On July 4th, holiday celebrations throughout the American Southwest were put on hold when a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the region, fracturing roads and prompting serious concern from many residents of Southern California. The following night, an even more powerful magnitude 7.1 earthquake tore through the same communities, having already weathered numerous aftershocks. This subsequent quake was the strongest to hit the region in two decades, but fortunately, has thus far resulted in no reported casualties.
For many Americans, these earthquakes have served as a wake up call — forcing us to acknowledge that natural disasters do occur and as a result, many have a renewed interest in finding ways to better prepare for an earthquake that isn’t quite so easy to shake off. When it comes to earthquakes in southern California, the question truly isn’t if another one will strike, it’s when, especially considering the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicts that between 240 and 410 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes will strike in the same region before the rumbling is through. Worse still, they estimate a 24% chance that there are more magnitude 6 or larger quakes to come this month.
Of course, like any natural disaster, there are things you can do to minimize the risk to yourself and those you care about, and the U.S. government actually provides a great deal of guidance as to what you can start doing right now to ensure you’re better prepared when disaster strikes. Here’s a collection of some of Uncle Sam’s best earthquake survival advice:
Preparing Before an Earthquake
These are the emergency supplies the Center for Disease Control recommends that you gather to prepare for an earthquake:
- Hydrogen peroxide to wash and disinfect wounds
- Antibiotic ointment
- Individually wrapped alcohol swabs
- Aspirin and non-aspirin tablets
- Prescriptions and any long-term medications (keep these current)
- Diarrhea medicine
- Eye drops
- Bandage strips
- Ace bandages
- Rolled gauze
- Cotton-tipped swabs
- Adhesive tape roll
- First aid book
- Bar soap
- Paper cups
- Pocket knife
- Small plastic bags
- Safety pins
- Needle and thread
- Instant cold packs for sprains
- Sanitary napkins
- Splinting materials
- Ax, shovel, broom
- Screwdriver, pliers, hammer, adjustable wrench
- Rope for towing or rescue
- Plastic sheeting and tape
- Sturdy shoes that can provide protection from broken glass, nails, and other debris
- Gloves (heavy and durable for cleaning up debris)
- Waterproof matches
- Change of clothing
- Garden hose (for siphoning and firefighting)
- Recreational supplies for children and adults
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Portable radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
- Essential medications and eyeglasses
- Fire extinguisher — multipurpose, dry chemical type
- Food and water for pets
- Toilet tissue
Use this FEMA “Home Hazard Hunt” poster to check your house for anything that might put you or your family at risk during an earthquake.
Here’s what you need to do to get ready for the next earthquake right now, according to Ready.gov:
- Secure items, such as televisions, and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.
- Practice Drop, Cover, then Hold On with family and coworkers. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl only as far as needed to reach cover from falling materials. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.
- Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated.
- Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for at least three days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and a whistle. Consider each person’s specific needs, including medication. Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
- Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover earthquake damage.
- Consider a retrofit of your building to correct structural issues that make it vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake.
Surviving an Earthquake
Here’s what you need to do in order to survive the next earthquake, according to Ready.gov:
- Drop, Cover, then Hold On like you practiced. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris.
- If in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
- If inside, stay there until the shaking stops. DO NOT run outside.
- If in a vehicle, stop in a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, or utility wires.
- If you are in a high-rise building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do not use elevators.
- If near slopes, cliffs, or mountains, be alert for falling rocks and landslides.
Here are more trips from FEMA:
If you are trapped under debris:
- Do not light a match.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can find you. Use a whistle if one is available.
- Shout only as a last resort — shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
What to Do Next
Here’s what to do after an earthquake, according to Ready.gov:
- Expect aftershocks to follow the largest shock of an earthquake.
- Check yourself for injury and provide assistance to others if you have training.
- If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building.
- Do not enter damaged buildings.
- If you are trapped, cover your mouth. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting so that rescuers can locate you.
- If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.
- Save phone calls for emergencies.
- Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
- Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.
Where to Learn More
Use these websites to stay up to date on everything you need to know to ensure you’re prepared for the next earthquake:
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Feature image courtesy of the USGS
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