Movement of the ground seldom is the actual cause of death or injury. Most casualties result from partial building collapses, falling objects and debris, like toppling chimneys, falling bricks, ceiling plaster and light fixtures. Many of these conditions can be prevented by taking a few steps now to prepare.
What to do before an earthquake
- Place heavier objects on lower shelves to prevent breakage and personal injury.
- Bolt to walls anything that might topple, like top-heavy shelves, appliances and furniture. Don’t hang plants in heavy pots that could swing free of hooks.
- Strap your water heater to wall studs with metal plumbing tape to prevent broken pipes and fires.
- Locate master switches and shutoff valves for all utilities and know how to turn them off. Your local utility company can show you.
- Keep on hand a flashlight, a portable radio with fresh batteries, a first aid-kit, a fire extinguisher (Class C is designed to use safely on any type of fire, including electrical, grease and gas), a three-day supply of fresh water, non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods and an adjustable wrench for turning off gas and water.
What to do during an earthquake
- Stay calm and stay put.
- If indoors, crouch under a desk or heavy table or brace yourself in a doorway. Stay away from windows or brick masonry (like fireplaces), bookcases, china cabinets and mirrors.
- If outdoors, stand away from buildings, trees and power lines.
- If driving, move away from overpasses, stop slowly in a safe place and stay in your vehicle. Stay off bridges. Listen to the radio.
- If in a high-rise building, stay in the building, on the same floor. Get under a desk and stay away from outside walls and windows. Do not use the elevator.
What to do after an earthquake
- Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet from broken glass.
- Check for injuries and apply necessary first-aid.
- Check gas, water, electrical lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas or see a broken line, shut off the main valve. Do not switch on the gas or electricity again until the power company checks your home. Do not light matches, use any open flame or turn on electrical switches or appliances until you are certain that there are no gas leaks.
- Check to see that sewage lines are intact before you use the toilet. Plug bathtub and sink drains to prevent sewage backup.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids.
- Check for building damage and potential safety hazards – like cracks around chimneys or foundations.
- Be prepared for aftershocks, which can further damage weakened structures.
- Listen to the radio for public safety instructions.
- Do not use the telephone except in an emergency.
Reprinted from “Earthquakes in Missouri,” by the Missouri Department of Public Safety and published by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
2013 Central US Shakeout