Thursday, June 26, 2014

Earthquake Safety and Survival Tips: Preparing Our Homes, Ourselves, and Our Kids for Earthquakes

The ground shakes suddenly and violently. What should you do when you're with your kids? What should you teach your kids to do during earthquakes?

Also, what should you when you're at home? 

In the workplace? 

School and other buildings? 



There are many places where you might be, and some actions and responses are more appropriate than others, in order to help reduce the possibilities of being injured, and, more importantly, to help save your life and your family's lives. 

Philippine Earthquake, June 25, 2014: 
No to Extinction

Several parts in the Philippines just experienced an earthquake last night. See this news article for an update

During this time, my husband and I were watching Transformers: Age of Extinction in an IMAX theater. I know, what an ill-timed title. I don't plan to get extinct yet. 

At first, I thought someone kicked the back of my seat. When the shaking movement continued, I turned around slowly to my right to look with scorn at the offender, only to see all seats and the people in them swaying sideways. There's an earthquake!

I clutched my husband' arm and looked at him and around us. I didn't even have to take off that dark 3D glasses to know that my husband looked calm in his. I could hear him saying: "Relax lang Mahal (Relax my love)."

I looked around us. I could see people strained in their seats, clenching the arms of their chairs, ready for flight. They looked around too. In their 3D glasses. It seemed like we're watching a disaster movie with us in it.

The shaking strengthened for a few seconds, stayed strong for several seconds, then weakened. 

Some left the movie after the earthquake. The majority did not want to let their tickets go to waste. Us included. (Sheepish look). Not because our tickets are more important than our lives, but because we felt the worst was over. (Indignant, defensive look).

After the earthquake, I called my mother where my kids were at the time. They did not even notice the quake at the first floor. My brother felt his chair and things shaking in the second floor though.

So there, when you've just experienced an earthquake, you're reminded that you're a mere crushable mortal and that you need to prepare for future disasters. 

One of my preparations is to write this article for my kids and to share accumulated information from various sources, which are credible for me, like emergency response, health care, and other government organizations, with all of you.

Earthquake Safety and Survival Tips

Earthquake preparedness is a mindset. It's knowing what to do when an earthquake strikes because you've practiced it before. It's staying calm because you know your kids also know what to do, even when you're not there for and with them.

Explaining the nature, causes, and effects of disasters is hard to do with young kids, but it is essential because it will help them understand why they should take disaster preparedness seriously. 

The links in this article will bring you to the sources I used. These sources also offer additional information at times, although many of them give similar knowledge that I've merged into this article. I am no expert, but I am a civilian who is willing to do research and to share these results to all, in order to raise our preparedness.


At Home: Determining Potential Hazards and Increasing the Earthquake-Proof Quality of Your Homes

1. Prepare not just your family, but also your home. Make sure that heavy, bulky appliances and furniture, like refrigerators and cabinets, are attached or strapped to the walls. 

2. Store heavy items and breakables at lower shelves.

3. Put only light art and other materials on your walls, so that if they fall during earthquakes, they will not greatly harm those they fall on to.

4. Repair parts of the house that are infested with termites.

5. If possible, light materials should make up the roof and ceiling. 

6. Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit. The kit should be easily accessible. If your house has several floors, prepare a kit for every floor. Make sure that everyone, kids and helpers included, know where the kit is. The Disaster Supplies Kit should include these basics, though you can add more, depending on your personal and medical needs:

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Cash and credit/debit cards
  • IDs
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof match or match in waterproof containers, or lighter
  • Map of the community area that show the locations of hospitals, fire station, police station, and local government centers.
  • Important phone numbers of loved ones, police station, fire station, local government, and medical centers.
  • First-aid assistance manual.
  • Remember to consider the needs of very young and older family members, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons.
  • For babies: Formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications.
  • For adults: Heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin, prescription drugs, denture needs, contact lenses and supplies, extra eyeglasses, and hearing aid batteries.
  • Here's the link for a more complete list of emergency supplies for emergency preparedness.

7. Know how to render first-aid assistance to family members. Here are some links for providing first-aid assistance. This link is from Mayo Clinic and this link is from Red Cross.

8. Know where the main switch of electricity is located. 

9. Gather and store important documents in a fire-proof safe. Here's a link for some documents we should store.

10. Here's a link for emergency water and food issues.

11. For more information on inspecting your houses for home hazards, this is the link from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Before earthquake tips habits checklist

At School and Workplace: The Role of Disaster Preparedness Plans and Disaster Drills

1. Oblige the school administration to set up prevention and awareness dissemination programs like earthquake drills to minimize danger and casualty.

2. If your company does not have any disaster preparedness plan and disaster drills, make a formal request by letter to decrease danger and casualty to everyone inside and outside the premises, and damage to company property.

3. The building's evacuation plan should be visible to all at every floor. Mark where first aid kits, fire extinguishers, and emergency food and water are located. See below for an example of an evacuation plan. Take time to look at the evacuation plans of every building you visit or work in.

evacuation map with images of fire extinguisher first aid

Note on sources of information: Many statements are copied verbatim from the Philippine Red Cross.


1. Don’t panic. Don’t even run outside if you are inside a building and the shaking has already started because things might fall on you and you'll get hurt even more. At this time, shield yourself from falling debris by ducking under a table, or other similar furniture and fixtures. Move away from glass windows. Here's the drop, cover, hold on strategy that is helpful to remember and to do during earthquakes. 

However, some question this strategy because it cannot protect oneself during strong earthquakes. Tables can be crushed, as well as those underneath it. If possible, cover your head as you try to make way outside the building. 

drop cover hold strategy earthquake tip

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Once the shaking has stopped, access your Disaster Supplies kit and find a safe place to stay.

get a kit make a plan be informed
Source: Red Cross

3. If you find yourself outside a building, calmly find a safe spot where you are far from electric posts, trees and collapsing walls. 

4. If you are near tall buildings, windows, building surfaces and architectural details are frequently the first parts of buildings to collapse in a quake.  Get away from this danger zone when shaking starts. Take refuge in a safe building or move to an open area.

5. Don’t light anything when a gas tank is leaking.

6. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Sudden loss of electricity might get you stuck in an elevator.

7. When inside a car, avoid passing under flyovers and bridges. Park the car away from structures that could fall down, and remain inside the car until help arrives.

8. When you are on a beach, run at once to a high place, in case the earthquake causes a tsunami. 

9. When inside a crowded building like a movie house, don’t shove and push your way outside. Calm yourself and make sure to avoid structures that may topple.

10. When in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes and cliffs, be aware of falling rocks and debris.

earthquake tips during an earthquake stay calm

Source: Malaga Weather

Note on sources of information: Many statements are copied verbatim from the Philippine Red Cross.


1. Check yourself and your companions if someone is hurt and/or unconscious, and then perform first aid when needed. Again, here are some links for providing first-aid assistance. This link is from Mayo Clinic and this link is from Red Cross.

2. Inspect sources of gas and electricity. Make sure to repair them as soon as possible when damaged.

3. Wear shoes and boots, or anything that would protect your feet from broken pieces of glass that may cause wounds.

4. Check electric posts. Report to the authority if you see fallen or broken posts.

5. Avoid staying by the seashore. Tsunami may strike anytime after earthquake.

6. Use your cellular phone only for emergency to preserve batteries.

7. Prepare yourself for aftershocks. Avoid dangerous infrastructures because these may topple and collapse anytime.

8. Follow the emergency plan of your local government. If you are not aware of any, it's time to familiarize yourself on it.

9. If you wish to vacate your area, leave a note that would specify your destination. Bring tools for emergency such as flashlight, candle, clothes, blanket, food and water.

10. Turn off the main switch of your electricity to avoid fires when there are aftershocks.

11. Listen to the radio for any updates regarding the disaster.

earthquake tips stay calm

Note on sources of information: Many statements are copied verbatim from the Philippine Red Cross.

Disaster Preparedness and Saving Lives

We have to know how to prepare ourselves and our kids, mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically (and spiritually to those who believe in God or spiritual entities), so that when disaster occurs, instead of panicking, we have the presence of mind to do what we have to do before, during, and after earthquakes.

Let's prepare our disaster kits and evacuation plans now and make sure our communities are also disaster-ready.

We can't predict or stop disasters, but we can do something to stop ignorance on disaster preparedness.

What other tips and habits can you recommend for disaster preparedness? Do you already have a disaster preparedness plan and kit at home? Have you conducted your own earthquake and other disaster drills at home with your kids?