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Earthquake survival should be top-of-mind, even if it’s been about 20 years since the last powerful earthquakes rocked California. But barely halfway through 2019 there have been two notable earthquakes there. Many homes were damaged, and although there were no casualties, this could easily change were an earthquake to occur in a highly populated area. As of now, the best thing to do to stay safe during an earthquake is to educate yourself on what to do in the event one strikes. Here are 10 important tips you should know in order to improve your chances of surviving an earthquake.

1. Know Where You Live

Earthquakes happen when two plates of the Earth’s crust that have been pressing against each other for a very long time suddenly shift, releasing energy through the ground. The boundary between the two plates is known as a fault line, and zones of the world that sit on top of fault lines are more susceptible to earthquakes. Find out if you live in or near one of these “earthquake zones” so that you know an earthquake is possible in your future.

US Geographical Survey map that shows which parts of the country are more earthquake-prone. Use this as a guideline for what to expect, and maybe consider moving if you live in a “red zone.”

2. Prepare Your Home

If you live near where earthquakes may be more common, you should prepare your home to reduce the risk of getting hurt within them. Have your home assessed by a professional to be sure that its structure is stable. Secure heavy items like bookshelves, your refrigerator and water heater with straps, to avoid them falling and injuring you or causing damage. Make sure that no mirrors or other heavy wall hangings are above where someone might sleep or sit, and secure them to wall studs or with sturdy hooks.Inspector checking house for earthquake damage

3. Create A Disaster Kit

Having emergency supplies can help lessen the impact an earthquake has on you and your family. For this reason, it’s good to have a collection of items that will help keep you alive after an earthquake. Items that should be in your kit include water, food, flashlights, portable batteries, and a first-aid kit. If you live in an earthquake zone, this should be a priority to have inside your home and car.Earthquake survival kit

4. Communicate

Make sure you talk with your family and make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an earthquake. You should agree on a location or two for all of you to meet at in case you are separated during an earthquake, or aren’t together when it strikes. You should also try to identify people in your neighborhood or immediate vicinity who may need your help during an earthquake, such as the elderly.

5. Earthquake Survival means “Stay Where You Are”

When an earthquake first begins, it might be extremely shocking and startling, the ground will begin to shake beneath your feet, and objects around you may fall or topple over. However, if you’re inside a building when it starts, the best thing to do is to stay inside where you are, do not try to flee and see what is happening. Most injuries actually occur when people are trying to leave somewhere in the middle of an earthquake, and are struck by falling or flying debris. Resist the impulse, and stay where you are. Aftermath of an earthquake

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6. Find Cover

Once you realize that an earthquake is happening, you now need to find cover. Look for a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table or desk and get under it. Hold on to it tightly and wait for the shaking to stop. If there is no table or desk, cover your face and head with your arms, and crouch in a corner. You may also seek shelter under a doorway that you know for a fact is strong and in a load-bearing wall. Avoid glass windows and objects that could fall on or around you.

7. When In A Vehicle

Another aspect of earthquake survival is knowing what to do while you’re driving a vehicle when an earthquake starts. When the shaking starts, safely pull over to the side of the road, as quickly as possible. Do not stop underneath bridges or overpasses, or near buildings as they may collapse on top of you. Also, stay away from power lines and trees, along with other dangers you may see. Stay inside your vehicle until the shaking is over, and then carefully continue driving, avoiding damaged roads and bridges. Collapsed section of bridge after earthquake

8. Other Places To Stay Safe

You may not always be inside a vehicle or your home when an earthquake happens. If you’re in a store, stay away from shelves, whose falling debris can be very dangerous. If outside, move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and other things that may fall on you. Be mindful of debris such as collapsing walls, flying glass, and other objects that can cause you harm even after the quake is done. 

Earthquake aftermath showing downed power lines

9. Beware Of Aftershocks

After two tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust have collided and caused an earthquake, minor adjustments will be made by those plates to the Earth, causing one or several more earthquake events. These are called aftershocks, and are usually less powerful than the original earthquake, but are capable of being more devastating. Because of this, use extreme caution in the days and weeks, be mindful of earthquake survival methods, and be ready in case more tremors occur again. Rubble of collapsed building after an earthquake

10. Dangers After The Quake

Earthquakes start deep within the ground, and their energy first travels up through the ground before it affects us.  Because of this, many important things other than buildings and houses are damaged. Gas lines often break during earthquakes, which can lead to dangerous fires. Water mains may also burst, as well as sewage systems, which can lead to contaminated water. Part of earthquake survival is to be careful when drinking water, and it may also be smart to boil water before consumption. In the aftermath of an earthquake, put on sturdy shoes, and begin to look for immediate risks to your family, like fire, electrical wires, and broken glass.Contaminated water after earthquake

Final Notes

The unfortunate fact about all earthquakes is that an occurrence of one does not mean less will follow. Every time an earthquake happens, the risk that another earthquake will occur increases. As of now, there is no way for scientists to predict when an earthquake is going to happen, so you must always be ready to act if you suddenly find yourself in the midst of one. Hopefully, with these earthquake survival tips, you will be better prepared for an earthquake, and prepared to keep both you and your family safe.