Earthquake Safety in the Home

What are Earthquakes, and What Causes Them?

Beneath the surface of the Earth there are plates of rock that are in motion. These plates slowly move against one another. As they move they may become locked together. When this occurs they continue to attempt movement. Because they are unable to separate, energy begins to build until it eventually releases and breaks the plates apart. This results in a shaking of the Earth that is known as an earthquake. The area above where the plates break apart is what is referred to as the epicenter of the quake. People who live in or near the epicenter of an earthquake will experience the most intense shaking that may require them to seek safety. Earthquake tremors, in some cases, can be so severe that they cause buildings, bridges and other structures to collapse. In addition they can also trigger other natural disasters, such as tsunamis. After the earthquake occurs the underground rocks continue their movement until they once again become stuck against one another.

Plan for an Earthquake

One of the major concerns for people regarding earthquakes is safety. In earthquakes that occur in the U.S. and around the globe, people are able to take steps to reduce their risks of severe or fatal injury. They do this by establishing home preparedness plans that will help them gain some form of earthquake safety in the home. This is particularly important for people who live in areas that are at a higher risk of earthquakes. They can do this by establishing an earthquake home safety plan for the family. The earthquake home safety plan will help inform one’s family about how they should prepare for, and respond to, an earthquake. The plan should include tips for children and adults who may live in the house. It should cover earthquake and home safety tips such as:

  • Where to seek shelter in each of the rooms in the home.
  • How to act immediately during an earthquake by dropping and seeking cover. It should also explain what parts of the body to protect, such as the eyes and head.
  • Earthquake drills twice a year to ensure that all family members know what to do during an earthquake.
  • Purchasing earthquake insurance.
  • Using stairs and not elevators to evacuate a building after an earthquake.
  • What to do if an earthquake hits while one is outdoors or at school.
  • Getting CPR training to help with potential injuries from an earthquake.

How to Protect Your Property

Home preparedness plays a large part in keeping people safe and reducing damage to the home itself. The following steps can enhance one’s earthquake safety in the home:

  • Secure gas appliances, the water heater, and other large appliances by either strapping them to wall studs or bolting them down.
  • Televisions, bookshelves, and computers should also be secured to prevent them from sliding or falling.
  • Look for and repair cracks in the home’s foundation or ceiling.
  • Hire a professional to evaluate the home to ensure that it is free of structural defects.
  • Have the home bolted down if it is not already. This will prevent it from sliding off of the foundation during violent tremors.
  • Replace pipes with flexible pipes to prevent breaks or leaks.
  • Relocate heavy or breakable items so that they will not slide or fall off of top shelves.

What to do During an Earthquake

During an earthquake people should always act in a way that will ensure their safety. Earthquake tremors begin suddenly and without warning. When indoors a person will want to:

  • Move away from windows, any source of glass and anything that can fall and cause injury.
  • Get down on the ground and take cover beneath a sturdy table.
  • Use one’s arms to cover the face, head and neck.
  • Cover his or her head with a pillow if in bed and stay there.
  • Avoid standing in doorways.

If a person finds his or herself outdoors they should remain where they are as long as they are not near a building, utility wires, glass, or street lights. People who are in cars should stop in a location that is away from buildings and power lines. To ensure their safety in earthquakes, it is important that they remain in the vehicle until the shaking has stopped.

What to do After an Earthquake

Following an earthquake it is important to ensure that others are safe and that the home is safe to return to as well. After checking oneself and others for injuries and helping anyone in need, a person will want to return to their homes to assess the damage. Follow these personal and home safety tips to reduce the likelihood of injuring oneself or worsening any damage to the home.

  • Be aware of aftershocks for several days following the quake.
  • Dress appropriately to avoid scratches by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, gloves, and boots or sturdy shoes.
  • Put out small fires immediately.
  • Look for any gas leaks in the home or electrical damage. If there is the smell of gas leave immediately after opening a window and contact the gas company. If electrical damage is apparent, call an electrician.
  • Check for damage to the water lines or sewage lines. Contact a plumber if necessary and avoid using water or the toilets.
  • Look for any spilled household chemicals, such as bleach, and clean at once.

Other Earthquake Resources

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