Contrary to popular belief, earthquakes are not unique to California or the West Coast. In fact, there are 45 states in the U.S. that are at risk for an earthquake, which makes most of us vulnerable. Like all natural disasters, earthquakes can be a frightening event, but perhaps more frightening is that they are almost impossible to predict.
Since an earthquake can strike at any moment, it’s important to take precautions ahead of time to be well prepared and lessen your chances of being harmed. The following are five simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
- Keep an emergency supplies kit handy. Purchase or create your own emergency kit with essential items. Depending on the seriousness of the event, it may take hours or even days for rescue workers to reach you. Some items to include in your kit are: first aid kit, battery-powered radio, flashlight with extra batteries, a whistle to call out for help, non-perishable food and water to last for three days.
- Arrange your furniture carefully. During a strong earthquake, it’s possible that furniture pieces and other objects may move around and potentially cause injuries. Secure tall furniture such as bookshelves or china cabinets to the wall to prevent them from falling over. Also, be sure to hang picture frames, mirrors and other heavy objects away from beds and sofas where they can easily fall on people.
- Choose a safe go-to spot in your house. Many people think the safest spot during an earthquake is the doorway. In reality, it’s safer to be under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a table or desk. Another option is to stand against a wall that’s located away from windows or furniture that may fall on you.
- Learn how to shut off your gas valve. It’s possible that the shaking may damage the gas pipes and cause a natural gas leak, which can lead to a fire or even an explosion. Become familiar with your house’s gas valve and learn how to shut it off. Be sure to have a wrench handy to do this.
- Practice an earthquake drill. Make sure to practice how to “drop, cover and hold on.” If you have a sturdy table or desk, drop under it. Use one hand to cover your head and the other to hold on to the table or desk.
Though earthquakes are never a pleasant experience, it’s better to be prepared for them as much as possible. For more tips on earthquake preparedness, visit redcross.org/prepare.