This week alone, earthquakes were reported in Utah, Oregon and Maine. Three others hit in Mexico. Although no injuries or damage were reported, the American Red Cross provides steps that can help people stay safe in the event of an earthquake.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the occurrence of earthquakes in the United States has increased significantly since the last century. The earthquakes were large enough to be felt by many people, but small enough to rarely cause damage.
Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and they can occur at any time of the year, day or night. Forty-five states and territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes.
There are several steps people can take should an earthquake hit their community, such as knowing the earthquake plans for buildings that are frequented, like an office or school. Also, pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace or school, such as under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall – stay away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that can easily fall.
Other earthquake preparedness steps include:
- Practice drop, cover and hold on in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
- Bolt bookcases, China cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
- Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be stored closest to the floor.
- Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
- Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location.
DURING AN EARTHQUAKE If you are inside when an earthquake hits, drop to the floor, cover yourself and hold on. Move as little as possible. If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on, protecting your head with a pillow. You should also:
- Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
- Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
If you are outside, find a clear spot away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights. Drop to the ground. If you’re in a vehicle, pull over to a clear area and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops, then drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged. If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance. If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.
More information about how to stay safe during an earthquake can be found on the Red Cross web site. The Red Cross Earthquake Safety checklist is also available in English or Spanish.