Preparing for an earthquake: before, during and after

If an earthquake were to hit, would you know where to hide and what to do after?

B.C.’s South Coast was hit by what seismologists are calling one of the largest earthquakes in the region in years.

Before an earthquake hits

1. Have an emergency kit ready to go

Make sure you have an emergency kit near the door you’re most likely to exit, and keep it free from clutter. Rene Bernstein, marketing director for St.John Ambulance, BC & Yukon recommends keeping a kit in your car and at work as well.

The kit should hold you over for at least 72 hours and should include food, water, first aid supplies, flashlights, medication, a radio, contact lists, comfort items for children, cash and other items.

You can put it together yourself of buy an earthquake emergency kit that is already fully stocked with all the essentials.

2. Have a disaster plan

Bernstein says having a family plan is crucial — designate a meeting place for your family and how to contact each other if you are separated and cell phones aren’t working.

Know how to evacuate, where to meet and who to call. Make sure each member of the family is prepared for a number of scenarios. The province’s emergency disaster response route can be found online.

Make a plan to get home from work if roads and bridges are closed to vehicles, and have appropriate footwear to change into at work, so you can walk.

3. Secure your heavy furniture

Bernstein recommends also preparing your home in the event an earthquake hits.

Bookcases, appliances, pianos, dressers and beds can all become dislodged and cause injury. These should be fixed to the wall.

4. Put breakable and heavy objects down low

Don’t load your top shelves with items that can shatter and cause injury.

“Most people get hurt with flying or falling debris,” cautions Bernstein.

She says the kitchen is often the most dangerous room in the house during an earthquake, thanks to heavy appliances, breakable items, and sharp objects.

5. Reduce the risk from glass

Windows, mirrors and picture frames can shatter during an earthquake. Reduce your risk by securing pictures and mirrors to walls, and keeping beds and tables away from windows.

If that’s not possible, consider heavy drapes in high-risk areas, or a special film for glass.

6. Prepare your children

Parents’ instinct will be to run to children as soon as disaster strikes. However, if you are in separate rooms, it may be safer for each family member to take immediate shelter (for example, under a sturdy table).

Bernstein suggests teaching younger children a song to sing during the shaking so you know they are safe.

Make sure your children are aware of safe zones and how long to stay put (at least 60 seconds after shaking has stopped).

Children’s kits should also include items such as toys and family photographs to comfort them while they are out of the home.

7. Prepare for pets

Make a plan for food and medication for pets, as they are often over-looked in emergency planning.

8. Find your gas valve

Know where gas outlets are and how to turn them off.

During an earthquake

If you are indoors, stay indoors — do not run outside during an earthquake. Stay away from windows as much as possible and quickly protect yourself, advises the City of Vancouver.

Dive under a sturdy table, drop to your knees, cover your head and neck and hold on to the table. Don’t get up for at least 60 seconds or until the shaking has stopped.

Drop, Cover and Hold On!

If there is no desk, crouch in an inside corner of a room, avoid standing in a doorway.

If you are outside, stay outside and move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.

If you are in a vehicle, stop and park in a clear location.

The City of Vancouver offers free emergency planning workshops and also provides them upon request from community groups and businesses.

After an earthquake

Aftershocks can occur minutes, hours or days after the earthquake.

The City of Vancouver suggests that after an earthquake to move immediately to a higher ground, smell for gas, check for injuries and for others. Call for help if need be, look out for fallen power lines, fire and damaged buildings.

Keep informed by tuning into the radio, television and stay informed by signing-up for Twitter alerts.


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