What to do in an earthquake ?


What precautions are necessary when an earthquake strikes? What do you if you are on the road when you feel the tremors? How do you protect yourself when you are indoors during an earthquake? Check out these earthquake survival tips which can help you stay informed.

Earthquakes are easily the worst of natural disasters. Unlike natural disasters like say a cyclone that give advance warning, announcing their arrival, an earthquake always hits suddenly, without warning and sometimes with such intensity that there is no time to run out, into the open, for safety.

So, how do you ensure your safety inside a building? What precautions and safety measures must you take when an earthquake hits while you are indoors? And what do you do when you are outdoors.



Safety measures to take during an earthquake when indoors

Ensure that you follow the following safety measures when you are indoors when an earthquake rocks your city, the same way you would when trapped in a raging fire


  • Drop to the floor : Get down on the floor and take cover beside a big piece of furniture, a bed or a couch or even a sturdy table. Lie in the fetal position and cover your head for extra measure. How lying down beside a big piece of furniture is practical advice will be explained at the end of this article
  • Stay away from unsafe areas : Put a distance between yourself and anything that could break or come apart and in the process hurt you. Things like glass – fixtures, mirrors and windows, walls and doors, tall furniture like cabinets and cupboards and lighting fixtures etc
  • Get out of bed : If you are in bed when you feel the bed shake and you know it is an earthquake, quickly roll out of bed and lie down beside it. Take your pillow along, to protect your head, in case things come crashing down
  • Avoid doorways : Do not take cover or walk through doorways. Doorways within buildings are generally lightly constructed and hence are not sturdy enough to offer protection in a strong earthquake. You can stand in a doorway only of you certain of it strongly supported, by load bearing walls
  • Stay put : Once you have secured a safe spot for yourself in a building, remain there until the tremors subside. Do not try to run out in the midst of a tremor, as the stairs can rip-off and collapse crushing you under their weight. Research shows that the majority of injuries during an earthquake are sustained when those trapped inside structures try to move to a safer location within the building or try to evacuate the building, in the middle of the tremors
  • No elevators : Do not step into a lift in an attempt to scamper out of the building. An electricity outage would make the lift stop and you'd be trapped within. Sometimes the emergency backup doesn't kick in because it gets affected too. Major earthquakes can cause pandemonium with the power tripping and fire alarms turning on and the sprinkling system getting activated. Remain calm, take deep breaths and conserve your energy
  • When to run outdoors ? : Attempt to move out into the open once the tremors subside. There are bound to be aftershocks and can be stronger than the previous one. However, do not run when the tremors can be felt


The above precautions might not be the best survival guide if the building is old and dilapidated or the structure and foundation of the building weak. Strong tremors can bring down buildings that are not built strong and are not earthquake resistant.

What to do in an earthquake when you are outdoors ?

Being outdoors when an earthquake shakes the earth is perhaps one of the safest places to be. But, there can still be dangers for you to watch out for. Follow these tips when you are outdoors during an earthquake –

  • Stay outdoors : Do not attempt to run indoors to salvage something or to be safer. You are safer outside
  • Dash to a safer place : Even though you are safe outside, there is still the possibility to getting injured. Step away from buildings, don't stand beside streetlights and don't stand under or near overhead high-tension electrical cables. Buildings and streetlights have the potential of crashing on you and high-tension cables can snap and fall on you, with electricity still running through them. Standing beside buildings is dangerous as shattered window panes can pierce through you causing grave injuries. Similarly, things like outdoor air conditioning units and overhead water tanks can become loose and fall on you
  • Remain outdoors : An earthquake is always followed by aftershocks. These can at times be equally or more intense than the initial quake. The aftershocks can continue for days but become milder as time progresses. It is best that you remain in the open until the earth calms down. Earthquakes can weaken the foundations of the building. Also, the greatest danger exists right outside these structures, as they can come crashing down and the falling rubble can prove to be deadly
  • Stop vehicle : If you are riding a two-wheeler or in a four-wheeler, put the brakes on the vehicle and get off. You are safer on the ground than on/in a vehicle. Engage the parking brake before you step out/off


What to if you are in a moving vehicle when an earthquake hits ?

It is not safe to continue driving/riding when an earthquake hits. There are dangers that you may be oblivious of –

  • Falling objects from high-rise buildings can fall on your vehicle
  • Trees, lampposts, overhead high-tension cables may come crashing down on you
  • Other motorists may lose control and dash into your vehicle
  • You may lose control of your vehicle and cause damage


Here is what you must do –

Stop as quickly

  • Take all the safety precautions and bring your vehicle to a stop as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid parking under or close to flyovers, buildings, trees, lampposts, overhead high-tension cables, hoardings erected on heavy metal frames. You should basically, stop in a safe area.


When to resume your journey ?

Do not start driving until the tremors have subsided. Take stock of the situation and the damage around you, before deciding to drive. Proceed cautiously. Avoid roads that have been extensively damaged. Ramps, bridges, flyovers could have incurred structural damages, so avoid using them or traveling under/near them, especially if the intensity of the quake was severe and you can spot mangled structures in the vicinity.

What to do if you are trapped under piles of concrete ?

Buildings collapse and people get trapped in them. In an unfortunate event if you find yourself trapped under debris the first advice to you would be to stay calm. Know that help would be on the way. Do not panic, as your vitals can then be affected when that happens and it could decrease your chance of survival. Know that you are still alive and wait for the rescue team to get to you.

  • Do not move : Do not move unnecessarily, as you could rake up dust from the debris and make breathing difficult for yourself. The debris around you could also become dislodged and fall on you, injuring you
  • Cover your face : Use your hands, if they are free to cover your mouth, so you do not inhale in the particles in the air
  • Do not ignite anything : Do not use a match to light anything, as this may cause any gas in the vicinity to ignite
  • Attract with noise : If there is something that you can tap on, do so, to attract the attention of the rescuers. Shout, only as a last resort, as this would consume energy that is vital for your survival. You do not want to exhaust yourself, calling for help, when no one can hear you. You will know when the rescue teams arrive, as they'll call out and you can then respond to their calls. Until then, try to relax




Triangle of Life

The triangle of life is the empty space that is created between the floor, a big piece of furniture and the ceiling when it comes crashing down. Big, bulky furniture, invariably acts as cushions for ceilings that crash. They get compressed and prevent the concrete slabs to fall flat onto the floor, thus creating an empty space on the sides of the furniture, where you'd be better protected if you were to lie there. It is not a large space, which is why you need to remain in a fetal position.


Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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