Last week, the earth may not have actually rumbled, but millions of people pretended like it did. Californians united to conduct the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history, the Great California Shake Out. In order to participate, individuals, families and organizations played out the scenario of “the next big one,” which came in the form of an earthquake registering 7.8 on the Richter scale.
You may be surprised to know that the most dangerous part of earthquakes is not tumbling buildings but rather common, everyday objects that get flung into the air. Therefore, your top priority should be securing objects in your workplace and home. Pay special attention to strapping top-heavy furniture and appliances to the walls, latching cabinet doors and alleviating the potential of fallen objects to become exit blockers. Use holding mechanisms like straps, Velcro, earthquake putty, etc., which can be found at hardware stores.
Be aware that despite a variety of alternative suggestions that can be found on the Internet, “Drop, Cover and Hold On” is recommended by experts as the most effective way to prevent injury in most cases.
Drop, Cover and Hold On
Drop to your hands and knees. Once the ground shakes, it may throw your balance off and make it difficult to move or knock you down altogether. This position still allows you to crawl quickly if necessary.
Cover as much of your body as you can, starting with the head and neck, by taking refuge underneath the sturdiest table or desk.
Hold On to the object you are using as a shield until the shaking stops but also taking into account the possibility of an aftershock.
What NOT to do during an earthquake and why
1. Run for the Doorway
The idea behind this popular (but generally ill-advised) response is that the doorway is the most structurally sound location of a building and thus the least susceptible to collapsing. While this is indeed the case for unreinforced adobe homes or older wood-frame houses, modern doorways aren’t built to be stronger than other parts of the building. Standing in a doorway also poses the risk of having objects collide into you and the likelihood that you will not have much leverage to steady yourself.
2. Triangle of Life
Doug Copp, the Rescue Chief at American Rescue Team International, proposed the “triangle of life” method as the safest way to survive an earthquake. His theory is based off the notion that a void gets created next to large collapsed objects (thus forming a triangular shape), and so it’s prudent to take cover near the object instead of underneath it.
Studies have found that it is nearly impossible to predict where the voids will occur because there are numerous ways a building can become damaged. Moreover, modern buildings rarely collapse and oftentimes the furniture stays intact even if they do.
This theory only holds true if there is a “pancake collapse” of the building, which means each floor pulverizes the one below in a domino effect. The chances of this occurring are extremely unlikely in developed countries.
3. Get Under Your Car
If you are driving when an earthquake happens, you might be tempted to hide underneath your car so that it can act as a barrier from whirling objects. However, your car can cave in on you! Instead, pull over safely and try to park in an area that is free from objects that could topple over you like trees, electrical wires, buildings, etc. Leave the car radio running and turn on the parking brake.
4. Get Out of Bed
If you are in bed when the ground starts to shake, don’t get out of it unless there is a heavy fixture overhead. Studies show that your chances are greatly improved if you stay in bed and protect yourself with a pillow.
5. Run to Safety
If you are inside when the earthquake starts, do not attempt to run outside. Likewise, if you are outside, don’t run inside. Running will be extremely difficult and potentially harmful if you get pushed to the ground.
The most dangerous place to be is near the exterior walls of a building due to shattering glass and debris. If you are outside, aim for the nearest open area. If you are inside, avoid kitchens and windows.
Once your organization is ready to conduct its own earthquake drill, you can use the same drill broadcast that was used during the Great California ShakeOut.
Marlia Fontaine-Weisse is the Content Manager for Preparis.