Earthquake preparedness security for your home
Earthquakes have been happening for millions of years. These natural occurrences can wreak havoc on cities and towns, especially on people who are not properly prepared. Understanding earthquakes as well as their effects can help people better survive and thrive when one happens. There are approximately seventy earthquakes each year worldwide, and 41 of the 50 U.S. states have the potential for one at any given time. Protecting your family and home in the event of an earthquake is essential, particularly if you live in more earthquake-prone areas.
What is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens when the earth begins to shake and shift very quickly. It can cause deep cracks in the earth's surface and disrupt human-built structures. When one strikes, there can be serious injuries and even death if people are not ready. In addition, earthquakes can cause water and gas lines to burst, power lines to go down, and highways to be destroyed. Entire buildings can collapse. Sometimes, even things like flooding, tsunamis, fires, avalanche, and landslides can occur as a result. This makes an earthquake even more dangerous.
How are Earthquakes Caused?
Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates beneath the surface begin to shift and move. This process has been happening for millions of years, and sometimes it is just not noticeable. When the plates run over the top of one another, it can cause an earthquake. The plates can also begin to break apart, which is what often causes the shaking feeling. Most often, this happens near the boundaries of the plates, which is sometimes referred to as a fault line. It can also happen away from the boundaries.
Planning for an Earthquake
Since earthquakes cannot be predicted like many weather issues including hurricanes, it can be very difficult to plan for them. If you live in a part of the world where earthquakes are more common, there are some things you can do to prepare. First, determine the safest place in your home where everyone should gather during the earthquake. This is usually the center of the home or at least underneath a sturdy piece of furniture like a table. Learn how to position yourself so you have the least amount of rubble or objects falling on you. Cover your head with your arms to prevent facial and head injury. Talk to your family about this and practice it twice a year so that if it happens, you're better prepared. It is also a good idea to talk to your insurance company and determine what earthquake coverage you may have or need to get.
Home Protection During an Earthquake
While it is almost impossible to guarantee your home won't be damaged during an earthquake, there are things you can do to minimize that damage. After the earthquake, turn off all gas lines going to the home to prevent fire. Also turn off your water until you can confirm there are no burst pipes. This will prevent unexpected flooding. Make sure no one goes near broken glass if windows have been broken to avoid getting injured. Make sure your homeowner's insurance policy will cover damage and reconstruction of your home.
What you can do During an Earthquake
The most important thing you can do as an earthquake is happening is to take cover immediately. Do not panic, and make sure everyone is underneath a solid structure that will not collapse. Stay far away from things like trees, power lines, and buildings if possible. Remember that the earthquake will usually not last long and it should be over within a few seconds to a few minutes. Avoid crouching near windows. Hold on as tight as you can to your protective cover such as a table. If you're in bed, do not leave. Simply lie there and place as many pillows over your head as possible. Protecting your head is essential, as head injuries are one of the most common earthquake-related injuries. If you're near water, move to higher ground immediately.
What you can do After an Earthquake
After the earthquake is stopped, check to make sure everyone is alright first. Call for medical assistance if you witness anyone who has been injured. Make sure you've eliminated any possible fire hazard, and attempt to put out fires if possible as soon as you can. If the building is not structurally sound, get everyone outside immediately. Make sure all pets are safe as well. Monitor things like leaking pipes and gas lines. Be prepared for aftershocks, as they are almost always a guarantee after an earthquake. Take photos of any damage, as you may need them later for insurance purposes.
Other Disaster Preparedness Information
- Drop, Cover, and Hold - Here is more information about handling an earthquake when it happens.
- Haiti: Before and After - This slideshow illustrates Haiti before and after it had a major earthquake.
- Seismic Monitor - Take a look at a real-time, worldwide seismic monitor.
- The Great Japan Earthquake of 1923 - Learn about one of the most powerful earthquakes in recent memory.
- Live Earthquake Map - Check out this live map that shows all earthquake activity.
- Alaska: Recent Earthquakes - This log shows all recent earthquake activity in Alaska.
- Fast Facts - This page has a timeline and quick facts about earthquakes and ones that have happened in the past.
- When the Ground Moves - This page has some good information for kids.
- For Parents (PDF) - This document has some good tips to help parents and kids cope after an earthquake.
- Earthquake 3D - Click here to see how you can look at an earthquake in 3D!
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