Recent continuous seismic activity in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands has kindled public awareness about earthquake preparedness; therefore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges residents to become “earthquake prepared” by seeking information and implementing a few safety measures.
“All this seismic activity, especially the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake felt throughout the islands, reminds us how vulnerable we are to the devastation and destruction an earthquake can cause,” said FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division Director Alejandro De La Campa. “These events convey an important message: we have to be ready for all hazards, including earthquakes, which can occur at any moment. Earthquakes happen without warning, and once they do, it’s too late to prepare for them. Taking simple steps, such as reviewing earthquake safety tips and updating your home emergency plan can be life-saving,” he said.
Studies show that most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. Individuals can prevent injuries and protect their property by taking the following steps:
Before an earthquake occurs:
• Create a personal or family plan and practice it. Identify things that you will need for 72 hours or more.
o Basic Disaster Supplies Kit – recommended items:
Three-day supply of non-perishable food
Three-day supply of water — one gallon of water per person, per day
Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper)
Matches and waterproof container
Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a can opener
Photocopies of credit and identification cards
Cash and coins
Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eye glasses, contact lens solutions, and hearing aid batteries
Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers
Copies of important documents such as insurance policies, deeds and property records
Other items to meet your unique family needs
• Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these things can fall over, causing damage or injury.
• Secure items that might fall, such as televisions and computers. Falling items can be a major cause of damage or injury in a quake; install strong latches or bolts on cabinet doors to prevent the contents from flying out during the quake.
• Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches, on bottom shelves.
• Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes frequently knock things off walls, causing damage or injury.
• Strap the water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from damage and leaks.
• Bolt down any gas appliances. After an earthquake, broken gas lines frequently create fire hazards.
• Install flexible pipefittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings will be less likely to break.
• Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make small problems bigger.
• Check to see if your house is bolted to its foundation. Homes bolted to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during an earthquake. Homes that are not bolted have been known to slide off their foundations, and many have been destroyed because they were uninhabitable.
• Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer who can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage. Ask for strengthening tips for porches, front and back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports and garage doors.
• Consider buying earthquake insurance. Ask your insurance agent about adding earthquake coverage to your current policy.
When an earthquake hits, what to do if you’re indoors:
• Drop to the ground;
• Take Cover by getting under a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture. If there is none around to get under, get down near an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands; and
• Hold on to the furniture or to your head and neck until the shaking stops.
• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
• Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
• Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
• Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
When an earthquake hits, what to do if you’re outdoors:
• Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
• Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.
For more information on earthquake safety, including what to do before, during and after an earthquake, and how to check for earthquake hazards in your home, visit http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/ and www.ready.gov.