Earthquakes

Additional Resources

In western British Columbia, there is significant potential for earthquakes as plates beneath the earth’s crust move together, pull apart, and slide past one other at a rate of a few centimeters per year. Each year more than 1,000 earthquakes are recorded in western Canada, and although many occur offshore or are at a small magnitude, a large earthquake can happen at any time without warning causing significant damage and loss of life. Preparedness is always the best way to protect yourself from an earthquake, as prediction is still a fairly inaccurate science.

 

Before:

  • Watch this preparedness video for some great tips on what to do during an earthquake.
  • Develop a household emergency plan and assign specific safety tasks to family members. Practice your household emergency plan every six months.
  • Put together an emergency kit to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, but aim for one week. Keep a kit in your vehicle, and at school or work.
  • Plan a family meeting spot and have an contact, such as a family member in another region, to check in with if you become separated.
  • Get training in emergency preparedness and first aid.
  • Keep your vehicle in working order and always have at least half a tank of gas.
  • Pay attention to notices of danger and information updates on radio, TV and the internet.
  • Identify safe places indoors and outdoors:
    • Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table
    • Against an inner wall
    • Away from windows or mirrors, where glass could shatter
    • Away from heavy or insecure furniture that could fall over, such as bookcases
    • In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and power lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways   

During:

If you are inside your home or office when an earthquake strikes, stay there:

  • Drop under a sturdy desk or solid piece of furniture to cover your body as much as possible. Hold on to the furniture and continue to protect yourself. If the furniture moves, stay under and move with it.
  • Inner walls, corners and hallways can also be safe. The inner core of a building is usually the strongest and least likely to collapse. Get down alongside the inner wall or corner and curl up so that your forehead is on the ground in front of your knees. Clasp your hands tightly behind your head and neck so that they are covered as much as possible. Be aware that there may be hazards like pictures, glass, light fixtures, unsecured shelving.  
  • If you are in a very narrow hallway, you can sit down against the inner wall with your feet against the other wall, while protecting your head and neck.
  • If there is no cover, just grab anything in sight that could protect you.
  • Be aware that even if the shaking stops, there could be aftershocks.
  • Remember: DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

Additional tips:

  • If you are in the kitchen when the shaking starts, get out and find a safe spot close by. The kitchen is a very dangerous place to be, as appliances can fall over or off of shelves, or the contents of cupboards and drawers can fly across the room.
  • If you are sleeping when the shaking starts, stay in bed and protect yourself with your pillows and blankets. Close your blinds and curtains at night as they can offer some protection from broken glass.
  • If you are showering when the shaking starts, immediately drop down to avoid slipping and falling. Protect yourself with the shower curtain, bath mat, a towel, clothes, or your hands.
  • Teach children to stay under cover, even after the shaking has stopped, until an adult is able to help them.
  • Don't worry about your dog or cat. Animals instinctively run for cover when they are frightened.
  • In high-rise buildings, determine if you can safely evacuate after the shaking stops. Do not use elevators as the power may go out. 
  • If you are inside a crowded public place, do not rush for doorways. Move away from display windows and grab something to protect yourself.
  • If outdoors, move away from buildings as they can produce falling debris. Stay away from utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If you are in a vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and move over to side of the road, away from utility poles and overhead wires. Stay off bridges and get away from overpasses. Park your vehicle and remain in it with the radio on for emergency broadcast information. If you feel it is safe to drive when the shaking stops, watch for breaks in the pavement, downed utility poles, and electrical wires.

After

  • Once the shaking stops, check yourself for injuries, then check others. Retrieve your emergency kit then evacuate the building if you are inside one. 
  • Administer First Aid.
  • Contact your loved ones and listen for emergency information.
  • Check for gas leaks and look for electrical system damage. If you suspect damage, leave the building or open a window if there is a gas leak. Turn off gas and electrical sources if it is safe to do so.
  • If you suspect sewer and/or water line damage, do not use your toilet.
  • One Step at a Time: A Guide to Disaster Recovery has further information on recovery activities.
  • Restock any emergency supplies that you might have used.