What To Do During An Earthquake

Being prepared is the best way to ensure you and your family stay safe during an earthquake.

Being prepared is the best way to ensure you and your family stay safe during an earthquake.

The potential for a megathrust earthquake in Vancouver has been on parents' radars since it became a popular topic in the news around 2010.

For many, it has been a topic surrounded by fear. In BC, we're not used to even thinking about earthquakes, let alone preparing for them. 

A quick Google search on "What To Do During An Earthquake" will give you 150 million responses. That's a lot to wade through.

That's why we've created this quick guide to help you prepare for an earthquake. In working on Westside's Earthquake Preparedness Drill, we've uncovered some simple tips to keep you and your family safe during an earthquake.

Here are eight steps to take during and after an earthquake: 

Step 1: Announce the Earthquake

If you're at home and you feel the shake of an earthquake, yell out to your family members, "Earthquake! Drop, cover, and hold on!" This simple reminder will help any shocked family members remember what to do.

Step 2: Stop, Drop, Cover, and Hold on

Follow your own instructions. Get yourself under a table and hold on until the shaking has finished. If there isn't a table in the room, then crouch near an interior wall and cover your head and face with your arms. Remember to find the closest safe place. Trying to move during an earthquake increases the probability of injury.

Step 3: Assess the Space

Before you evacuate any space, PAUSE, look around and assess any potential dangers or damages. A vase could be precariously balanced, ready to fall and hit someone on the head. A shelf could be on the brink of collapsing. Assess the danger so you can avoid being injured. If you see a fire, put it out.

Step 4: Find any family members who need assistance.

If you're at home with your family, find anyone who needs assistance and help them evacuate.

Step 5: Grab your Go Bag and Put on Sturdy Shoes

Every family needs a "Go Bag." This emergency kit, which you keep near your safest exit, will allow you to grab what you need quickly and go in the case of any emergency. Make sure everyone puts on sturdy shoes before exiting your home as broken glass may be an issue.

Tip: Make sure your Go Bag is going to be easy to carry in the case that all the sidewalks in the city are cracked and damaged.

Step 6: Recognize that phone service will likely not work.

It's natural to want to contact your loved ones. But phone service will likely not work in the case of a megathrust earthquake. That's okay. No need to panic. Just follow your plan. 

Tip: When you're finally in a safe place you can put your phone on Energy Saving Mode so that it will be usable when cell phone service does become available. The City of Vancouver recommends using Twitter to find earthquake updates.

Step 7: As you exit any building, cover your head.

Debris from damaged structures or furnishings can fall and cause a head injury. Cover your head with a bag or book while exiting to prevent injury. If you're in an apartment building, take the stairs not the elevator. Recognize that many injuries happen within 10 feet of the entrance to a building. Go to an open space away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. 

Tip: At Westside, we have four rules for our students when exiting the schools. They are as follows: Don't talk! Don't push! Don't run! Don't turn back! If you have a large family, using these rules may be helpful as well.

Step 8: Follow your emergency evacuation plan.

Create an emergency plan with your family in advance. This may include going to your closest Disaster Support Hub.  Or another safe location on high ground. Staying near the water is not advised in the case of an earthquake. Remember that travelling by foot is preferred to attempting to mobilize in your car as the roads will be damaged in a megathrust earthquake.

Now that you know what to do DURING an earthquake, here are some resources to help you prepare. 

  1. Create a Go Bag.

  2. Create a Family Disaster Plan.

  3. Know your Disaster Support Hubs.

  4. Read the earthquake-preparedness tips from the City of Vancouver.

  5. Read Natural Resources Canada megathrust earthquake FAQ with your family.

While we can't control when or if a megathrust earthquake occurs, we can control how prepared we are. Making sure you have a strong plan, and all the necessary resources in place will help you and your family stay safe during any emergency or natural disaster.

The more prepared you are, the more you'll be able to help others.