Earthquake Preparation: The Complete Checklist

Earthquake preparation needs to be a consistent drill for everyone. But especially for these folks who live in areas known for high seismic activity.

Earthquakes are almost unpredictable natural disasters that have the nasty habit of taking everyone by surprise. The best that science could give us is a 5 to 60 second warning before the earth starts shaking.

Are you ready for a possible earthquake risk? Do you have an earthquake preparedness plan in place? Here’s a preparedness assessment checklist for anyone living in the seismic region.



Emergency Preparedness Before Earthquake Occurs

If you’re asking where in the world earthquakes are most frequent, the answer may surprise you. It’s not necessarily along the Ring of Fire, where volcanoes and tectonic plates abound on the earth’s surface.

In fact, central United States has a higher concentration of earthquakes than any other region in the world. This is due to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which runs from Arkansas to Illinois.

The West Coast also sees a high number of earthquakes, thanks to the meeting of the Pacific and North American plates. However, it’s worth noting that while central United States has more earthquakes.

Overall, the West Coast is more likely to experience a larger earthquake. So whether you’re looking for quantity or quality, there’s an earthquake hotspot for everyone.

The best time to prepare for an earthquake, or any natural disaster, is right now. The goal is to survive the event, and keep on living autonomously for around two weeks. This is the average time it takes the authorities to bring back the utilities to a semi-functional condition.

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Fortify Your House

The International Building Code currently mandates that all new constructions follow seismic design standards. This minimizes the possibility of collapsing walls or foundations, even with violent quakes.

Buildings erected before 1974 didn’t need to follow such mandates or guidelines. Which puts these facilities and their occupants in grave danger, even at low powered earthquakes. There’s a solution for most of these buildings though, as it’s possible to retrofit them with steel beams.

Bolt Loose Fittings in Place

As the earth starts shaking, heavy objects, shelves, light fixtures, heavy furniture, equipment, water heaters, china cabinets, cabinet doors and ornaments fall all over the place. These objects could cause serious injuries, so it’s best to secure everything in place.

In addition, as you arrange your stuff on shelves or inside cupboards, try to keep the heavy containers on the lower shelves, and the harmless lightweight things on the upper shelves. Also, keep your bedroom free from clutter, especially the space above your bed.

You can secure your water heater and avoid possible hazards by strapping heavy objects onto wall studs or bolting tall furniture to the floor.

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Get the Right Insurance Policy

Regular insurance policies rarely cover the damages caused by earthquakes. That’s why you need to ask about one that includes reimbursement in case of that type of natural disaster. Try to be as thorough as possible and always read the fine print!

Perform an Earthquake Drill

While most earthquakes are relatively small and cause no damage, the potential for earthquakes is always present. That’s why it’s so important to perform an earthquake drill on a regular basis.

When you identify potential hazards in your home and office, you can be better prepared if a major earthquake hits. The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills are a great way to get started, and they’re held every October. Practice drop, cover, and hold with people around you.

But even if you miss the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, there’s no excuse not to be prepared. After all, the only thing worse than being caught in an earthquake is being caught unprepared.

Stock Up on Emergency Supplies for Two Weeks

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Various United States government organizations and NGOs issued their recommendations of what to stock in case of natural disasters. The listed items are typically non-perishable and could easily be stored for prolonged amounts of time.

Some of these items for earthquake preparedness include:

  • Bottled foods
  • Drinking water
  • Water for washing up
  • Medications
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Sanitary products
  • Torches
  • A mobile phone with an extra battery
  • Battery-operated radio with extra batteries
  • Pet food
  • Prescription glasses
  • Can openers
  • Protective clothing
  • A pair of sturdy shoes
  • Blankets for each family member
  • Plastic sheets and duct tape
  • Books, puzzles, and little toys for children
  • Photocopies of important documents
  • Any special equipment you might need

These emergency supply kits need to be routinely checked for expiration and functionality. It’s essential to cover everything in waterproof plastic wrapping. That’s in case there’s a breakage in the water wipes or a flood.

first aid kit Prepare Your First Aid Kit

A earthquake can happen at any time, without warning, which is why it’s essential to have a earthquake aid kit on hand. This way, if an earthquake strikes, you’ll be ready to help your family members and emergency response teams.

So what should you include in your earthquake kit? At a minimum, you’ll need bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and pain medication. You may also want to include a flashlight, water, and food.

And don’t forget to pack a medical emergency manual so you know how to use everything! By being prepared, you can ensure that you and your family members will be safe if an earthquake strikes.

Prepare for Gas Leaks and Identify Fire Hazards

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Gas leaks are among the primary reasons fires break out during natural disasters. Thus, it’s essential to install manual or automatic shutoff valves at the input of the line and before it feeds the meter.

Additionally, you should keep fire extinguishers near your kitchen and beside the exit points of the house. As you save up water for drinking and sanitation, it’s also a good idea to keep some aside for putting out small fires.

Get Away from Power Lines

When an earthquake occurs, the shaking can damage electrical lines and overhead lighting fixtures. If you’re near a power line when the earthquake hits, it’s important to get away from the line as quickly as possible.

Once the shaking stops, stay away from the line until a trained professional can check it for damage. The same goes for overhead lighting fixtures. If a fixture falls during an earthquake, it could create an electrical hazard.

So, if you’re near one when the earthquake hits, move to a safe location and wait for the all clear before approaching it again.

Keep Survival Kits in Various Locations

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People never know where they’d be when an earthquake happens. That’s why it’s wise to keep a survival kit in the most frequented locations. Also, you might want to prepare duffle bags for quick action, in case you have to leave the house in a rush.

Homes top the list, naturally, but offices and cars are also places where a person could be stranded. And having sufficient food, water, first-aid kits, and other amenities could be a true lifesaver at these moments of distress.

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Earthquake Preparedness in the Middle of the Incident

There’s a saying that we don’t rise to the demands of a dire situation, but often fall to our basic skills. In other words, we resort to the habits we’re used to. Thus, being well trained to act once you start feeling the rapid shaking.

At Home

If you can reach the gas valve then go for it and turn it off. Then, try to look for a solid table or desk and hide under it. Doorways are no longer sturdy structures, and you could be around other sliding objects.

Avoid using elevators, standing in a crowded room, or being around windows. These are by far the most dangerous places.

Take cover and crawl under a sturdy table or desk. If you can’t find one near you, stay away from windows and stay near an interior wall or against an inside wall.

Down the Street

If you’re running errands and the world starts shaking, then steer clear from power lines, billboards, trees, traffic lights, and poles of any kind. Also, don’t stand on or near a manhole. Look out for falling debris and other debris.

Bear in mind that people could really panic at these times, so drivers and pedestrians might not act in predictable manners. Just be more careful than usual.

Find a safe spot that’s far from all the above risk factors, and crouch low near the ground. This would minimize the chances of falling and getting injured.

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By the Beach

Earthquakes often create seismic waves that could build up into tsunami waves. This horrific event has already happened in Asia several times causing varying levels of devastation. One of them is Japan’s tsunami of 2011.

Thus, if you’re lounging on a nice beach, or live around the coast, then seek elevated ground right away.

Earthquake Preparation After the Event

Earthquakes last for minutes each time, but they could cause devastation beyond the imagination in this short duration. It’s also customary to get aftershocks and tremors after a major earthquake.

Thus, emergency preparedness should continue for a while to deal with any upcoming events or current damages.

Seek Safety

Expect aftershocks after the main shock. So, wherever you are, your first priority should be to find a safe location. Stay away from damaged buildings. Look for access to food, water, and warmth.

Get in touch with the official government organization or the American Red Cross that could provide assistance if you need one.

Avoid turning on the gas after an earthquake, get in touch with the gas company and let them do it. Stay away from the gas line especially if you smell gas.

Assess Earthquake Damage

Your house might’ve suffered some damages like broken glass, water leakage, or a broken gas lines. It’s best to take stock of all that right away.

If you can perform quick fixes, do that right away. Also, remove any shards of glass or other shrapnel to avoid unnecessary injuries to anyone.

Provide Medical Assistance

It’s finally over. The shaking stops but the danger is not over yet. There is a high risk of aftershocks, and many injuries can occur in the aftermath of an earthquake. It’s important to be prepared to provide medical assistance to family members as soon as possible.

One of the most common injuries after an earthquake is cuts from broken glass. If someone does sustain a cut, clean it immediately and apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

With a little creativity, you can often find everything you need right in your own closet. For instance, a long sleeved shirt can be easily ripped into strips and used as bandages.

Another common injury is bruises from falling objects or being thrown against walls. These can be painful, but usually don’t require medical attention unless they are large or appear to be deep. Apply ice to the area to help reduce swelling.

If someone has more serious injuries, it’s important to get them medical attention as soon as possible. Get in touch with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention right away.

If this happens, it’s important to stay calm and follow any instructions you may have been given in advance about how to provide medical assistance.

In some cases, you may need to perform CPR or use other life-saving techniques until help arrives. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your family members receive the medical assistance they need after an earthquake.

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Look for the Survival Kit

Find the survival items and try to give your family a sense of security by providing food, drinks, warmth, light, and some form of communication.

Young children and older people are particularly prone to anxiety attacks. So pay special attention to them.

Deal With Any Small Fires as Soon as They Occur

Fires, gas or water leaks, and other damages are quite possible during earthquakes. Try to deal with these issues early on before they get bigger and become unmanageable.

Bear in mind that the emergency, fire department, and police services might not be available for 10-20 days after a natural disaster.

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In Conclusion

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Earthquake preparation might sound like an ominous or extra cautious measure. But in fact, it’s an essential procedure to keep yourself and the people around you safe and sound.

Log on to various gov websites and official websites of agencies like the American Red Cross and grab emergency information that you might need in case of emergency.

There are some basic recommendations, like keeping a survival kit, but we prefer to go the extra mile. Getting the house fortified, bolting the shelves in place, and having the right insurance policy are all wise actions that don’t cost much, and save a lot more.