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Earthquakes

Facts and Fiction

Fiction: During an earthquake, you should get into a doorway for protection.

Facts: In modern buildings, doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the structure and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you. During an earthquake, you should get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on.

Fiction: During an earthquake, the earth cracks open and people, cars, and animals can fall into those cracks.

Facts: The earth does not crack open like the Grand Canyon. The earth moves and rumbles and, during that movement, small cracks can form. The usual displacements of the earth during an earthquake are caused by up-and-down movements, so shifts in the height of the soil are more likely than chasm-like cracks.

Fiction: Some day there will be beachfront property in Arizona.

Facts: The Ocean is not a great hole into which California can fall, but is itself land at a somewhat lower elevation with water above it. The motion of plates will not make California sink—California is moving horizontally along the San Andreas Fault and up around the Transverse Ranges (coastal California Mountains).

Fiction: We have good building codes, so we must have good buildings.

Facts: The tragedy in Kobe, Japan, one year after the Northridge earthquake, painfully reminds us that the best building codes in the world do nothing for buildings built before that code was enacted. In many earthquake-prone areas of the United States, the building codes are out of date and therefore even new buildings are very vulnerable to severe earthquake damage.

Fiction: Scientists can now predict earthquakes.

Facts: Scientists do not know how to predict earthquakes, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. However, based on scientific data, probabilities can be calculated for potential future earthquakes. For example, scientists estimate that during the next 30 years the probability of a major earthquake occurring is 67 percent in the San Francisco Bay area and 60 percent in southern California.

Excerpts taken from: Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages

Produced by the National Disaster Education Coalition, Washington, D.C.

Where Earthquakes Happen

More than 143 million Americans live in earthquake-prone regions in the Lower 48 states. If you include Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, that number rises to about 150 million U.S. citizens. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

Every employee, from top managers to part-time and temporary workers, needs to learn what to do during an earthquake. Safety orientations should emphasize safe places to “drop, cover, and hold on” during earthquake shaking, and safe locations where people can rendezvous when the shaking has stopped and it is safe and advisable to evacuate your facilities.

Hold periodic, mandatory earthquake drills to give employees opportunities to practice what they have learned and condition themselves to react spontaneously and safely when the first jolt or shaking is felt. To help protect workers in the immediate aftermath of earthquakes or other disasters, arrange for employees to be trained now in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and the use of fire extinguishers.

During an Earthquake

  • Stay away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets or other heavy objects.
  • Get under a desk or sturdy table.
  • Watch for falling plaster or ceiling tiles.
  • Stay undercover until the shaking stops and hold on to your cover.
  • If the desk or table you are under moves…move with it.

After the Ground Stops Shaking

When the shaking stops, look around. If there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.

  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.
  • If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.

Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions. Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks.

  • Listen to Local Officials
  • Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in danger of further injury.
  • Check for fires or fire hazards.
  • If indoors, check the structural aspects of the building, if any part of the structure appears to be unsafe, evacuate the building until a more detailed inspection can be made. Buildings that are damaged by the main shock could receive additional damage from aftershocks.
  • Wear shoes in all areas near debris or broken glass.
  • Check for damaged utilities. Inspect for leaking gas lines by smell only; do not use candles, matches, or other open flames.
  • Check to see that sewage lines are intact before permitting continued flushing of toilets.
  • Be prepared for additional aftershocks. Although most of these are smaller than the main shock, some may be strong enough to cause additional damage.

Recommended Links

//www.ready.gov/earthquakes

//www.fema.gov/earthquake

//www.earthquakecountry.org

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