What To Do After an Earthquake

Just because the shaking has stopped does not mean the danger is over. Post-earthquake fires, gas-line breaks, falling debris, and many other hazards will continue to threaten people in the earthquake area.
  • Think before moving! Remain in a safe position until the shaking stops. Move slowly and carefully. Many serious injuries are caused by hasty or careless actions, not collapsing buildings.
  • Check for injuries. Render first aid. Do not move seriously injured victims unless they are in immediate danger. Do not use the telephone immediately unless there is a serious injury, fire or other emergency. Hunt for hazards.
  • Move slowly. Evacuate your home with caution. Use alternate routes if the primary exit is blocked. Meet your family outside in a pre-designated spot away from buildings that may be dangerous.
  • Wear shoes to protect your feet from broken glass and objects that have fallen. Remember, there may not be immediate medical assistance if you injure your feet and require treatment.
  • Be on the alert for several strong aftershocks or earthquakes. Be careful; aftershocks may cause additional damage to weakened buildings.
  • Avoid other probable dangers including fire, landslides, and flooding.
  • Use a flashlight, not a candle. Sparks, open flames, gas lanterns, or cigarettes may cause a fire or explosion if there is a gas leak.
  • Check buildings for structural damage if you must go inside. The primary earthquake could cause internal structural damage. An aftershock, although usually milder, could cause more damage. Look for severe cracks.
  • Check water supply, food storage, and first aid supplies. Carefully open cabinets. Be alert for falling objects.
  • If tap water is still available immediately after the earthquake, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, remember that you may have water available in a hot water tank (make sure water is not hot before touching it) and toilet reservoir (not the bowl).
  • Do not flush toilets if you suspect sewer lines are broken.
  • Place a HELP sign in your window if you need assistance.
  • Confine pets, as they may become more nervous after an earthquake. Contain them so they don’t get away and hurt themselves or others. Make sure they have food; water; a sanitation area; and a safe, dry place to sleep. Try to comfort them. If you have to evacuate, take them to a pre-identified pet-friendly shelter.
  • Stay put.Do not attempt to drive. Leave roads clear for emergency vehicles. Roadways may also be blocked with obstacles that make driving unsafe. Bridges and overpasses may be impassable or dangerous.
  • Turn on your battery-operated radio to listen for advisories.
  • Check utilities (water, gas, electric). If there is damage, turn the utility off at the source.
  • Check for other hazards and control them (fire, chemical spills, toxic fumes and possible collapse).
  • Check building for cracks and damage, including roof, chimneys, and foundation.
  • Never use matches, lighters or candles inside.
  • Turn on the radio and listen for emergency broadcasts/announcements, news reports, and instructions. Cooperate with public safety officials.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless there is an emergency. Keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • If buildings are suspect, set up your shelter area away from damage.
  • Work with your neighbors for a quicker recovery. Stay calm and lend a hand to others. Check on your neighbors after looking after members of your own household. Organize rescue measures if people are trapped or call for emergency assistance if you cannot safely help them.
  • Plan for evacuation in case events make this necessary. Leave written messages for other family members or searchers.
  • Beware of secondary effects. Although ground shaking is the major source of earthquake damage, secondary effects can also be very destructive. These include landslides, saturated sandy soils becoming soft and unstable, flooding of low-lying areas and tsunamis washing over coastlines.
  • If you are trapped, send a text or bang on a pipe or wall. Cover your mouth with your shirt for protection and instead of shouting, use a whistle.
  • Register on the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” website so people will know you are okay.
  • Use text messages to communicate, which may be more reliable than phone calls.
  • Know that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling upset.

REMEMBER: Many earthquake injuries are caused by panic; take your time and think before you move.

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