What To Do During an Earthquake
Don't run to a doorway unless you're pretty close already, and other tips from FEMA.
When Tuesday's tremor hit, did you instinctively stand in a doorway, and then wonder if maybe you should make a break for the outdoors? That might not be the best reaction, depending on your circumstances.
That earthquake had a magnitude of 5.8, placing it at about a VI or VII on the Mercalli scale of intensity. People situated near the epicenter saw dishes broken, heavy furniture moved, and damage to some shoddier buildings but not well-constructed ones.
Of course, Tredyffrin and Easttown are about 225 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, so this area felt only some momentary trembling. No serious damage was reported to the police or found on the roadways by PennDOT.
Still, knowing how to handle a more severe earthquake could save your life some day. Here's what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends:
- DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
- Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
- Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- DO NOT use the elevators.
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
- Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
If in a moving vehicle
- Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If trapped under debris
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.