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How to Keep Your Family Safe in an Earthquake


Earthquake Safety Tips

The recent Earthquakes that hit California serve as a stark reminder of the awesome power of nature. The largest shock of the Ridgecrest earthquakes reached a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter Scale. Fortunately, although this Earthquake damaged buildings, there were no reported deaths. There is nothing we can do to prevent earthquakes. Major earthquakes are inevitable in some regions. The only thing in doubt is when the next big earthquake will occur. Will you be prepared when that does happen? Do you know what you should do in the event of an earthquake? Here’s everything you need to about how to keep your family safe in an earthquake.

What Causes Earthquakes?

The earth’s crust consists of 12 separate tectonic plates, which are moving. The plates travel approximately one to two inches per year.

There are three types of boundaries between the tectonic plates. Convergent boundaries are where two plates are colliding. Divergent boundaries are where the plates move apart. Transform boundaries are where the plates are passing each other, side by side.

The movement between the tectonic plates is not smooth. Friction causes the plates to stick, so the pressure builds up. Then, suddenly, when the pressure becomes too great, the plates will slip, and that is what causes an earthquake. Here’s a short video that explains more about how earthquakes occur.

What is the Richter Scale?

The magnitude of earthquakes is measured on the Richter Scale. The Richter Scale was developed by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology in 1935.

On the Richter Scale, each increase of one whole number represents a 10-fold increase in the magnitude of an earthquake. A moderate earthquake would measure in the region of 5.5 to 6.0 on the Richter Scale. A major earthquake would measure 7.0 to 7.9. The most powerful earthquake ever recorded was the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, which measured 9.4 – 9.6 on the Richter Scale.

Richter Scale, Preparedness, Natural Disasters, Earthquake Safety Tips, Earthquakes, Family Safety, Home Safety, Personal Safety
What Causes Fatalities in Earthquakes

Most earthquake deaths and injuries are caused by buildings collapsing, flying glass, and falling objects. In places like California, there are strict building codes. These codes help to minimize the damage caused by earthquakes. This partly explains why casualties in the recent Ridgecrest quake were so low. In countries where building codes are not enforced, though, the death toll can be much higher. This was the case with the 2010 Haiti earthquake, where the death toll was more than 100,000 people.

Despite strict building codes, we cannot take earthquakes for granted. A major earthquake in any major center of population is likely to cause fatalities. Especially if the main earthquake is followed by lots of strong aftershocks. Scientists are concerned that a major earthquake is due to occur along the San Andreas Fault Line. The San Andreas Fault Line runs for 1,200 kilometers through California. No one knows, though, when the next “Big One” will occur.

Earthquake Injuries and Deaths, Preparedness, Natural Disasters, Earthquake Safety Tips, Earthquakes, Family Safety, Home Safety, Personal Safety

Where are Earthquakes Most likely to Happen?

Small earthquakes can occur anywhere. Minor earth tremors may cause some damage to buildings. Often, though, they pass by almost unnoticed. The states at the highest risk of earthquakes are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Here’s a map from the US Geological Survey that shows the earthquake risk over a 50-year period.

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Map Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

It is not possible to predict when and where an earthquake will occur. If you live in a high-risk area, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of injury. In the event of a major quake, it may be some time before emergency services can reach you. So, you should have an emergency supplies kit prepared. An emergency supplies kit should include food, water, prescription medications, a first aid kit, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, extra batteries, sturdy shoes, and personal toiletries. Here is a checklist of steps to take to prepare for an earthquake:

  • Ensure all shelves and fittings are firmly secured to walls.
  • Store heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Keep breakable objects in cabinets with doors.
  • Don’t hang pictures and mirrors over beds or seating areas.
  • Install braces for heavy ceiling light fixtures.
  • Keep gas connections and electrical wiring well-maintained.
  • Repair any cracks in walls or foundations.
  • Know how to turn off gas and electricity supplies
  • Store flammable liquids in secure cabinets.
  • Develop a family earthquake plan and practice it.
  • Identify the safest places within each room – underneath sturdy furniture and away from windows.
  • Have a fully stocked disaster supply kit in the home and in the car.

What to Do During an Earthquake

The important thing to remember during an earthquake is that most injuries are caused by falling debris. If you are indoors, stay indoors. The risk caused by masonry falling from buildings is greater outside. If you are outside when an earthquake occurs, move to a safe place away from buildings and trees if you can. Here is a summary infographic on what to do in an earthquake.

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Infographic Source:


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