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What should I expect during an earthquake?

In The Event Of An Earthquake

Mark Benthien (Director of Communication, Education, and Outreach, Southern California Earthquake Center ) gives expert video advice on: What should I expect during an earthquake?; What should I do if I am driving during an earthquake?; What should I do if I am in a high-rise building during an earthquake? and more...

What should I expect during an earthquake?

During an earthquake you are likely to first feel a very sharp jolt, and then within a few seconds you'll feel a rolling motion, back and forth. That actually can be a much stronger, more intense motion than that initial jolt. In both cases though, items will start to fall, you'll start to have the building shaking very loudly and you'll be hearing the ground itself move as the shaking moves through it. Your building may start to really shake a lot and the contents inside start to fall. You'll have broken glass and a lot of things being spilled all over the place. You can minimize that in advance by securing the things, but you're still going to have a lot of noise and things falling around, so you need to be prepared to walk through all that afterwards.

What should I do if I am indoors during an earthquake?

First of all, if you are indoors when an earthquake happens, stay indoors. Don't move outside. That's where people get injured from things falling off the building. When you are indoors, first thing you want to do is drop to the ground. Drop before the earthquake drops you. You are not likely going to be able to walk during an earthquake. You also want to get under something heavy if possible, like a desk or table, cover your head and get down low to make sure that you are protected from things that might be falling in your home. If you are not able to get under something, get next to an anterior wall, make yourself as small as possible, cover your head and protect yourself while the shaking is going on.

What furniture can I use to protect myself during an earthquake?

During an earthquake you want to get under something that's large enough to provide you shelter from things that may be falling in the room. For example, a regular table, a desk or a coffee table. Any piece of furniture large enough for you to get under, cover yourself and hold on to it so that when it starts to move during an earthquake, you move with it.

What should I do if I am outdoors during an earthquake?

If you're outdoors during an earthquake, stay outdoors. Make sure you're not underneath power lines or other items that might fall and hurt you. If you are, then move quickly away from there. Get down low and ride out the earthquake.

What should I do if I am driving during an earthquake?

If you're driving during an earthquake, pull your car over to the side of the road. Be sure to not be under overpasses or power lines, put your car in park, and be ready to ride out the shaking. Afterwards, be very cautious as you continue to drive.

What should I do if I am in a crowded store during an earthquake?

If you're in a store during an earthquake, you want to do the same thing you'd do anywhere else: drop, cover and hold on. There may be a lot more things that could be falling on you in a store, especially if you're in a grocery store with lots of items on tall shelves. If possible, move quickly away out of an aisle to a more open space. Either way, just get down low, protect yourself, protect your head, and ride out the earthquake. Once the earthquake's over, proceed to the nearest exit, as instructed by the store personnel.

What should I do if I am in a stadium or theater during an earthquake?

If you are in a public venue like a stadium or a theater during an earthquake, you want to get down just like you do in any earthquake and drop cover and hold on, but you are going to be between the seats, between the aisles. Ensure that you are protected from large objects that are falling, like ceiling tiles or other objects that may be falling from the ceilings. Then they are more likely to hit the seats and not you.

What should I do if I am in a high-rise building during an earthquake?

If you're in a high-rise building during an earthquake, you're likely to feel the building swaying more than intense shaking. It's because the buildings are designed to sway rather than break, and the taller the building is, the more it may be swaying during an earthquake. You want to immediately move towards the center of the high-rise building, towards an interior wall; drop, cover and hold on. You don't want to be near the windows of the building because as the building's swaying, you could get thrown out. Drop, cover and hold on. Once the earthquake stops, proceed to the nearest exit and go down the stairs. Don't take the elevators.

What should I do if I am in a subway during an earthquake?

If you're in a subway and you feel an earthquake, do what you do anywhere else. Drop, cover and hold on under the subway seats, or next to them, until the earthquake stops. Once it stops, because power may be out to the subway, you may need to use the manual release lever to open the doors. Everybody should exit in an orderly fashion, go to the nearest stairs and come to the surface.

What should I do if I am in bed during an earthquake?

If you're in bed during an earthquake, stay there. Cover your head with your pillow and ride out the shaking. You're going to protect yourself from things that might be falling on you. Do not get out of bed. People who were actually in the Northridge earthquake, who did get out of bed during the shaking, were more likely to be injured as they walked or stepped onto broken glass compared to those that just stayed in bed.