Many natural disasters can be predicted by meteorologist and weather experts. Unfortunately, earthquakes typically occur without warning. Not only can they strike your city without prior notice, but they can cause millions of dollars of damage and fatalities. Regardless of whether you live in the western area of the country, these natural disasters can occur any and everywhere. That is why it is crucial for you and your family to properly prepare.
To adequately prepare for an earthquake, you should fix any foundational issues in your home, educate yourself and your family on where to go in your home if one occurs, and have an emergency kit filled with valuable items to use if you have to survive without power.
Are you prepared to survive a severe earthquake? What have you done to ensure your family’s survival if this natural disaster were to occur? It is time to start planning for a catastrophic event that can happen at any time. You want to ensure the safety of yourself and your family. So, read on for essential steps you need to take to prepare for and survive an earthquake.
Protect Your Home
First, you need to prepare the exterior of your home for the vibrations of an earthquake. Look for any cracks in your foundation, ceilings, or roofs. These can reveal structural weaknesses that can easily cause your home to collapse.
Second, look at the inside of your home and secure any large structures to the walls. Bookcases, shelves, televisions, and appliances should all be securely fastened to the wall. Check the studs to make sure they are properly attached. The last thing you want is for a large item to fall on yourself or a family member.
Third, you may want to remove any glasses cases or flimsy storage objects in your home. Again, they can easily collapse or break even if fastened to the wall.
Lastly, speak with a professional about the safety of your home during an earthquake. They can ensure all appliances, freestanding furniture, cabinets, and heavy items are adequately secured. They can also inform you of how to shut off water and gas valves in your home to prevent leakages.
It is also worth noting that you should speak with an insurance agent. Many standard home insurance policies do not come with earthquake insurance. So, be sure to talk to them about your options.
Educate Your Family on How to React
You and your family need to be aware of what to do if and when an earthquake occurs. The chaos of the moment will make it difficult to remember what to do. So, you should work with your family to ensure everyone is aware of how to react if it happens.
First, make sure all children know how to call 9-1-1, and how to reach other emergency personnel like the police or fire department. While it is unpleasant to imagine, you or your partner may become incapacitated. Therefore, you want to ensure your children know how to call for help if this happens.
Next, educate your family on the importance of “Drop, Cover, and Hold on.” The process goes as follows: drop to your hands and knees, use your arms to cover your head and neck, and hold on to any nearby furniture until the earthquake stops. Crawl to a safer area only if it is safe to do so. Create drills around this process and consistently practice this with your family.
Third, work with your family to identify safe areas in each room of your house. These areas can be under tables, next to low-lying furniture, and away from any windows or glass. Again, it is a great idea to create drills around crawling to these areas.
Next, make sure that you are aware of your workplace’s earthquake emergency plan. Also, talk to your children’s school and daycare to learn of theirs.
Lastly, educate your family on the details of what an earthquake is and what it may feel like. Going into detail about what to expect can help take away the fear and anxiety. It also makes them more likely to correctly identify an earthquake a lot sooner which will allow them to react more quickly.
Create an Emergency Disaster Kit
Next, it is essential to have an emergency disaster kit in your home, car, and place of work. Earthquakes can cause power outages and scenarios that make it nearly impossible to reach a store for supplies.
As a result, you and your family have to prepare for the possibility of being stranded in your home. In the event of an emergency, it is standard to have at least enough supplies to last for 72 hours. So, work with your family to create an emergency disaster kit to last you until you can leave your home.
You should include the following in your kit:
- Hand-crank or battery-powered radio
- Nonperishable food items
- Manual can opener
- Portable USB charger
- First-aid kit
- A standard cellphone
- Flashlight and solar-powered LED push lights
- A week’s supply of all essential medications (speak with your doctor about receiving a more abundant supply if possible)
- A change of clothes and shoes
- Garbage bags
- Work gloves
- Toiletries and personal hygiene items
- Emergency contact information
- Multipurpose Tool
- Local maps
- Copies of essential documents (IDs, passports, insurance information, deeds, etc.)
- A list of important contact numbers
- Any additional necessary items specific to your family
These items should be located in a place that is easy to get to in your home. Everyone should also be aware of where it is so they can grab it if you are unable to do so. It is also imperative to have a variation of this kit in your car and at your workplace.
If you do create an emergency kit for your car, be sure also to include:
- Jumper cables
- A reflective vest
- Reflective triangles
- A car charger
- A shovel
These items can help you navigate the disaster while you are using your car as shelter. It is crucial to be ready at all times, so customize your emergency kit to best serve you depending on where you could be when it occurs.
Have an Emergency Communication and Meetup Plan
You and your family need to have a solid way to communicate and meet with one another if you are separated when an earthquake occurs. First, have a designated place to meet after the earthquake has taken place. For example, if the earthquake occurs during the day, select your workplace or a child’s school as the meeting place.
It is also essential to have a designated space in your home to meet after the earthquake. Again, it is likely that the moments after an earthquake will be filled with fear and anxiety. So, have a place in your home where everyone can come together, regroup, and decide on next steps. This process will also let you know if someone is missing.
Next, you and your family need a reliable way to communicate that everyone is okay if you all are separated. During this time, everyone will likely be calling local family, friends, and emergency personnel. This scenario is going to make it challenging to reach one another.
So, instead of trying to call one another, select a long-distance family member to be the “primary contact.” Everyone can call this person and inform them of their location, and current status. Long-distance phone lines are less likely to be overwhelmed with calls, so you and your family should be able to get through.
You may want to have back-up “primary contacts,” in case you are not able to reach the first person. Whomever you choose, be sure to inform all teachers and staff at your children’s school so they can help facilitate this process.
Regarding communication inside your home, it is also helpful to have a few two-radios. These devices will enable you to communicate with family members without having to use cellphones. Unfortunately, your home could experience damage that could separate your family even though you are only a few feet away from one another.
Create a Priority Action List
In addition to your evacuation plan, and educating your family on what to do during an earthquake, you also want to have a list of priority actions to accomplish once the earthquake strikes. It will allow you to immediately jump into survival mode, and run through the most urgent actions.
Once an earthquake occurs, your mind will likely be occupied with many different thoughts. You want to plan so that you can reduce the temptation to panic.
Following this list will depend on the severity of the earthquake, the condition of your home, and if anyone is injured. However, it helps to have a list of no more than five priority actions, so they are easy to remember. These could include the following:
- Check yourself for injuries – An earthquake is such a powerful and unexpected event, that you may be in shock. This can prevent you from understanding that you may be injured. So take a couple of seconds to feel around your body to ensure you are not hurt. Advise your family members to do this as well.
- Check-in with your family – If you are at home, proceed to the meetup destination you set with your family if it is safe to do so. If you are not at home, call your designated “family contact” person to check-in.
- Make a decision about evacuation – Is your home (or place of shelter) structurally damaged? Can you stay inside? Take a look around, and decide what you will do. Again, the goal is to stay indoors, so if everything is safe, stay inside. This is also an excellent time to have your radio in-hand to find out about current conditions, road closures, and any evacuation instructions.
- Grab your emergency kit – Decide on who will grab the emergency kit.
- Actions to take if you have time – If you have time before you evacuate (if you choose to do so) there are a couple of actions that can help protect you and your home. This could include:
- Turning off all electronics
- Turning off all water and gas valves
- Taking note of any severe damage to furniture or valuables
- Locking all doors and windows
Take this list—or a variation of it—and even post it in certain places around your home. This way, if an earthquake occurs, everyone will know the immediate actions they need to take.
Receive the Proper Medical Training
Even outside of an emergency, it is always a good idea to have solid medical training. However, during a situation like an earthquake, any existing health problems can become even more of an issue. So, being aware of basic medical care tactics can help you save someone’s life, especially in an emergency.
One of the main types of training that you should receive is first-aid. First-aid training advises you on how to take care of the basic medical needs of someone else during an emergency. There are even specialized first-aid training classes for children and babies.
You should also look into receiving CPR training. An earthquake can cause damage that can leave someone unconscious. You want to be able to take care of that person until you are able to get them medical attention.
Next, look into taking Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training. This type of training teaches you how to use an AED to help someone that is experiencing cardiac arrest.
In addition to attending training, invest in an AED machine. You should add this device to your first-aid kit for easy access during an emergency.
Unfortunately, an earthquake could put you in a situation where you cannot get to a hospital or fire station. Therefore, you can save someone if you are aware of these potentially lifesaving methods.
All the training mentioned above is offered by the American Red Cross. So, check with your local chapter to see when they are offering these courses.
Also, educate your family on what you know. Encourage your partner to join you in these courses, and even provide age-appropriate medical training tips to your children.
Have an Evacuation Strategy
The next step in your earthquake preparation plan is to have an evacuation strategy. Unfortunately, you may not be able to stay in your home. Either the damage may be too significant, or an accompanying weather event —a volcano or tsunami—may make it necessary for you to leave.
So, you need to have a plan of escape if this becomes the case. First, locate a reliable means of shelter. This could be the home of a family or friend, or a locally designated shelter. Be sure to know these locations ahead of time.
Then, create an evacuation route that allows you to reach your destination safely. During an earthquake, there may be road closures, so plan to have multiple ways to get to where you need to go.
You also want to develop a route that allows you to get to your destination on foot. An earthquake may prevent you from safely using your car, so prepare to walk.
Next, take each route and practice driving—or walking— them at least once a month. Invite your family along and have them also drive and walk with you. This process will allow you to become comfortable with your evacuation plan.
Going through this process will also give you the knowledge you need to make a decision about which route is best if an earthquake were to occur. By that time, you should know the course well enough to bypass anxiety and fear to make a sound decision.
Also, be sure to run drills with your family for evacuation preparation. In addition to practicing the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On,” procedure, have them then practice what they will do right after the earthquake.
This drill should include where they should meet in—or outside—of the home, who will grab the emergency kit, how to follow the priority list of actions, and how you all will decide the proper evacuation route to your designated place of shelter.
Stay Up-to-Date on News Reports
In this situation, you will want to have your hand-cranked or battery-powered radio on you at all times. Again, earthquakes can be challenging to predict, but local and national news stations will likely have valuable updates and instructions.
Take the time to find your area’s local weather radio channels, and program the stations into your radio for easy access. Also, you should find the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio station. This national station will keep you up-to-date on any news related to earthquakes and other weather-related events.
Local stations will likely have even more relevant weather information and instructions that are directly related to your area. So, it is worth it to program both the NOAA and local stations into your radio.
Also, in the event that the online network is still functional, be sure to add the NOAA app to your smartphone. It is available in the App and Google Play stores.
Again, during an earthquake, phone lines and online networks may be operational. So, it is also helpful to sign up for text and email weather alerts. Many local news stations offer this, but at the national level, The Weather Channel is a great resource for this service. The station provides free mobile, email, and even desktop alerts.
You never know when an earthquake can happen, and unlike tornadoes, hurricanes, and even tsunamis, there are not any common indicators to watch out for. Therefore, up-to-date weather alerts are essential. They will give you the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
So, before an earthquake occurs, create a list of three to four local and national stations to program into your radio. Also, set up text and email alerts from those that offer them. You want access to as much information as possible during an earthquake.
Properly Store Documents and Record all Crucial Information
Your emergency kit should include copies of all valuable documents. However, you also want to have a secure way of storing the originals. If documents like deeds, birth certificates, and social security information are damaged, then it will be challenging to receive insurance or emergency benefits if the situation calls for it. So, it is crucial that you properly store essential documents. These could include the following:
- Birth certificates
- All insurance information (health, home, car, etc.)
- Marriage certificates
- Social security numbers
- Bank information
- Health and dental records
- Any other important information that may be unique to your family.
All of these documents should be stored in a fire-proof container. This container should be placed in a location within your home that is unlikely to see the most damage.
Also, as an added precaution, create digital copies of all of this information and store it in a password-protected cloud platform, and on a flash drive. Even in the most secure of containers, paper can still be damaged. So, have digital copies of everything.
Next, create a list of crucial information that you will likely want to have easy access to during an earthquake. This list could include the following:
- Phone numbers to all emergency personnel
- Emergency contact numbers
- Phone number and address to a landlord or property manager
- Contact information for utility companies
- Phone numbers for insurance agents
- Important medical information (serious illness diagnosis, allergies, prescriptions)
- Vehicle information (VIN, year, make, and model)
- Phone numbers to any backup shelter locations
Except for emergency contact numbers, you may not need this information right away. However, if the earthquake has damaged much of your home, and property, you will want to already have the information you need to discuss next steps.
Educate Yourself on How to Handle Related Weather Events
In certain parts of the country—and the world—an earthquake can lead to other severe weather events. An earthquake is caused by the separation and shifting of underground rock. These vibrations can signify the presence of a volcano or tsunami. So, once an earthquake is over, you are not out of the woods.
First, an earthquake can cause aftershocks. These are small earthquakes that can come after the larger quake has passed. While they may be small, they can still cause significant damage (especially in the aftermath of a larger earthquake).
So, continue to remain cautious after the initial quake. Stay indoors if possible, and continue to listen to the news.
Second, earthquakes can be related to volcanos. Typically, quakes happen toward the edges of tectonic plates, and this is where volcanos can form.
Earthquakes can precede a volcanic eruption. So, take time to learn your city’s seismic history. Find out if you are located near a volcano (even if it has not been active for years). If you are, find out if you are in a hazard area. If an earthquake occurs, you will likely want to immediately plan to evacuate, as this event could be the precursor to a volcanic eruption in your area.
Third, earthquakes can also bring about tsunamis. If an earthquake happens on a fault line on the ocean floor, a tsunami is very likely to happen. The magnitude of the tsunami will likely depend on the severity of the quake.
If you are living on the coast, stay tuned to local and national weather stations. They can give you warning of a tsunami, and inform you of which locations are likely to be impacted if one occurs.
Again, earthquakes are powerful natural events. Their impact can bring about an additional catastrophic disaster. So, be sure to stay tuned to all weather reports to decide if you need to take extra precautions.
Work With Your Community
There is strength in numbers! Your neighbors can be helpful allies during a time like this. So, do what you can to work as a community to prepare for the aftermath of an earthquake.
First, exchange contact information with your neighbors. Not only does this allow you to check on them after an earthquake occurs, but you can also reach out to them in case you —or they—are out of town. You can receive relevant information about property damage, or inform them of what is going on if they happen to be away.
Next, work with your homeowner’s association (HOA). Your HOA may already have an emergency and evacuation plan. Find out if they have one, and ensure it is shared with your community.
You may even want to discuss conducting evacuation drills, and even the facilitation of first-aid training with the head of your HOA. The more your community knows, the more everyone will be in a position to help one another during this disaster.
Third, have a “check-in” point with your neighbors. This step could save lives. What if you and your family are stuck inside your home, or both you and your spouse are incapacitated? If you plan to meet at a specific location, your absence could tip them off that something is wrong.
So, work to develop a closer relationship with your neighbors before a potential earthquake. During a disaster, you all may be able to share resources, check in on one another, and even help tend to a possible medical emergency.
Also, in the aftermath of the disaster, the community-at-large can provide one another with emotional and logistical support. You never know when you may need some additional help—or when you might be able to help someone yourself—so make an effort to work with your community and immediate neighbors to prepare for an earthquake.
Additional Helpful Tips and Information
The tips above should provide you with the information you need to start an earthquake preparation plan. In addition to the steps mentioned, we wanted to offer some extra tips that may prove helpful in your survival strategy. Read on for five additional earthquake preparation tips below.
- Keep a flashlight and hand-cranked radio at your bedside. You never know when an earthquake is going to occur. It may happen while you are asleep. So, having these two items next to your bed will help you navigate your way to safety.
- Prepare to stay indoors until all is clear. Again, it helps to have an evacuation plan in case your home is damaged, but plan to use your home as shelter. It is much safer to stay inside.
- Don’t forget your workplace. Take time to identify safe areas and rooms at your place of work.
- Take a video of everything you own. The earthquake might be severe enough to cause damage to many of the items in your home. You want to have records of everything you own so you can make an insurance claim for anything that has been damaged.
- Plan to make insurance claims immediately. Begin filing insurance claims as soon as you are able. Fulfilling these claims could take months (not including questions the agents may have), so have the information you need to start as soon as you can.
Again, earthquakes can happen at any time without warning. You need to take the time to plan how you will respond. If you use the tips above to create an emergency preparation checklist, you are putting yourself in an excellent position for survival.
The last thing you want to do is panic, and creating an emergency preparation strategy ahead of time will help you to think clearly enough to plan your next move.