What to Do Before, During, and After an Earthquake

There are many different things you should and shouldn’t do when an earthquake strikes. But, just as important, are some things you can do before an earthquake and afterward. Knowing what those things are might save your life or the life of someone you love. Let’s take a closer look at what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

1: What to Do Before an Earthquake

The thing is, there’s no way to predict when an earthquake will hit (at least not yet). So the most important step in earthquake safety is to always be ready. If you live near a fault line, you should follow these steps so you are ready just in case. (Consider every moment until an earthquake strikes the ‘before’ time.) The steps for preparation include:

What to do during an earthquake

Take a First Aid Course

You never know if someone you love, a neighbor, or even a stranger could sustain an injury during an earthquake. Knowing first aid – including CPR, making a tourniquet, controlling bleeding, etc. – could be very useful. In fact, it could even save the life of your spouse, child, or friend. Most community colleges in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have first aid courses, or you could take a course online. 

Learn How to Turn the Gas, Water, and Electrical Off 

This earthquake preparation task is critical, especially the gas. The thing is, after an earthquake, power lines, water pipes, and electrical wires could incur damage or be completely severed. If it’s water, you could flood your entire house or apartment. Damaged electrical wires could electrocute you. The gas line? That’s a whole different story and could cause a devastating explosion and fire. Knowing where and how to turn off all three is critical when living in the northwest.

What to do during an earthquake

Have a Family Earthquake Plan

Sure, if an earthquake happens at 3. AM n the morning, everyone should be home. But, if it happens when the kids are at school and parents at work, that’s a whole different situation. To solve it, having a plan for meeting after an earthquake is a good idea. For example, your kid’s high school (where you might have to stay anyway) is a good choice. The location isn’t as important as the plan, especially since cellphone service might not work after an earthquake. 

2: What to Do During an Earthquake

When an earthquake is happening, it’s, frankly, scary as heck, so knowing what to do ahead of time is critical. That way, even though you’re terrified, you’ll be able to do things that might save your life. Indeed, practicing what to do during an earthquake is never a bad idea, especially if you have children. Below are a few of the best things to do (and not do) when an earthquake is still shaking:

Stay as Calm as Possible

Staying calm might be the most difficult thing to do when an earthquake is roaring, but it’s essential. Many folks are hurt or killed simply because they lost their cool (so don’t do that). Also, the calmer you stay, the calmer the people (and children) around you will stay.

What to do during an earthquake

If Inside, Move to a Safe Spot

The safest spot inside is in a doorway, as the framing is stronger than a regular wall. If you’re inside a building, stand against a column. Don’t stand near windows or anything with glass, including large picture frames. Some recommend getting under a desk or table, but you might be unable to move if something falls on it. You will also want to avoid standing near unsecured shelves because items will fall.

If Outside, Move to a Safe Spot

Some people believe being outside during an earthquake is the safest, but, in reality, it can be just as dangerous. Severed power lines, falling light poles, street signs, and other things can severely injure you. It’s best to move away from large buildings, also. Concrete, bricks, and glass can fall off during an earthquake and hit you. If you are outside, you’ll want to find a big open space to limit the possibility of trees, electrical lines, or anything else falling near you.

If You’re Inside, Stay Inside

Many people make the mistake of trying to get outside during an earthquake. Statistically speaking, though, that’s a bad choice. Many people get hit by falling debris doing exactly that and even going from one room to another. 

Do Not Use an Elevator

If you happen to be in a building with an elevator, definitely avoid it. The elevator will likely stop, which could trap you inside for hours or even days. Even worse, the cables could snap, which would put you in great peril. During an earthquake, it’s always best to use the stairs. Even better, stairwells are highly reinforced and thus safer during an earthquake.

Stop your Car and Stay Inside

While it might seem contraindicated to stop driving your car during an earthquake, it’s a better choice. Also, experts recommend staying inside your car, which makes sense. Your car can protect you from all but the heaviest things and is a good refuge during an earthquake.

Don’t Use Anything with a Flame

We talked earlier about knowing how to shut off the gas in your home or apartment. Until you’re 100% sure it’s safe, don’t use candles, lighters, or your kitchen stove (if it’s gas).

3: What to Do After an Earthquake

Many people get injured after an earthquake, thinking everything is safe because the shaking has stopped. The reality is that many things can still cause you harm shortly after an earthquake strikes. That’s why you need to know what to do afterward, including:

  • Check yourself for injuries
  • Provide first aid for anyone nearby that needs it.
  • If you smell gas, open as many windows as possible before leaving your house, apartment or work.
  • If you can, leave the home, apartment, or building you’re in. 
  • Follow your family’s plan and meet at the designated meeting area.
  • Stay away from the coast to avoid tsunamis.
  • If your home, apartment, or work location is severely damaged, don’t go back inside.
  • Locate your Emergency Kit and have it ready.
  • Use the radio in your emergency kit to listen to local news and emergency instructions.

Use a Storage Unit for Emergency Supplies and Food

Keeping food and emergency supplies on hand is a great idea if you live in a big home. However, that’s easier said than done if you live in a relatively small apartment. In that case, renting a storage unit from Northwest Self Storage is a good choice. A 5 x 5 storage unit, for example, can hold an enormous amount of food and emergency supplies. If you’re into emergency planning, a storage unit filled with supplies and food is the ultimate in emergency preparedness.

This post was originally published on 11/28/2018. It was updated on 08/24/20222.

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