Earthquake Safety

Are you prepared for "The Big One"? The Doctors shares essential dos and don'ts that could save your life.

When it comes to earthquakes, it’s not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when.

“The biggest earthquakes happen on the longest faults,” says Dr. Lucy Jones, seismologist and chief scientist of the United States Geological Survey Multi-Hazards Project. “The San Andreas is a really long fault, and it averages 150 years between earthquakes, and here in Southern California, it’s been 300 years since the last [big] one. At some point, our luck is going to run out. Every Californian needs to be ready for that earthquake.”

Dr. Jones’ Top Earthquake Preparedness Tips

  • Don’t run.
  • Have a large supply of water.
  • Have a fire extinguisher.
  • Be able to take care of your own medical needs, because the medical system will be overwhelmed.
 

If You're Indoors:

  • Stay there.
  • Get under and hold onto a desk or table, or stand against an interior wall.
  • Stay clear of exterior walls, glass, heavy furniture, fireplaces and appliances. The kitchen is a particularly dangerous spot.
  • If you're in an office building, stay away from windows and outside walls.
  • Do not use an elevator.
 

If You're Outdoors:

  • Get into an open area.
  • Stay clear of buildings, power lines or anything else that potentially could fall on you.
  • If you're in a mountainous area, beware of landslides.
  • If you're near the ocean, beware of potential tsunamis and move to higher ground. 
 

If You're Driving:

  • Try to get out of traffic and bring your car to a stop.
  • Avoid parking under or on bridges or overpasses, as they may collapse.
  • Try to steer clear of trees, light posts, signs and power lines.
  • When you resume driving, beware of road hazards caused by debris and downed power lines.
 

If You're in a Crowded Public Place:

  • Avoid panicking and do not rush for an exit.
  • Stay low and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. 
 

Preparing for an Earthquake:

  • Secure heavy items of furniture in your home using flexible nylon straps with peel and press application.
  • Store emergency tools in an easily accessible location, including a gas shut-off wrench and safety light sticks.
  • Prepare emergency supplies (food, water, flashlights, blankets, etc.) and first aid kits, including prescription medications.
  • Be prepared to turn off gas, water and electricity in case lines are damaged. Know the safe spots in every room of your home, whether they are under sturdy tables, desks or against inside walls. Be aware of dangerous spots, such as windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces and tall furniture.
  • Create a disaster preparedness plan so that everyone in the family will know what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Decide where your family will reunite if separated, and choose a designated out-of-state friend or relative to whom family members can call to report their whereabouts and conditions.
 

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