Earthquakes are caused by sudden movement in the Earth's plates and they can cause tremendous property damage and loss of life. If you live in an area susceptible to them, first make sure your home and place of work are free from physical defects and/or potentially dangerous conditions.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded 22 quakes in 2010 that had a magnitude of 7 or larger but almost all fatalities were caused by the one that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010.
The recent 8.9 quake near Japan created a massive tsunami which as you know caused incredible devastation that we still can't fully comprehend.
The USGS estimates that several million quakes occur throughout the world each year. Most of these go undetected because they happen in remote areas or have very small magnitudes. Fortunately many of the larger earthquakes also strike unpopulated areas where damage is minimal.
1) Examine each room in your home or business to make sure heavy objects cannot fall from a shelf or cabinets. Falling objects can cause serious injury and/or death. Top heavy furniture such as bookcases should be screwed or bolted to the wall studs.
Water heaters should be secured to walls using 'plumbers tape'. Plumbers tape is simply flexible metal 'tape' that comes in a roll and is available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Furnaces and water heaters should use flexible gas/water/electrical connections. If unsure about your home, have a professional inspect your systems and make suggestions.
2) Heavy items should be stowed closest to the ground, an example would be to keep heavy kitchen items in the floor level cabinets instead of over the stove or counter tops. Pantry shelving also needs to be secured as does anything that could fall over on someone.
3) Make sure you know where to turn off utilities such as gas, electric, water, LPG, pumps, etc. Consider having an automatic shut off valve installed on your gas line. This will automatically turn off the gas in case of strong enough ground vibration. Ask your gas company for more information and recommendations.
4) Don't use elevators in public or private buildings. Carefully exit using the stairs. Stay calm. Try to help others stay calm.
5) Outside, remove any heavy tree limbs that may extend over your roof. Know where any electrical power lines are on your property so you can avoid them should they fall. Inspect your garage. Again making sure to secure anything that could fall.
6) During an earthquake take appropriate shelter. Indoors that means under a heavy table or other furniture, preferably in an interior room corner. Stay away from exterior walls, glass and outside doors. Outdoors that means staying away from anything that could fall on you.
If you are outside when one occurs, stay outside and wait till the shaking stops. Be especially careful when entering any building afterwards and be very aware that an aftershock could happen at any time.
7) Aftershocks may follow and can cause serious further damage. Don’t re-enter any structure until it is safe to do so. Take precautions. Wear a hard-hat. Wear heavy gloves and boots. Move slowly and carefully. Watch where you step. Don’t allow children or pets to enter buildings until you have determined it is safe.
8) If in a vehicle when a quake hits try to stop away from any structure, overhead power line, bridge, overpass or anything else that might fall on your vehicle. Stay in the car and wait for the shaking to end. Don't stop under an overpass.
9) Be aware of possible tsunami waves caused by earthquakes displacing large volumes of water in the ocean. Sometimes a tsunami wave can also occur in a large lake so if you have any waterfront property or live anywhere that is near water, make sure you stay informed of potential tsunamis.
For more detailed information on earthquakes including maps and statistics, please see the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program website.
more to come on Earthquakes
Other Natural Disasters