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earthquake response
An earthquake can happen at any time. Are you ready?
Posted By Christine Cube

If you live on the West Coast, you might remember that day.

Just last month around July 4, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Ridgecrest, California. The following night, an even larger 7.1 earthquake shook the area again.

These earthquakes were the largest to hit Southern California in 20 years.

The Los Angeles Times reports that in the 10 days after the events in Ridgecrest, there have been “209 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.” Put into perspective, an average 25 earthquakes with magnitudes between 4.0 and 5.0 occur each year in California and Nevada, the LA Times reports.

Thankfully, no serious injuries or major damage were reported.

A map created by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows rippling rainbows forming a circular pattern around the faults of the two quakes.

The National Institute of Building Sciences is hard at work behind the scenes to help protect you, your home, and loved ones.

Here are some tips to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake.

Let’s Talk About Mitigation

It’s important to have a plan.

There are measures governments, building owners, developers, tenants and others can take to reduce the impacts of earthquakes. These measures—commonly called mitigation—can result in significant savings in terms of safety, prevent property loss and disruption of day-to-day life.

Consult with a professional to assess what can be secured within your home.

  • Anchor bookcases, shelves, or other pieces of furniture to the walls and install strong latches to cupboards and other cabinetry.
  • Properly secure art and valuables with museum or sticky putty.
  • Know the location of the switches to quickly turn off gas lines and water mains.
  • Stock up on canned foods and other non-perishables, should this event require some waiting out at home.
  • Prepare an emergency kit for yourself and every member of your family. Kits should include: fresh water, non-perishable food, dry clothing, flashlight, batteries, first-aid kit, dust mask, personal sanitation items, radio (or some way to stay connected on what’s happening), and blanket.
  • Have readily available information – an updated list of contacts, including family members, hospitals, local law enforcement, and power, water and gas companies.
  • Consider securing an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover earthquake damage.
  • Sign up for your community’s emergency alerts.

If the Shaking Starts and You’re Indoors — Stay Inside

An earthquake can happen anytime. Know where to plant yourself in every room of the house.

  • Practice this drill with your loved ones.
  • Drop down and hold on. Some people select doorways because of the sturdiness of the frame; others choose to wait out these events beneath strong desks or tables.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms, and stay away from furniture that may topple over or windows that could shatter.
  • If you’re in bed, protect your head and neck with your pillow.
  • Do not run outside. Wait inside until the shaking is over.
  • Check for hazards or damage to your home, including wires, gas lines, and water pipes.

If You’re Outside — Stay Outside

  • You might be in your car, when an earthquake begins. There are measures you can take.
  • Pull over, turn off the car, and set your parking brake.
  • Avoid structures like overpasses and bridges.
  • Stay away from power lines and any other structures that could pose a hazard to you and your family.
  • Stay inside your car until the shaking stops. If a power line falls on your car, stay inside until a trained professional comes to remove it.

If you’re outdoors when an earthquake takes place, here are some specific tips for you.

  • Move to an open and clear area, free of things that may fall on top of you.
  • Drop down and cover your head.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • Steer clear of obvious hazards, like down power lines.
  • Once the shaking stops, listen to local news reports via radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
  • Don’t try to remove heavy debris by yourself.

The Hard Truth

Approximately 85 million people are exposed to earthquakes.

When it comes to earthquake resistance, various structural and nonstructural components may be strengthened.

Federal grants for earthquake mitigation totaling $2.2 billion put the average benefit-cost ratio at $3 to $1. So, for every dollar invested toward mitigation, society saved $3.

Put another way, according to research by National Institute of Building Sciences, federally funded earthquake hazard mitigation saved society $5.7 billion, from 1993 to 2016.

Furthermore, common building code requirements for earthquakes saves society $12 for every $1 invested toward strengthening buildings.

When you strengthen one building, the benefits extend beyond the property line to the families of those who work in the building and the community the building serves. There are also other societal benefits, namely less loss of service or business interruption.

Earthquake mitigation more than pays for itself. Let’s be social! We’re @bldgsciences on Twitter, or you can find us on Facebook.