Cracked Asphalt Road
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Earthquakes

Earthquakes are sudden, transient motions or trembling of the earth’s crust. They result from waves in the earth that are caused by faulting of the rocks or by volcanic activity.

For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the earth, as the huge plates that form the earth’s surface slowly move over, under and past each other. Sometimes, the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release accumulated energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free. If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.

    What to do before

  • Build a safety kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Fasten shelves and heavy items like pictures and mirrors securely to walls.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas connections (as they are potential fire hazards) and deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets.
  • Locate safe spots in each room: under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members once: Drop, Cover and Hold On.
  • What to do during

  • Drop, Cover and Hold On. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
  • Take proper safety procedures if indoors, outdoors, in a moving vehicle or trapped under debris.
  • If Indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • If Outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects.
  • If in a Moving Vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
  • If Trapped Under Debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate 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 after

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move. Then exit the building.
  • Expect aftershocks, which are less violent but can still damage already weakened structures.
  • Help injured or trapped persons.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or TV for the latest emergency information.
  • Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Be careful when driving.
  • Go to designated public shelter if your home had been damaged and is no longer safe. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Learn how to keep your food safe during and after an emergency.