Urban Survival Guide – How to Survive an Earthquake

So what is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is one of natures most destructive phenomena, it can strike at any time without warning. It may never happen in your life time, or it can occur right now while reading this article. Earthquakes are the result of friction from tectonic plates as they shift and release tension along their fault lines. Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world but are most common along the edges of the Pacific ocean. If you live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean it would be wise to plan and prepare a kit for an earthquake as the chances of it occurring in your locality is significantly higher.

Earthquake Survival Guide

What to do Before an Earthquake
Although there will be no prior warning to an earthquake there are several things you can do right now to better you and your families chances of survival. By doing the following items now, you’ll have mitigated the many problems that would be faced by those unprepared.

  • Create an emergency disaster plan with your family: make a list of important phone numbers, addresses and contact information for family, friends, and emergency services. Plan out rally points and travel routes to plan A, B, and C locations. Also discuss signs you can leave at locations so that other family members will be able to find you. Once you’ve covered all potential scenarios, condense the information and create laminated cards that each member of the family/friends can keep close at hand in their wallet/purse.
  • Cache food, water, gear, and other important supplies in and around your city: By caching supplies in waterproof containers in various locations you no longer have to be dependent on home supplies. This is important in the event that your house/building collapse or you no longer have access to your home. You can have a year’s supply of food stockpiled away in your house but it would be useless if the earthquake collapses the structure around it. When caching your supplies be sure that no one is around, and that no one will be able to find it. Be sure to also bury the cache in a location that will be easy to remember, have markers or systems to know exactly where each cache is buried taking into account that the surrounding area could be altered after a disaster.
  • Stockpile a month’s worth of food, gear, and supplies: the store shelved will be picked clean soon after an earthquake leaving those unprepared to grow hungry and desperate. By having an ample savings of food and urban survival supplies, you protect you and your family from having to fight other for food and other essentials. While others are out searching food, you can set up defenses, and be thankful your family has food to eat.
  • Fasten heave objects to prevent falling: heavy object such TV’s, paintings, bookshelves, and tools stored in high places should be secured tightly to the walls to prevent them falling during an earthquake.

What to do During an Earthquake
If you’re inside, forget what you’ve been taught in schools, do not get under a table or desk! The idea that it’s safer under your desk is a myth and has been disproved countless times by tests and observations from disaster relief specialist. Instead of getting under a desk, you’ll want to get in between two heavy objects that are close to each that won’t compress under heavy weight, or get up against a heavy object. Ideal common objects would be strong counter tops, sturdy cabinets, heavy furniture, and etc. after you get into a safe place, tuck your legs in, keep your head down, eyes closed, and hands over your head. If you’re near an exit, leave the building but consider that most injuries during an earthquake occur when people rush to leave an exit. Earthquakes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, so it’s usually best to just stay in the first safe place you find and remain there.

If you’re outside, stay outside. Get away from power lines, tall buildings and run towards open ground. Falling glass and other falling debris can be deadly and must be considered when looking for safe ground. If no open ground is nearby, you may consider getting under a tree, or heavy parked vehicle as they’ll break the fall of broken glass and other objects.

If you’re in a moving vehicle, stop by the side of the road as fast as safety permits and remain there until the earthquake stops. Before exiting the vehicle, check to see if any power lines have fallen on or around your vehicle and observe the integrity of the structures around you.

If stuck under debris there are several things you should do. Avoid using a lighter, or lighting a match as it may ignite combustible fumes. Cover your nose/mouth with a handkerchief or clothing to prevent yourself from inhaling too much dust. Avoid screaming and use it only as a last resort as you breathe in dangerous amounts of particles in the process. Tap on pipes/metal/walls using SOS Morris code to alert rescue workers of your existence. SOS in Morris code is 3 short, 3 long and then 3 short again (…—…).

What to do After an Earthquake
After an Earthquake you must consider aftershocks, tsunamis, collapsing/damaged structures, broken gas/water pipes, and fires. Get to a safe place outside the building and survey the situation, find your family/friends/neighbors that are close at hand and determine the next course of action. Before re-entering the building you must smell/listen for leaking gasses. If you suspect a gas leak, open a door/window and do not enter the building, immediately call the gas company so that they may inspect the damage. After an earthquake, proceed with extreme caution until you absolutely know it’s safe. If you suspect a potential tsunami get to higher ground immediately.