Earthquakes are caused by the sudden and unpredictable movement of tectonic plates. These events can trigger tsunamis, avalanches, fires, and landslides, but the biggest risk to survival comes from falling buildings, flying glass, and falling objects. Therefore, knowing how to survive an earthquake is essential if you live in an area that’s prone to them, but it’s also a good idea to be prepared for unexpected building collapse.
If the building you’re in starts shaking, immediately drop to the ground and try to stay clear of windows, appliances, and anything that’s heavy and/or hanging. Then take cover under something strong like a table or desk. If cover isn’t available, stay in a corner or near the strongest part of the structure with your arms protecting your head. If possible, hold on to something and remember that most earthquake injuries happen when people either move or try to leave the structure before the earthquake has stopped.
Get away from any unstable buildings as soon as possible and be aware of broken gas lines, downed power lines, glass, or any other hazards. Fires may have been ignited during the earthquake, so look for smoke and evacuate any dangerous buildings as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you are in an area that’s prone to tsunamis, get to higher ground as soon as the shaking stops–but first be sure to check yourself for injury and administer first aid if necessary.
Being prepared with an evacuation plan and emergency survival kit is one of the best ways to survive any situation, so be sure that you’re prepared before an earthquake strikes.
Get away from anything that could fall on you such as buildings, trees, powerlines, and rocks. Also be aware of unstable cliffs and slopes since avalanches and landslides can be triggered by earthquakes. It’s best to find a wide open space to stay put in until the shaking stops, and remember to stay low to avoid falling. Again, get to higher ground when the earthquake stops if you’re in a tsunami prone area.
If you’re driving when an earthquake starts, try to stop in a safe place and apply the parking brake. Watch out for anything that might fall on you including bridges, overpasses, or large signs, and stay away from tunnels. Roads can split and crack open from sinkholes and faults that might occur during an earthquake, so make sure that your vehicle is ready for emergencies.
Let rescuers know where you are by sending a text message to 911 (if available in your area) since it’s best to avoid speaking and inhaling dust. Weather or not you have a cellphone, bang on pipes or walls and tap messages with morse code, if you know it. Cover your mouth with your shirt or a piece of cloth and don’t shout for help unless you have no other choice. Do not light a match or lighter in case there is a broken gas line near you and stay still to avoid kicking up dust and debris.
The rule of 3s says that you must have enough oxygen and water to survive for what might be several days until rescuers find you. After about seven days, the chances of surviving a collapsed building are very slim, and even lasting that long requires a strong survival mindset. Therefore, it’s best to seek training to be prepared for anything.
Some earthquakes may be foreshocks that could be followed by even bigger events, so stay ready to drop, cover, and hold on until you’re sure it’s over. There may be aftershocks within hours or months of an earthquake, so it’s a good idea to always be ready for them. Be sure to let people know that you’re safe with social media or the Red Cross’s “Safe and Well” website. And remember to prepare for earthquakes before they happen.