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Living in California, it is important to remember that earthquakes come with the territory. Earthquakes are a large part of living in this state. An earthquake can happen at any moment. It can either be very minor, or severely damaging. Due to this fact, it is important to always be prepared for an earthquake.

However, when confronted with the possibility of an earthquake, many people have no idea on what they should do. They do not know what supplies they should have ready or what to do when the shaking starts. This article should help with that.

Preparing for a Quake

One of the best ways to be safe during an earthquake, is to prepare for one. Have a family emergency plan ready. This means have two escape routes planned for each room in your house. Make sure every family member knows where utility switches are and how to turn them off. This includes:

  • Water
  • Power
  • Gas

Knowing this can help prevent extra damage being caused due to a leak in the gas or water lines, and prevent electrocution if power lines are damaged.

It is also important that everyone in the family knows the location of emergency equipment such as:

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Emergency food and water supplies
  • Important medicine, such as insulin for family members with diabetes

Major earthquakes are capable of crippling local infrastructure, making it difficult to obtain needed resources like food and water. A family should have enough provisions for each member to last 3 days.

Important documents, such as:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Wills
  • Insurance policies
  • Proof of ownership certificates
  • Anything else you deem important

These should all be kept in a fire proof safe.

Keep your house safe by mounting all tall furnishings to the wall. Doing this can prevent them from falling over during a quake. Be careful of the placement of breakable glass objects such as mirrors. They should not be in located in positions where they can fall and injure someone.

Keep a pair of shoes or slippers, as well as a good flashlight, near your bed. This will help if an earthquake occurs during the night. The shoes will help prevent you from stepping on any broken glass, or other sharps objects.

During the Event – Indoors

During an earthquake, find cover under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a desk and do your best to cover you head and neck with your hands and arms. It is important to remain calm and move as little as possible. Most injuries occur during earthquakes because a person was moving and fell during the quake.

Stay away from any windows or glass objects. They can break during an earthquake and cause harm to an individual.
Do not be alarmed if the sprinkler system or smoke alarms in the building go of since this is common during an earthquake, even if there is no fire. The shaking can damage their systems and set them off.

If you are indoors, stay inside until the shaking stops, and if you smell gas, vacate the premises immediately.

During the Event – Outdoors

If you are outside when the shaking starts, move away from any large structures, powerlines, or trees as these may fall during the event. Get to an open area and drop to the ground. You do not want to fall over because of the shaking.

If you are in a vehicle, pull over to the side of the road as quickly and safely as you can. Try to find a clear area to park. You want to avoid objects that can fall on you, such as trees, powerlines, and overpasses. Do not get out of your car during the shaking or if power lines fall near you. Your car will bounce and shake, but should remain safe.

After the Shaking Has Stopped

Once the shaking has stopped move outside. If you are on an upper floor of a multi-story building, use the stairs to get down. Do not use an elevator since it could have been damaged. Before exiting any building, check to see if there is any debris that could fall on you as you exit.

Be aware that aftershocks are a possibility, especially with larger quakes. If you live in a coastal area be wary of potential tsunamis.
Check yourself for injuries before doing anything else. After that, you can begin assessing the damage and assisting people. Do not move injured persons unless their lives are in immediate danger.

During emergencies, do not use phones for anything other than emergency reasons. Lines will most likely be jammed. If you need to send information, text may work when phone calls don’t. Do to jammed phone lines, and the possibility that electricity may be down, it can be a good idea to keep your cellphone off unless you absolutely need it to conserve your battery. If you have to have it on, and the cell network is spotty, try putting your phone on airplane mode. This will prevent your phone from constantly trying to connect to a network, and save battery life.

A good strategy for emergency situations is to have an emergency contact who lives outside of the state, or at least the city, where you live. This way they are less likely to be affected by the same disaster as you. You can inform this person that you are all right, and have them relay this information to other important family members and friends.
Do not re-enter the building until an all clear has been given. Once you do re-enter the building, do so with caution. There may be debris on the ground, and the structure may have weakened. Again, be prepared to experience aftershocks.

Stay Calm, and Stay Safe

Above everything else, remain calm. Keeping a level head will not only help you make smart decisions, it will help people around you stay calm as well. This can make a huge difference during an emergency situation.