Geological Survey Program
What To Do Before, During and After an Earthquake
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Before an earthquake
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.
- 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 heavy picture frames or mirrors over the bed. 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; nonperishable, ready-to-eat foods; and an adjustable wrench for turning off gas and water.
During an earthquake
During an earthquake, you may experience a gentle shaking that becomes violent in a second or two and knocks you off your feet, or you may be jarred first by a violent jolt- as though your house was hit by a truck. A second or two later, you feel the shaking and, as in the first example, it may be impossible to move from one room to another.
- Stay calm and stay put.
- If indoors, DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building, under a desk or heavy table, cover your head and neck and hold on until shaking stops. Stay away from windows or brick masonry (like fireplaces), bookcases, china cabinets, and mirrors.
- If outdoors, stay away from buildings, trees, and power lines.
- If driving, move away from overpasses, stop slowly in a safe area, 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.
After an earthquake
Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
- 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 flames, 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.
Earthquake Mitigation Saves Lives --
Learn more at this FEMA website.
- The New Madrid Seismic Zone
- Facts About New Madrid Seismic Zone
- Earthquake Occurrences in Southeast Missouri
- History of Earthquakes in Missouri
- Understanding Earthquakes
- Measuring Earthquakes
- Relationship of Increasing Magnitudes
- Relationship Between Richter Magnitude and Modified Mercalli Intensity
- Recent Earthquakes in Central US
- What to do before, during and after an earthquake
- Earthquake Hazard in the New Madrid Seismic Zone Remains a Concern
- Earthquake Scenario -- 2011 Exercise
- Eyewitness Accounts of the 1811-12 New Madrid Earthquakes
- Seismographs in Missouri -- The USArray Transportable Array
- Earthquake Info -- News articles (searchable) compiled by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium
- Did you feel it?
- Missouri Seismic Safety Commission
- Additional Links