An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock as it releases strain that has accumulated over a long time. Unlike hurricanes and some other natural hazards, earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning.
While earthquakes are sometimes believed to be a West Coast occurrence, there are actually 45 states and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes including the New Madrid fault line in Central U.S. The August 2011 East Coast earthquake, centered in Virginia, showed that it is impossible to predict when or where an earthquake will occur, so it is important that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.
- Find out more from Ready NoVa about how to create your own emergency preparedness plan online.
Preparing Your Home
There are things you can do to prepare your home to make it safer to be in during an earthquake and more resistant to earthquake damage. They include:
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.
During an Earthquake
Drop, Cover & Hold On
Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
Drop to the ground; take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
Stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls
More information on how to protect yourself, your family and your property from earthquake damage is online from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.