Posted by: prepare4 | March 25, 2009


An Earthquake Strikes
By Carolyn Nicolaysen

A personal note: I am saddened by the destruction caused by Hurricane Gustav. My prayers are with all of those affected. If you have loved ones beginning the clean up process, or you are, please copy the Meridian article: Flood Clean-up, When the Real Work Begins. The suggestions and safety tips in the article are all appropriate for hurricane clean up also. I have also posted tips, for the last week on my blog. Please pass along the information to those who may be in need of some helpful advice.

The lyrics of a 1971 hit by Carole King seem apt when talking about earthquakes:

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling…

Earthquakes, as we now know, can happen anywhere – even where you live. And how we respond in the seconds immediately following the first signs of an earthquake decides whether we fare well or badly.Most importantly, Do Not Panic. More people die during an earthquake due to panic than any other cause. Clear thinking saves lives, so take a deep breath and take appropriate action.


1. Take care of the basics first, Drop: get on the ground, Cover: get under a large, stable piece of furniture like a table or desk. Hold On: to keep furniture from moving away from you.  Continue hanging on until the shaking stops and be aware aftershocks will occur, so wait a minute to make sure there is not a sizable aftershock.

Recently I received an email describing an alternative to the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” advice.  After researching, I discovered that the “triangle of life” and some other popular advice about reacting to earthquakes can be potentially life threatening.

Official rescue organizations continue to advocate use of the internationally recognized “Drop, Cover and Hold On” counsel. “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” remains the best advice for your chance of survival.

2. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms, sofa pillow or cushion, and crouch against an inside corner of the room  with your back facing the windows.

3. As much as possible, stay away from windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures, furniture and wall decor.  Stay away from furniture on casters and cupboards with doors that could swing open and injure you.

4. Use a doorway for shelter only if it is close by and you know it is a load bearing doorway. The wisdom used to be that you headed for a doorway, but homes are not built as structurally sound as they once were. Also, many people have been injured by doors swinging and hitting them during a quake.

5. If you are inside, do not try to leave the building. Shattering glass and falling bricks can be a great hazard for anyone leaving a building.

6. Extinguish cigarettes and candles immediately. Gas leaks are very common and should be expected during an earthquake.

7. If you are in bed, stay there. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow. If you are under a heavy light fixture or wall decor that has not been secured, roll off the bed and cover your head and face with a pillow. If you have been following our Seven Steps program you will have your shoes right there ready to put on before you make any effort to leave your room. Always put on your shoes! You are no good to your family if you are injured yourself.

8. Electricity may go out and sprinkler systems and fire alarms may turn on. Again, if you have prepared you will also have a light source next to your bed, preferably a glow stick. NEVER light a candle after an earthquake.

9. If you are in the kitchen, quickly turn off the stove and water and take cover. Stay away from cupboards as doors will fly open and items will be tossed out. Stay away from the refrigerator. They can also fly open and occasionally even tip over.


1. Quickly move away from buildings, streetlights, large trees and utility wires.

2. Once you are in the open, crouch, cover your head, and stay there until the shaking stops. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

In a Vehicle:

1. Stop as quickly and as safely as possible. Set the parking break. Remain in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, street lights, traffic lights, traffic signs and utility wires. Never stop under an underpass or in a parking structure.

2. Duck down and protect your head and face in case something should come through your windows.

3. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake. Drive slowly and watch for hazards such as breaks in the pavement, downed utility poles, trees and wires, fallen overpasses and bridges. If there are downed power lines do not exit your vehicle until help arrives. Electrical currents can and do travel through the ground causing electrocution.

4. If you should be trapped in your car, stay there unless an explosion is imminent. Blow a whistle or tap on a metal object to attract attention. A whistle can be heard much further away than the human voice. Do not yell if you cannot avoid breathing in contaminated dust. Tap or bang on something instead.

In the Mountains:

Be aware of your surroundings. Unstable slopes or cliffs can release falling rocks, debris and even trees that have been loosened by the earthquake.

At the Beach:

1. Move quickly to higher ground or if you are in a flat area, move inland. If you notice the tide going out rapidly from the shore a tsunami is imminent. Even without this warning move quickly as tsunamis move quickly. If the traffic is stopped get out of your car and walk quickly.

2. Do not stop until you are a mile away or at least 100 feet above sea level.

In High-rise Buildings : 1. Get under a desk and stay away from windows and outside walls. If you are working in an area with small cubicles stay away from the temporary walls. 

2. Stay in the building. Be aware that the electricity may go out, and the sprinkler systems may come on.

3. Do not try to take elevators or stairs during the quake. 

4. Avoid windows, glass doors, planters, bookcases, furniture on wheels, and filing cabinets.

5. Before leaving the building, take care to put on good walking shoes and bring your workplace survival kit and water with you. Your car may be damaged or inaccessible and you may need to walk a distance to get help.

In Public Places 1. Stay calm. We have all seen footage of people trampled when trying to get out of a confined space. Do not rush for the doorways, be patient.

2.  Move away from display shelves and clothing racks which may fall.

3. “Drop, Cover and Hold on”, just as you would in your home. Protect your head and face from falling debris and glass. Many public building have suspended ceiling which may fall. I was in the San Francisco airport during an earthquake several years ago and was amazed at how many people just stood around under arrival and departure monitors and suspended TVs. You may feel silly but never hesitate to duck and cover.

4. If you are in a theater, stay in your seat and duck to protect your head.

Near Dams and Levees

Both can fail during an earthquake. Be aware of the hazards in your area and prepare your home for flooding as well as for an earthquake.

Prepare Your Family

Children will be frightened, but there are a few things that will frighten them more than seeing the adults in their family acting panicky and hysterical. Keep a level head, and reassure the younger ones that whatever happens, you will take care of each other.

Now that you know the basics, educate your family. Hold a family home evening and explain to family members what you have learned about earthquakes (that they can happen anywhere, even where you live), and then explain what you should do during an earthquake. To verify that children have understood the directions you have given, walk through the rooms of your house and let them tell you what they would do if they were in those rooms of your home during an earthquake. Help them to understand the safest places to be if they are in that room when the earthquake strikes.

Once this is accomplished, wait a week or two and hold a drill. Don’t warn your children, just yell “earthquake” and see if they remember what to do. Do they “Drop, Cover and Hold on”? At night do they stay in their beds and cover until you say the shaking has stopped? Do they put on their shoes before getting out of bed? If you practice, children are much more likely to remember what to do when the time comes to act smartly.

You may still believe in your heart that an earthquake can never happen to you – that it is as unlikely as a tornado in downtown Salt Lake City . But what if you are visiting Disneyland or San Francisco or Memphis when the Big One strikes? What if you are attending General Conference and the Wasatch Front moves? What if you have a connecting flight through Seattle or Anchorage and what has already happened years ago, happens again?

Prepare now, and you will know what to do the next time the earth moves under your feet!


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