Due to recent events in Haiti with the terrible earthquake and disaster. It is important to know that it could happen in any area or if traveling to areas with potential for earthquakes. Would you know what to do if there is an earthquake? Would you be prepared? Here are a few earthquake terms and safety tips to help you increase your awareness should you ever be in this situation.
Know Your Earthquake Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an earthquake hazard:
AftershockAn earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake.
EarthquakeA sudden slipping or movement of a portion of the earth’s crust, accompanied and followed by a series of vibrations.
EpicenterThe place on the earth’s surface directly above the point on the fault where the earthquake rupture began. Once fault slippage begins, it expands along the fault during the earthquake and can extend hundreds of miles before stopping.
FaultThe fracture across which displacement has occurred during an earthquake. The slippage may range from less than an inch to more than 10 yards in a severe earthquake.
MagnitudeThe amount of energy released during an earthquake, which is computed from the amplitude of the seismic waves. A magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale indicates an extremely strong earthquake. Each whole number on the scale represents an increase of about 30 times more energy released than the previous whole number represents. Therefore, an earthquake measuring 6.0 is about 30 times more powerful than one measuring 5.0.
Vibrations that travel outward from the earthquake fault at speeds of several miles per second. Although fault slippage directly under a structure can cause considerable damage, the vibrations of seismic waves cause most of the destruction during earthquakes.
Earthquake Safety Tips: How to Survive an Earthquake
A little knowledge and a few precautionary measures can enormously increase your chances of surviving an earthquake - or any other type of hazard. The keys are education and preparing in advance. The earthquake safety tips below will not make you an expert. However, they could make a life-saving difference if you find yourself in an earthquake situation. Invest in your personal safety by studying below.
Before the Earthquake:• Learn how to survive during the ground motion. This is described in the "During the Earthquake" section below. The earthquake safety tips there will prepare you for the fast action needed - most earthquakes are over in seconds so knowing what to do instinctively is very important.
• Teach all members of your family about earthquake safety. This includes: 1) the actions you should take when an earthquake occurs, 2) the safe places in a room such as under a strong desk, along interior walls, and 3) places to avoid such as near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture and fireplaces.
• Stock up on emergency supplies. These include: battery operated radio (and extra batteries), flashlights (and extra batteries), first aid kit, bottled water, two weeks food and medical supplies, blankets, cooking fuel, tools needed to turn off your gas, water and electric utilities.
• Arrange your home for safety: Store heavy objects on lower shelves and store breakable objects in cabinets with latched doors. Don't hang heavy mirrors or pictures above where people frequently sit or sleep.
• Anchor heavy appliances and furniture such as water heaters, refrigerators and bookcases.
• Store flammable liquids away from potential ignition sources such as water heaters, stoves and furnaces.
• Get Educated. Learn what to do during an earthquake (see below). Then you will be ready for the fast action needed. Make sure that all members of your family have this important education.
• Learn where the main turn-offs are for your water, gas and electricity. Know how to turn them off and the location of any needed tools.
During the Earthquake:
• If you are indoors, stay there. Quickly move to a safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room. Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.
• If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.
• If you are outdoors, move to an open area where falling objects are unlikely to strike you. Move away from buildings, power lines and trees.
• If you are driving, slow down smoothly and stop on the side of the road. Avoid stopping on or under bridges and overpasses, or under power lines, trees and large signs. Stay in your car.
• Move away from large entertainment centers, book shelves or other large items that could topple over on top of you.
• If you are in a car slow down and drive to a clear place from trees, bridges, or large structures. Stay in your car until the shaking stops.
After the Earthquake:
• Check for injuries, attend to injuries if needed, help ensure the safety of people around you.
• Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
• Be prepared for aftershocks they can be almost as powerful as the initial earthquake and can cause damage to already weaken structures.
• If you smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open windows and doors. If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter. Report the leak to the gas company and fire department. Do not use any open flames or electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
• Do not attempt to use an elevator.
• If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation turn off electricity at the main fuse box or breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity you should call a professional to turn it off for you.
• Beware of falling debris as you exit and for open or exposed electrical power lines.
• If in a car proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If trapped under debris
• Do not light a match.
• Do not move about or kick up dust.
• Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
• Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
Hopefully none of you ever have to experience this, but maybe knowing and preparing what to do "if and when" it should happen. Safety is a continuing journey, not a final destination.