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Ensuring Health & Safety after Earthquakes
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Earthquakes strike with amazing swiftness, taking entire regions completely by surprise and causing millions of dollars in damage in only a matter of seconds. In some cases there may be advanced warning, such as when an earthquake is located at sea, triggering tsunami alerts across thousands of miles of coastline, but in most cases people in earthquake areas are caught completely off guard.
It is important to be prepared in the event of an earthquake, but just as important is knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath of such a disaster. Many times, the decisions made in those first crucial minutes following an earthquake are what truly help to mitigate the disaster and keep losses to a minimum.
Tips for Staying Safe after an Earthquake
After an earthquake or any major disaster, be sure to monitor local TV and radio for continuous updates, warnings, or alerts. Earthquakes may cause fires, chemical spills, or landslides, so access to that information is critical.
Be prepared for aftershocks, many of which can be substantially intense, sometimes enough to cause further damage or bring down structures already weakened by the main tremor. These aftershocks may continue for days or weeks after the event.
Check for injuries to your family or those around you. Do not attempt to move any injured person unless they are in immediate danger from electrical wires, flooding, or other hazards.
An earthquake may break water, gas, and electrical lines, so it is a good idea to shut off the utilities to your home following a quake. If you smell gas, open all windows and shut off the main valve. Do not flip any switches. Report the leak and do not reenter the home until authorized to do so.
Report any downed power lines to the police or the utility company and under no circumstances should you approach or touch downed lines (even if they appear to be dead).
Water may not be safe to drink. This is why it is important to keep a supply of bottled water handy for emergencies. Listen for public announcements on the safety of drinking water and the integrity of the water pipes and supply in your area.
Do not use your phone for local calls (barring emergency) for at least 15-20 minutes following a quake, Often the phone lines may get overloaded, which can delay the delivery of emergency assistance.
Cooperate with local authorities. They may request volunteer aid following a quake, but refrain from entering a dangerous area unless asked to do so by local officials.
If you must evacuate, post a message in a prearranged location known only to family members, telling them where you have gone and how they can meet up with you.