Each year, 12,000 to 14,000 earthquakes are reported; that's an average of 35 earthquakes a day! California is among the 45 states at moderate to high risk for earthquakes. When earthquakes strike a populated region, they can cause extensive property damage. Buildings and bridges can collapse, and gas, water, electric and phone service can be disrupted. Earthquakes can also cause serious injuries and fatalities. Scientists cannot predict precisely when or where one will occur. It's important to know what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.
Before, During & After an Earthquake
Before an Earthquake
One if the most important things you and your family can do before an earthquake is to have a plan:
- Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another.
- Establish out-of-area contact who coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Keep copies of important documents at the house of your out-of-area contact or keep important documents and valuables in a fireproof storage box or safe deposit box.
- Prepare a disaster supplies kit, which includes emergency food and water for the home. Keep a smaller version in your vehicle. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack. View the California Department of Public Health's recommendations on what to pack.
- Know evacuation routes. Establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.
- Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served - so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have to go to a shelter.
- Don't run out of gas! Always run on the top half of the tank, not on the bottom half.
- Visit other earthquake preparation sites like this one, including: Earthquake Country Alliance, SF72, Great California Shakeout, and Santa Rosa Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE).
During an Earthquake
The most important thing everyone can do during an earthquake is to stay calm:
- If inside, take cover using the drop, cover and hold on technique. If you must move for safety, take only a few steps and stay there until the shaking stops.
- If outside, stay at least 10 feet away from any building from which window glass and other debris could fall. Move away from trees, streetlights and power lines. Crouch down and cover your head.
- If in a vehicle, slow down. Pull over or park in a location away from trees, wires, building, bridges and overpasses. Stay where you are, with your safety belt fastened, until the earthquake is over. Never stop under or on a bridge. Give repair and emergency vehicles a break. Do not abandon your car, except if it is unsafe to stay with it. If it must be abandoned, it should not be left in a traffic lane. If forced to abandon it in a traffic lane, leave the keys in it.
- If in a coastal area, move to high grounds.
- If in a mountainous area, watch for and avoid falling rocks, broken roadbeds, landslides and falling debris. If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
After an Earthquake
Earthquakes are dangerous, but the disasters they can trigger such as fires, floods, landslides, tsunamis and avalanches can be more devastating. Expect aftershocks, smaller earthquakes that can occur after a major quake.
- Check yourself for injuries. Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves.
- Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Turn off the gas if you smell gas or think it is leaking. (Remember, only a professional should turn it back on.)
- Change your voicemail message to state that you are safe and where you are. You may have to wait a bit longer for a dial tone after a quake. Be patient. Don't just hang up and try again.
- Monitor radio news reports for updates and the latest emergency information. (KCBS 740 a.m.; KZST 100.1FM; KSRO 1350 a.m.; KQED 88.3FM)
- If you lose electricity, use a flashlight. Never use candles because of the possibility of a gas leak and the danger of fire.
- When authorities say the event has ended, check your home for structural damage, gas leaks, and fire. Report any problems to the appropriate authorities. Record any damage that has resulted from the quake.
- Turn off the gas to the home if you smell gas or think there is a gas leak. Remember, only a professional should turn it back on.
- Don't call 9-1-1 to find out more info about the earthquake's impact. Instead, call the non-emergency line with questions. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1.
For further tips, advice or resources contact the Santa Rosa Fire Department at 707-543-3500.