Having grown up in Japan, I’d say that I’m more accustomed to earthquakes than the tornadoes we recently saw down here in Dixie. Still, some readers surely reside in quake country and know the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of dishes trembling in cabinets and the house groaning on its foundations. Preparing for an earthquake—as in having a stash of water, food, matches, batteries, and the like—is an entirely different story. This post is all about surviving the earthquake’s rough ride itself.
- If you’re indoors, stay there. Duck under a sturdy desk or table and hold tight or position yourself under a doorway. Your chances are also good in a hallway and against an inner wall. Places to avoid include windows, fireplaces, and the kitchen (too many sharp edges in there). In Japan, I saw many a report of people getting hurt by going outside their homes. Debris, glass, and shingles can plummet down angled roofs, so it’s best to stay indoors. Moreover, avoid moving downstairs, since you risk losing your balance and hurting yourself.
- If you’re outside, get away from buildings, power lines, and anything else that might collapse.
- If you’re driving, stop—but don’t slam the brakes and try to move away from traffic. Also, avoid stopping under bridges or overpasses. When the earthquake passes, watch out for glass and assorted debris on the road, especially under overpasses.
- If you’re in the mountains, beware of landslides. Admittedly, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides try to get to higher ground without getting hit by falling rocks, trees, and debris.
When the Quake Passes
- Beware of aftershocks. Don’t put yourself in any situation where you wouldn’t want to be caught if another quake started—because it might. Aftershocks plagued Sendai and surrounding areas in Japan for weeks and continue to this day.
- Recover. Authorities and help may not be on the way immediately, so check for injuries yourself. Don’t move someone who’s been gravely injured; you might worsen their injury or even cause another.
- Shut off main the gas valve if you suspect a leak (watch for broken pipes and the telltale smell). Don’t light matches, lighters, camp stoves, or electrical appliances until you’re certain there are no gas leaks.
- Shut off the power at the control box if you see evidence of damage to the house wiring.
- Avoid downed power lines, even if they’re not sparking (it doesn’t mean they’re not live).
- Clean up spilled bleach, lye, gas, or other harmful or medical materials.
- Avoid using a damaged chimney.
- Open cabinets with care, since contents will likely have shifted.
- Put on a pair of thick-soled shoes, if you can. Broken glass can be hard to see even harder to get out once they’re under your skin.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching private elementary school loans as well as private high school student loans. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.