While we typically associate earthquakes with the west coast, they can occur anywhere at any time. Faults are buried deep underground in the central and eastern regions of the United States. These areas are categorized as seismic zones and experience hundreds of small earthquakes every year, but damaging shocks can occur too. The probability for an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater in the central U.S. is between 25 to 40% in any 50-year time period, and scientists say the region is overdue for a large earthquake. February is Central U.S. Earthquake Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to brush up on preventative measures and learn about potential earthquake hazards.
While earthquakes occur suddenly with little to no warning, there are steps that can be taken to reduce vulnerability to earthquakes that may happen in the future. Most earthquake causalities result not from the actual movement of the ground, but from the falling objects and debris and secondary effects like fires and landslides.
What to do Before an Earthquake
- Create a disaster kit and store it at your home and in your car. These kits should include food, water, flashlights, portable radios, medications, cash, a first aid kid, and other necessary personal provisions. Having disaster supplies at the ready can be useful for many emergencies, not only earthquakes.
- Make a plan that outlines safe spots in every room, evacuation routes, reunions locations, the location of emergency supplies, and other pertinent information. Communicate this to the members of your household and neighborhood to ensure that everyone is ready when an earthquake strikes.
- Routinely replace perishable items such as food and medications. Regularly cleaning out expired items helps in the event of other natural disasters, such as snowstorms or tornadoes.
- Organize essential documents, including government forms of identification, emergency contacts, insurance cards, etc. Keep these items together and in a place where you could easily grab them and go. Consider earthquake insurance to minimize financial hardship.
- Identify hazards and secure movable items. Move heavy objects closer to the ground to lower shelves; keep tall furniture away from beds, sofas, or places where people often spend time; and try to keep doors and escape routes unobstructed. Most earthquake injuries are due to unsecured items like toppling bookcases.
What to do During an Earthquake
When an earthquake starts, an individual’s actions can help to avoid serious industry. In most situations, the best thing to do is to drop, cover, and hold. Stay away from windows and try to find a sturdy table or desk nearby to crawl underneath. Seeing as Earthquakes can happen anywhere, it is not guaranteed that you will be in your home or office indoors. For a list of what to do in specific situations, see here.
What to do After an Earthquake
Following a major disaster, check for injuries and damage and reconnect with others. Aftershocks can happen for several weeks after an earthquake so remain vigilant and ready to take cover. Avoid hazards like gas leaks, damaged electrical wiring, broken water pipes, and sewage spills. Contact your insurance agent to begin the claims process and take pictures of the damage to your property. Monitor local radio or television about where to get emergency aid, safety advisory, and evacuation notices. As is the case with many catastrophic natural events, recovery does not happen overnight, it is often a week or month-long process.