The 7.1 magnitude quake that rocked California have people — and the media — thinking about the Big One. Although a massive earthquake with a magnitude of over 7.8 is possible, it is highly unlikely. However, nothing stops you from taking steps to protect yourself and your family from earthquakes, both big and small.
Have a plan. You don’t need to go full prepper, but you need to have a plan so that you can react accordingly once an earthquake occurs. Note the safe places in your house, like under the tables or between weight-bearing arches. Teach your kids to stay away from windows and anything that might shatter during a quake. Note every possible route towards places of safety and inform your friends and loved ones to meet you there in case of emergencies. Keep your phone charged at all times; landlines will more likely be down, but you should probably still get a signal. Inform your family about your earthquake plans and drill your kids so that they can react properly when one hits. Keep essential documents in a firebox so that you don’t lose relevant paperwork even if your house burns down.
Stay Focused. Breathe. Keeping calm is essential during emergencies. Get to the nearest safe space, but don’t run. Running while the ground is shaking can cause you to fall over and break something. Any injuries during a quake become serious, especially if you get trapped or your injuries cause you to lose consciousness. Walk or crawl. Once you’re safe, drop to the ground and protect your head and neck with your arms. Try to get out of the house once the quake dies down, but be careful of broken glass. Stay near your home and don’t go into the streets; panicking drivers might not be able to see you, and the quake might have ruptured your neighborhood gas lines. If the worst thing happens and you get trapped under debris, conserve your strength and try not to panic. Shouting continually can damage your vocal cords, so save your shouts for when you’re sure you’ll be heard. Tap on nearby objects with a rhythmic pattern. This is usually enough for rescue personnel to identify the presence of a survivor.
Check yourself as well as any family member for injuries. Shock can sometimes numb you from an injury, so make sure to check for signs of cuts, piercings, or concussions. If your house didn’t take much damage, try to shut off your gas and power. This can save your home from a fire, but don’t go in unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s safe. Take a short (or long) break and try to get going. Places hit by strong earthquakes are also at risk from fires. You’re also not sure of the water lines are intact, so you might be drinking contaminated water. Move to your designated safe place and meet your friends and family. Once everything is declared safe, make sure to check your house for damage. Repairs can be as simple as broken windows or complex foundation repairs.
The Big One is probably not coming any time soon. However, being prepared and safe is a lot better than not knowing what to do.