Estimates indicate that anywhere up to one million earthquakes take place each year, although most are so small in magnitude that we don't even notice them. On average, the truly dangerous earthquakes that measure at magnitudes of 8.0 and greater only take place every ten years or so - but when they happen, they can cause mass destruction. In fact, research suggests that an average of around 10,000 people each year die as a result of exposure to earthquakes. Huge natural disasters in recent years have drawn attention toward the need to prepare for earthquakes and other serious problems. However, it can be difficult to secure your home, and your family, against such an unpredictable force. Fortunately, there are at least a few things that you can do to effectively plan for the worst.

Step 1: Have an Earthquake Readiness Plan

No matter the natural disaster at hand, one of the most crucial things you can do to protect your family from catastrophe is to establish a plan. Ensuring that each member of your family understands exactly what they need to do during an earthquake will reduce the chances that misunderstandings or confusion might lead to further danger. Remember, during an earthquake, you and your loved ones will only have seconds to seek out safety, which means that having a plan of action is crucial. Communicate with your family about earthquake safety in advance, and practice drills regularly that include the specific steps involved in "Drop, Cover, and Hold On!" Your plan should also include the following steps:
  • Storing a type-ABC fire extinguisher in an easy-to-access location
  • Knowing the location of your main fuse box, circuit breaker, or electrical switch
  • Placing several flashlights in areas around the home
  • Learning as much as you can about your geographical risk level for earthquakes

Step 2: Examine Your Home for Structural Weaknesses

Once you have a plan laid out on paper that both you, and your family can easily follow, it will be time to inspect your home for risk factors. This means being structurally aware of areas where your home isn't anchored to the foundation, walls that are weak, or unbraced pier-and-post foundations. If you find weaknesses throughout the structure, your best bet is to call for professional help, or speak to your landlord. As for home contents, ensure all items that could break, fall, or move as a result of an earthquake are properly secured. This means examining each room of your home for tall, heavy furniture - like bookcases and dressers, and appliances or electronics such as fridges and water heaters. Remember to ensure all dangerous kitchen appliances are appropriately tethered to the walls.

Step 3: Store Essential Items in a Safe

Your safe may be the number one way you protect yourself against theft and burglary, but it can also be useful in the event of a natural disaster too. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it would take around three days or longer to aid victims after an earthquake. In other words, storing an emergency 72-hour kit for your family within your home safe can help to ensure that you have the things you need most should disaster strike - from batteries and water, to medicine and other necessary supplies. Tuck copies of essential documents like insurance policies and IDs into your safe too, alongside a list of anything you might want to grab if you need to leave the house instantly, such as hard-drives. You may also need to prepare a "go bag" in case your home becomes uninhabitable due to the quake.

Step 4: Protect Yourself During the Earthquake

Each family member within your home that is old enough to follow instructions should know your earthquake plan inside out. This means that you'll need to rehearse steps on a regular basis, including the Drop, Cover, and Hold method. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to panic. Make it a habit to hold drills once a month, and when an earthquake does strike, remember to drop to the ground on all fours, cover yourself under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold your position until the shaking subsides. Ensure that each person in your house knows to find safety instantly when an earthquake hits - rather than attempting to run outside or retrieve personal belongings.

Step 5: Regroup After the Shaking Subsides

Finally, be aware that the moments after an earthquake are crucial. Aftershocks are common, so prepare for additional shaking after the initial attack subsides. When you can move, do so cautiously, and check your home for dangers. Seismic events can sometimes trigger fires when power lines fail and electrical wiring becomes damaged, so check for breakages, gas leaks, and other dangers. Remember to clean hazardous spills immediately so that chemicals cannot begin to mix and cause respiratory problems, and regroup with your family to examine each member for injuries.

Preparation is Key

Earthquakes can present a terrifying experience, but when you take the proper safety precautions, you can take steps to limit that fear through careful organization and planning. Remember, while it's tough to prepare entirely for a natural disaster, good planning can mean the difference between life and death.
Earthquake safety