You’re enjoying a beautiful sunny day outside when suddenly the ground starts shaking.
You’ve been feeling the tremor for about ten seconds now and it’s still going strong.
Panic takes over and you don’t know if you should hold on to something, take cover or run for your life.
Earthquakes can take place all of a sudden. They can surprise you at any given time and place.
To mitigate the risks, it’s important to know what to expect, how to act, as well as the first actions to take after the quake stops.
Regardless if you’re living near a fault line or not, this information is useful because you’ll never know when and where an earthquake will catch you.
What to Expect
This question relies heavily on the type of quake you’ll be experiencing.
During a moderate earthquake, if it surprises you in a room, objects around you will start shaking and you’ll hear a mild rattle sound.
If the quake’s intensity is above moderate, then things could fall off their shelves and pictures could drop off the walls.
If you’re outside, you may experience a slight quiver beneath your feet.
These types of earthquakes are frequent and there’s little reason to worry about them.
They usually don’t last longer than a few seconds and your only objective should be steering clear from objects and areas that have the potential to fall on you.
But if you’re dealing with a sizable quake, then things will be slightly different.
This type of phenomenon can last as long as several minutes.
You’ll feel the floor or ground beneath your feet shaking violently and gradually getting stronger, based on the magnitude of the quake and how far you’re located from the epicenter (the place where it occurs).
If you’re further from the source, you might see buildings wobble and hear a turbulent sound.
Regardless of your distance from the center, you’ll experience a back and forth motion, similar to when you’re at sea.
You’ll be prone to experiencing dizziness and movement impairment for the duration of the quake.
While the interior of houses or single-story buildings will shake violently, if you’re on the upper floors of a multi-story building, you’ll experience more swaying than shaking.
Heavy objects in the room can slide from wall to wall and smash or fall with a bang.
Loosened light fixtures, as well as ceiling panels, could fall and windows may also break.
The fire alarm will be triggered and the power grid will likely malfunction, so in most cases, you’ll have no power available.
How to Act
If a violent quake surprises you indoors, then your quick and swift reaction could make the difference between a big scare and injury or death.
Don’t attempt to go outside! Instead, look for solid furniture to hide underneath and duck with your hands over your head and face.
Grab on firmly to the object you’re sitting under.
Avoid finding cover near windows and shelves.
In case there’s no furniture around, quickly distance yourself from the outer walls – move towards the interior of the room and crouch near an inner wall if possible.
Don’t face a window directly if you’re sitting near one.
If you’re in your vehicle, pull over to the side of the road where there’s nothing that can harm you and make sure you’re not blocking the road so authorities can cross swiftly.
Don’t get out of your vehicle.
Steer clear of bridges, overpasses, underpasses, utility poles, tall buildings and anything else that may collapse.
Turn on the radio and follow the instructions of the authorities.
In case power lines fall on top of your car, remain inside and place a note on the window asking for assistance.
How to Tackle the Aftermath
After an earthquake is over, you’ll have to keep your cool at all times. If you’re already out of harm’s way, assist others who may be in need of help.
Find a radio and keep it on to remain up to date with everything that’s happening.
Debris may still fall. If you have protective equipment (sturdy shoes, protective helmet) equip them asap to prevent any injuries.
Inspect your house for structural damage. If it looks unsafe, then don’t go inside as it may collapse and trap you inside.
Grab your bug-out (emergency) bag.
You should have one in the house and one in your vehicle. The latter acts as a back-up in case the one inside the house becomes trapped between debris.
To prevent your emergency kit from getting stuck, place it somewhere easily accessible, such as inside your garage or somewhere outside.
Your bug-out bag should contain all the essentials needed to survive for at least 72 hours or until the situation stabilizes.
Shelter and medical and food supplies should be available in your bag, along with a flashlight, knife, hygiene and a portable radio.
It’s important to have an emergency plan in place before any major earthquake surprises you.
Don’t forget to share this plan with your family, along with your bug-out bags’ locations.
Don’t forget that preparedness is the key to survival.