available for download.

Secure Your Stuff: According to a UCLA study, 55% of the injuries during the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California were caused by falling furniture or objects -- only 1% were caused by building damage. If something is big enough to hurt if it falls on you, it needs to be secured. Visit the Secure Your Stuff page at daretoprepare.org for specific directions for how to secure many common household objects.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On!: This three-step instruction is the directive for how to react if you're inside a building when the earth starts rumbling. Drop to your hands and knees, cover your head and neck (and your entire body, if possible) under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to something sturdy (like the table leg) until the shaking stops.

Drill, Baby, Drill: Disaster drills like the Great Shake Out give you a chance to rehearse an earthquake drill with others in your community. Thus far, more than 9.8 million people have decided to participate in an emergency drill at 10:18 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18. These drills take place across the nation and you can find one in your region by clicking the link above.

When the Shaking Ends: Check yourself for injuries and be prepared for aftershocks, landslides, or even a tsunami. Be alert for items that may have shifted in cabinets or closets. Evacuate damaged buildings and be alert for downed or broken gas and power lines.

We've only scratched the surface on earthquake preparation, but you can find more resources at the links below.

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