An earthquake is a sudden shaking of the earth caused by the breaking or shifting of rock beneath the earth's surface. Though damaging earthquakes are rare in our area, they are not impossible. There are several fault lines in the New York/New Jersey area. You may also move or travel to earthquake prone areas, so information regarding earthquake response procedures should be part of your emergency preparedness knowledge.
Damage from a major earthquake can extend for many miles from the epicenter. Collapsed buildings, bridges and overpasses, cracked roadways, downed power lines, broken gas lines, explosions, and landslides can result. Earthquakes at sea can trigger huge ocean waves, called tsunamis, which impact coastal areas.
What to do before an earthquake:
Look for items in your home that could become a hazard during an earthquake:
Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections.
Bolt down water heaters and gas appliances (have an automatic gas shut-off device installed that is triggered by an earthquake)
Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves to walls. Brace high and top heavy objects.
Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that can be fastened shut.
Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
Check and repair deep cracks in ceilings and foundations. Get expert advice, especially if there are signs of structural defects.
Be sure your residence is firmly anchored to its foundations (many older homes are not anchored).
Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.
Know where and how to turn off electricity, gas, and water at main switches and valves.
Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
Identify danger zones in each room -- windows where glass can shatter, bookcases or furniture that can topple over, or under ceiling fixtures that can fall.
Develop a plan for reuniting with your household after an earthquake. Establish an out of town contact for household members to call.
Prepare to survive on your own for a least 3 days. Assemble a disaster supply kit. Keep a stock of non-perishable food and drinking water.
Remember, certain instructional items may not apply if you are living in an on-campus / off-campus dorm or apartment.
What to do during an earthquake:
If you are inside a building, stay inside your building until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering or exiting buildings.
If you are indoors, drop, cover, and hold on! Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench, or against an inside wall, and hold on. Stay away from glass windows, outside doors or walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture. If you are in bed, stay there, hold on, and protect your head with a pillow (unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall.
If you are outdoors, stay outside. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Do not take shelter under a bridge or overpass.
If you live in an apartment building, residence hall, or other multi-household structure with many levels:
Get under a desk and stay away from windows and outer doors.
Stay in the building (many injuries occur as people flee a building and are struck by falling debris).
Be aware that electricity may go out and sprinkler systems may activate.
Do not use the elevators.
If you are in a crowded indoor public location:
Stay where you are. Do not rush for the doorways.
Move away from tall shelves, cabinets, bookcases, and display cases that could topple over or that contain objects that could fall.
Take cover and grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and glass.
Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may activate.
Do not use elevators.
If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, or utility wires. Then proceed cautiously, watching for bridge and road damage.
If you become trapped in debris:
Do not light a match or lighter.
Do not move about or kick up dust.
Cover your mouth with a cloth or clothing.
Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you.
Use a whistle if one is available.
Shout only as a last resort -- shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure that exiting is safe.
What to do after an earthquake:
Be prepared for aftershocks. They can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move them, first stabilize their neck and back.
If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the person to open the airway to assist them to breathe.
Maintain body temperature with blankets, clothing, or other insulating material and raise the legs to help prevent shock.
Attempt to stop bleeding through the use of direct pressure, elevation, and pressure points.
Do not try to give liquids to an unconscious person.
If the electricity goes out, use flashlights or battery powered lanterns. Do not use candles, matches, or open flames indoors after the earthquake because of possible gas leaks.
Wear sturdy shoes in areas covered with debris and broken glass.
Check your home for structural damage. If you have any doubt about safety in your home, have it inspected by a professional before entering.
Check chimneys for visual damage and have them inspected by a professional before lighting a fire.
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, and other flammable liquids in your home. Evacuate the building if gasoline fumes are detected and the building is not properly ventilated.
Visually inspect utility lines and appliances for damage.
If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave. Shut off the main gas valve. Report the leak to the gas company. Stay out of the building. If you shut off the gas at the main valve, only a professional should turn it back on.
Switch off the electrical power at the main fuse box or circuit breaker if electrical damage is known or suspected.
Shut off the water supply at the main valve if water pipes are damaged.
Do not flush toilets until you know the sewer lines are intact.
Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of heavy objects that can fall from shelves.
Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies (to prevent overloading of the phone system).
Listen to news reports and monitor information sources (such as TCAlert if you are on campus).
Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
Stay away from other damaged areas unless your assistance has been requested by response agencies or you are a trained emergency responder operating with an organized team (such as a local CERT team).
If you live in coastal areas, be aware of possible tsunamis. When you receive a tsunami warning, get away from the beach and go to high ground. Bring your "GO KIT"