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What Happens When - Earthquake

What Happens when - and what do we do, when we experience an earthquake?


Advice and safety precautions in the event of earthquakes


Collated from our article on earthquake preparedness at:


The first plan of action is to organise an out-of-town contact in order that your family may call/or e-mail (or whatever means of communication you have set up) to check on each other should a disaster occur. The contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event. Ensure every household member has that contact's, Number/cell phone etc and e-mail address. Be aware that if lines of communication are down, there will be delays in contacting people – make a communications ‘back-up’ plan.

        Establish a meeting place.
Organise a predetermined meeting place away from your home this will save time and minimise confusion should your home be affected or the area evacuated.

        Do not forget to include any pets in these plans, as pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.

        3. Assemble a disaster supplies kit.

In the event of an evacuation or you are asked to "shelter in place," having some essential supplies on hand will make you and your family more comfortable.

        Prepare a disaster supplies (see below) kit in an easy-to-carry container such as a duffel bag or rucksack.

        Do not forget "special needs" items for any member of your household (infant formula or items for people with disabilities or older people), first aid supplies (including prescription medications), a change of clothing for each household member

        Sleeping bag or bedroll for each person, a battery powered radio or television and extra batteries, food, bottled water and tools.

        It is also a good idea to include some cash and copies of important family documents (birth certificates, passports and licenses) in your kit.

When Disaster Strikes:

  • Remain calm and be patient.
  • Follow the advice of local emergency officials.
  • Listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.
  • If the disaster occurs near you, check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
  • If the disaster occurs near your home while you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards. Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Confine or secure your pets.
Call your family contact and do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency


Bear in mind the following:

  • Health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area – practice an ‘evacuation run’ prior to any disaster in order you become familiar with an alternate route – the main roads may be full or controlled by authorities.
  • Clean-up may take many months

Listen to your radio or television and follow the instructions of local emergency officials keeping these simple tips in mind-

  1. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes so you can be protected as much as possible.
  2. Take your disaster supplies kit.
  3. Take your pets with you; do not leave them behind - remember pets are not permitted in public shelters, follow your plan to go to a relative's or friend's home.
  4. Lock your home.
  5. Evacuation routes - NB – Be cautious in the routes – it is important to practice your own evac routes prior to any disaster striking in order that you know the route well
  6. Stay away from downed power lines


If you have time:

  • Call your family contact to tell them where you are going and when you expect to arrive.
  • Shut off water and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so.
  • Leave natural gas service ON unless local officials advise you otherwise.
  • You may need gas for heating and cooking, and only a professional can restore gas service in your home once it's been turned off. In a disaster situation it could take weeks for a professional to respond.


When the shaking begins:

        DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure its safe to exit.


Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.

If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place (as described above). Stay in the car until the shaking stops.

Identify what to do after the shaking stops:

Check yourself for injuries. Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
Check others for injuries. Give first aid for serious injuries.
Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Turn off the gas if you smell gas or think it is leaking (remember, only a professional should turn it back on).
Listen to the radio for instructions.
Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON!
Inspect home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.

How to Shelter-in-Place

At Home:

  • Close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Close the fireplace damper.
  • Get your family disaster supplies kit and make sure the radio is working.
  • Go to an interior room without windows that's above ground level. In the case of a chemical threat, an above-ground location is preferable because some chemicals are heavier than air, and may seep into basements even if the windows are closed.
  • Bring your pets with you, and be sure to bring additional food and water supplies for them.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room you select. Call your emergency contact and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
  • Use duct tape and plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room.
  • Keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or you are told to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community

  • areas at greatest risk in your community

In Your Vehicle:

If you are driving a vehicle and hear advice to shelter-in-place on the radio, take these steps:

  • If you are very close to home, your office, or a public building, go there immediately and go inside. Follow the shelter-in-place recommendations for the place you pick described above.
  • If you are unable to get to a home or building quickly and safely, then pull over to the side of the road. Stop your vehicle in the safest place possible. If it is sunny outside, it is preferable to stop under a bridge or in a shady spot, to avoid being overheated.
  • Turn off the engine. Close windows and vents.
  • If possible, seal the heating/air conditioning vents with duct tape.
  • Listen to the radio regularly for updated advice and instructions.
  • Stay where you are until you are told it is safe to get back on the road. Be aware that some roads may be closed or traffic detoured.


The Above was prepared from the Red Cross and Ambilac Safe Survival websites

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