Earthquakes are the result of sudden releases of energy in the Earth’s crust which create seismic waves. These waves shoot through the Earth’s core, creating shaking and sometimes fracturing of the ground. As a result, anything which sits on the surface is in danger of falling apart or breaking.
Luckily, earthquakes usually occur near major fault lines, such as the San Andreas Fault in California. This does not make them any less severe or destructive. It does, however, offer us the ability to prepare for their occurrence. Much like hurricanes; earthquakes tend to repeatedly occur in the same areas. This means that disaster protocols in those regions will usually be of above average efficiency. If you live in one of these regions, you should still take note of some earthquake safety tactics. Keep the following points in mind, as many of them go against the faulty lessons many of us have been taught.
Never use the “duck and cover” approach, this is how people get crushed under pieces of falling roof and ceiling tile. Find a large fixture like a bed or a desk and crouch on the floor. next to it like an animal. Under no circumstances should you hide underneath anything. Ducking under a desk or a bed will just lead to you getting crushed beneath them. Ducking next to a large item or piece of furniture will increase the likelihood of that item absorbing the heavy blows, instead of you.
If there is a choice, hide in a wooden structure, over one made of steel or brick. Wood splinters easily and usually will not crush anyone. Falling brick, steel or any sort of metal, on the other hand, will crush human bodies in an instant. Wood is usually very light, as well. Few houses today are made out of solid oak or maple trees. The processed wood materials used in houses, such as particle board, are very soft and pliable. They rarely break into large pieces and even though splinters can hurt, they usually will not kill or maim.
The next precaution to take is making sure you stay out of doorways and off of staircases. When doorjambs fall, they can cut up the people who stand in doorways, like a slicer would bread. Staying out of doorways is one of the best ways to prevent serious injuries, if you are in a collapsing building during an earthquake.
Stairs are the most likely part of the building to collapse in an earthquake, and they should be avoided at all costs. Since staircases are not connected to building infrastructure, earthquakes have the effect of shaking staircases into the rest of the building, and vice versa.
As a result of this “rubbing”, the stairs take the brunt of the damage. They have the ground fracturing beneath them and the rest of the structure, crashing into them, as well. Hordes of panicky people running on stairs can also weaken them quickly. Avoid stairs, if at all possible.
The best thing to do if you are inside of a building during an earthquake, in fact, is to get out immediately. You can never guess if and when a structure will collapse. It is always better to watch your home crumble from the outside, than to be trapped inside and have it fall on top of you.
If you happen to be in your car, use extreme caution and think about available options. Your first reaction should be to stop your car, get out and lay down on the ground next to it. This behavior will create the same environment that lying down next to a bed or refrigerator would inside of a home. You would be making yourself small and increasing the likelihood of a large nearby object absorbing the brunt of a big blow.
Great as this strategy may seem, it is far from perfect. Back in 1994, the earthquake in Northridge, California caused highway overpasses to collapse. In this situation, those laying or crouching next to their vehicles were crushed just as badly as their cars. Unwary drivers drove their cars off the edge of freeways into thin air, crashing and exploding. This is another great illustration of why earthquakes do not give clear cut options. You must be aware of your surroundings. Earthquake safety tactics greatly depend upon your location. It is the crucial factor.
The 1989 San Fransisco earthquake, not only delayed the World Series 10 days, but illustrated how earthquake safety tactics change based on location. For those who found themselves in downtown San Francisco, exiting their cars was the worst thing they could have done. Glass fractured, buildings ruptured and debris flew everywhere. the debris fell from unpredictable angles, lying down and hiding next to a car, garbage dumpster or other large object was counterproductive.
For those on the lower level of a double decker expressway, those who remained in their cars were crushed; while many of those who got out and crouched low beside their cars survived the collapse of the upper level of the expressway.
These earthquake related scenarios illustrate that there is no optimal remedy or protective strategy during an earthquake, and that each situation depends directly upon where you find yourself when the earthquake begins.
The general rule, as with all other disasters, is to try and remain calm and gauge where the nearest, safest location can be found. Once you have done so, immediately proceed to that location and make yourself as small as possible.