How to Properly Prepare for a Disaster: Are You Ready?

How to Properly Prepare for a Disaster: Are You Ready?

The United States experiences more than 1,200 tornadoes annually—four times the amount seen in Europe. In the last 100 years, we have had about 130 major earthquakes world-wide per year.  It seems like we are also experiencing more earthquakes and that they are increasing in intensity and destruction.   Earthquakes and tornadoes can cause mass destruction, completely destroy houses and businesses, shut down entire cities, leave many residents homeless, and lead to devastating injuries with vast numbers of lives lost.  Do you know exactly what to do if disaster strikes?

stormy dock

Credit Image: Neil Kremer on Flickr


What to do the moment you feel the shaking begin.  In almost every situation, you will greatly reduce your chance of injury if you immediately DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON.

DROP down onto your hands and knees before the earthquake knocks you down. This position protects you from falling but still allows you to move if you need to.  You may be able to crawl to get under a desk or the best interior wall position.

COVER your head and neck.  If possible, cover your whole body by crawling under a sturdy table or desk. If there isn’t any furniture or shelter nearby then get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.

HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck if you aren’t under a shelter) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

The main goal of “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is to protect you from falling or being knocked down and getting injured.  Also to protect you from flying objects and other hazards, and to increase the chance of you being in what is called a “Survivable Void Space” in the event the building collapses. The space under a sturdy table or desk has been proven to be the most likely to remain even when the building collapses.  You have probably seen pictures of earthquakes showing tables and desks standing with rubble all around them.

Official Rescue Teams from the U.S. and other countries who have searched for trapped people in collapsed structures around the world, as well as emergency managers, researchers, and school safety advocates, all agree that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. They say knowing how to properly prepare for a disaster, saves lives.

You need to know that the exterior walls of a building are the most dangerous place to be during an earthquake or tornado. This is why you don’t want to run inside as it is happening or try to run outside.  Doing so will put you in the most dangerous zone. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at doors and along the exterior walls.  Inside you want to avoid exterior walls, windows or glass, hanging objects, mirrors, any tall furniture, heavy items that can move, large appliances, and any cabinets or furniture containing glass or heavy objects.

 Special Circumstances

Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can and try to avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards.

Driving: Immediately try to pull over to the side of the road.  Stop the car and put on the parking brake.  If possible don’t park under an overpass, bridge or power line.  Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking has completely subsided.  Wait five minutes after the shaking  before getting out.  If a power lines land on the car, stay inside until an emergency crew can remove the wire.

In Bed:  Hold on and stay there and place the pillow over your head.  You are less likely to be injured staying in bed covered.  Broken glass and other objects on the floor can cause injury if you roll to the floor or try to move towards the door.  Remember standing up during the emergency is always a bad idea.

Stadium or Theater: Stay in your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over. Wait five minutes after the shaking before moving.  Then walk out cautiously watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

Downtown or in the City: It is safer to remain inside a building after an earthquake unless there is a fire or gas leak.  Do not use elevators. There are no open areas in most downtown areas far enough from glass or other falling debris to be safe zones.   Keep in mind glass from high-rise buildings will not always fall straight down.  The wind can blow glass in any direction.


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