What to do in case of an earthquake?

Earthquakes are scary events. They don't warn; they make everything move and rumble; they make people panic. For years, we have heard hundreds of stories of death and destruction because of them. I think this makes us all face earthquakes in at a disadvantage.

Truth is that —and you might need to read this aloud— an earthquake itself is not going to kill you. A quake is just land sliding. That will not kill you. What may kill you is the weight of objects crushing you, including refrigerators, tall buildings, or (do you remember Bugs Bunny?) anvils. That said, now you will be able to understand why every single article you read about quakes around the world starts with the same two words: stay calm. Next thing to do is to look for a way to cover yourself and your head. You do need to protect yourself in case of a quake.

Quakes are measures in degree of scale, but one of the popular scales is Mercalli's. Giuseppe Mercalli was an Italian vulcanologist in the late 19th century.

According to his scale, earthquakes may go from I to XII (yes, in Roman numbers) according to the destruction they may cause:

+ I – Barely felt
+ II – Very few people will feel it
+ III – It is a slight quake felt for people, especially indoors
+ IV – This is a moderate quake. People indoors will notice it because things will start shaking.
+ V – Fragile things such as windows or dishes will likely break.
+ VI – It is felt by everyone. People will get scared and try to go out because even the heavy furniture will move or fall.
+ VII – It will even be difficult to remain standing up. Structures will be damaged.
+ VIII to XII – From destructive to catastrophic. You get it.

Facing earthquakes

The smart thing to do to face an earthquake is to take a few measures beforehand.

+ Start by getting together with the ones you live, study and/or work with to talk about this matter.
+ Prepare an emergency kit. Keep it unlocked, please.
+ Agree on what will you do and where you will go in case of an emergency. Remember your mobile phone will probably not work after a massive earthquake.
+ Please, don't forget your pets.
+ Place heavy things near the ground, not near the ceilings. Move those heavy things if necessary.
+ Motivate some similar actions at home, and in your school, factory, and office.

During the earthquake...

+ ...once again, stay calm. An earthquake is land sliding. That is not going to kill you. What may kill you are heavy things falling on your head, so cover you head!
+ If you are outside, stay outside, preferably away from trees.
+ If you are indoors, stay indoors unless you believe the building you are in might collapse (if this happens, evacuate calmly).
+ Do not wait under a doorframe. Modern buildings don't have the protection old houses had.
+ If you are in a tall building, move up to a safe distance from the outer windows. If the building collapses, it will be easier to find you there.
+ If you are in a vehicle, stop the vehicle as soon and safely as you can (safely means away from bridges and skyscrapers), leaving room for ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
+ If you are at the beach and you can get out from the water, do it; else, stay floating until it is over.
+ If you live near the ocean, get away because there might be a tidal wave in some short time.

A quake will last a few minutes and will have hundreds of aftershocks, so after an earthquake, again, stay calm. Once things are over, check whether anybody needs help around you. That's the next thing to do. Evacuate the building you are in until someone (preferably an authority) can check whether it is safe to stay in or not.

If you are healthy, help. If trapped for some reason, wait for help. Other two important things to do are to shut off gas and electricity switches to avoid fires.

Some earthquakes are strong enough to lift dust all around you. Even in those earthquakes stay calm, cover your nose with cloth, go on with the plan above, and cover your head. You have five senses, so if you can't trust your eyes, trust your ears, OK? Surviving a natural disaster is not a matter of being lucky. It is, first and above all, a matter of knowing what to do.

Knowledge + Society + Safety