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Waiting For The Quake : How To React

November 05, 1989

If an earthquake strikes and you are . . .

In your home: Do not run outside (most earthquake-related injuries happen outdoors). Get away from windows, mirrors and light fixtures. Watch out for tall bookcases or china cases that might topple. Climb under a table or desk or stand in a doorway if possible. If this isn't possible, crouch against a solid wall. Get into a duck-and-cover position, using sofa cushions or pillows to protect your head.

In a car: Pull to the side of the road (if possible) and stop the car. Do not attempt to continue driving. Do not park under trees, light posts or signs. Do not park on or under a bridge. Stay inside your car and get down on the floor.

In an office: Get under your desk or in a doorway if possible. If not, crouch against a solid wall and protect your head with what is available, such as a book, notebook, large handbag, suit coat or briefcase. Many offices have fake drop-ceiling tiles that are easily shaken loose by quakes, so protecting your head with something is a must.

In a mall/store: Get away from glass store fronts. Do not head for the exits, most of which are glass. Crouch against a solid wall. If you have children, put them against the wall and drape yourself over them in a crouching position. Make as small a target as possible. Do not attempt to use escalators or elevators.

In an elevator: Most elevators will automatically stop moving when the shaking starts. When the quake stops, stomp on the floor in an attempt to get someone to hear you. If possible, escape through the trapdoor at the top of the elevator, since there is a danger of fire. In a restaurant: The safest place is under the table, since table-tops are made of sturdy material. Do not attempt to run across the restaurant if you are at a table or booth near the windows--climb under the table and protect your head. Many restaurants have objects on the walls that could fly across the room, so climbing under your own table is the best bet.

In a high-rise building: Climb under a desk or stand in a doorway. Stay clear of windows, shelves, cabinets and glass partitions. Most high-rises are built so they will sway with a quake more than you would think, but it is actually a protection to keep them from toppling. Do not run for the exit because the stairways may be broken and/or jammed with people. Do not attempt to use the elevator since the power may have failed. In a parking garage: Do not run. Crouch against a pillar or solid wall, covering your head with your purse, jacket or shopping bags. If in your car, do not attempt to drive. Stay in the car and get down on the floor .

In school: Each school is required by the state to have an earthquake-preparedness plan and to have practiced earthquake drills. Children should climb under their desks and cover their heads, and move away from windows if at all possible. The school can provide a copy of its earthquake plans to any parent wishing to see it.

In a hospital: Every hospital accredited by the Joint Commission of Hospital Accreditation is required to have an earthquake response plan and practice periodic drills. If you are a patient, you should ask what to do in the event of an earthquake, especially if you are hooked up to an intravenous bottle or other medical equipment. Also ask the hospital personnel what their evacuation plan is.

Outdoors/in a rural area: Get to where there are the fewest possible hazards from above--away froms trees, power poles, light posts, etc. Flying debris is what usually hurts people, so the fewer objects that are around you the better. In the mountains: If possible, get away from trees and rocks and into the brush, which will catch some of the flying debris. Crouch and cover your head with your pack or whatever else is handy. Steer clear of boulders, which can be jarred loose by the quake. Be aware that trails may be wiped out.

On the beach: Stay put during the actual quake--there are very few dangers on the actual beach during a quake. When the shaking stops, get off the beach because a tsunami (a wall of water that can measure up to 40 feet) may have been triggered. Grab essentials and go to the parking lot. Remember to put on shoes, because there may be a lot of broken glass.

Source: The Red Cross

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