After an Earthquake: What to do and what not to do
There is a lot to do after an earthquake. Many things have to be done quickly. Others will take time, but need special care. There are also things you may think about doing, but they are bad ideas. Some of this information came about the hard way.
What to do
Get Everyone Out: Being outside and away from stuff that can fall on you is a good idea. We did take the time to dress, but that’s because our clothing and shoes were by the bed. This is a good practice in earthquake country. We wrapped the girls in blankets (it happened at about 4:30 in the morning). We got them clothing after we’d taken stock, attending to all the other immediate needs.
Shut off Utilities: First, turn the water off. The water inside your home is clean. The water outside, in the pipelines, is probably not. With the water turned off, you are protecting valuable resources, including your hot water heater. That has many gallons of potable water in it.
Check your gas meter. If you smell gas, turn it off. If you don’t smell gas, leave it alone. You will want to check it after each aftershock as well.
Turning off the electricity to your home is a debatable issue. If wires have been damaged and could arc, a fire could break out when the power comes back on. However, you probably won’t know that until the power does come back on. If there is visible damage, turn it off.
Check your Neighbors: There are a lot of good reasons for doing this. An elderly neighbor may need help getting out. A young family may need help with the kids. Or, what happened to us could occur.
Having smelled gas, we turned our meter off and the one next door. That was a good thing, because she came out with a lit candle to check her water meter. This was *not* a good idea.
First Aid Kit
Break Out the Earthquake Kit: Hopefully you’ve got one and you’ve kept it where you can get to it after an earthquake. If anyone has been hurt, first aid is the first order of business. If not, turn on the battery operated radio for information. Information is a necessity. You may need to evacuate, and that information will be provided. News of bridge collapses, closed roads and other serious problems will be reported.
Eat: It’s not silly, it’s a requirement. A lot of calories have just been burned, and the food in your earthquake kit is there for a reason.
This should take care of the immediate things you need to do. Now for the harder part.
What Not to Do
Don’t light a fire: Until all are meters (not to mention gas lines) have been checked, lighting a match, cigarette, candle or other fire related device could cause a very dangerous situation.
Don’t Drive: Until you know and/or can see road conditions, driving could be dangerous. Car engines may present another hazard. If the vehicle is driven over a leaking gas line, an explosion could erupt. This happened in Northridge.
Don’t Run: With a few exceptions, running during or after an earthquake is a good way to get hurt. After Northridge, we had stuff everywhere. Cabinets had dumped their contents in hallways. The heater shifted. Every lamp in the house was on the floor. A window was broken. Giving in to panic and running could have seriously hurt someone.
Don’t Pick up downed wires: You may be thinking that this is a given, but it happened…and it killed the guy who did it.
Don’t go back inside: If there has been serious damage to your home, wait until it has been inspected before going back in. Aftershocks could cause more damage and either trap or kill you.