How to React During an Earthquake

Three Methods:Drop, Cover and Hold On (Indoors)Triangle of Life (Indoors)Surviving Earthquakes Outdoors

Earthquakes happen when the earth's crust shifts, causing seismic waves to quake and crash up against one another. Unlike hurricanes or floods, earthquakes come without warning and are usually followed by similar aftershocks, although the aftershocks are usually less powerful than the quake. If you find yourself in the middle of an earthquake, there's often only a split-second to decide what to do. Studying the following advice could be the difference between life and death.

Method 1
Drop, Cover and Hold On (Indoors)

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    Drop to the ground. The drop, cover, and hold on technique is the cousin of the famous "stop, drop and roll" for fires. While it's not the only method of protecting yourself indoors during an earthquake, it is the preferred method of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross.[1]
    • Big earthquakes occur without much, if any, warning, so it's recommended that you drop to the floor as soon as it hits. A small earthquake could turn into a big earthquake in a split-second; it's better to be safe than sorry.
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    Take cover. Get under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. If possible, stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture. 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.
    • Do not:
      • Run outside. You're more likely to get injured trying to get out of the building than staying put.[2]
      • Head for a doorway. Hiding under a doorway is a myth.[3] You're safer under a table than you are under a doorway, especially in modern houses.
      • Run to another room to get under a table or other piece of furniture.
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    Hold on. The ground may be shaking and debris could be falling. Hold on to whatever surface or platform you've gotten under and wait for the shaking to subside. If you were unable to find a surface to hide under, continue to keep your head shielded by your arms and tucked down low.
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    If you find yourself in bed while an earthquake strikes, stay there. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
    • Many injuries are caused when people leave their bed and walk across broken glass with their bare feet.[4]
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    Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research suggests that many injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
    • Be careful when you do go outside. Walk, do not run, in case of violent aftershocks. Collect yourself in an area without wires, buildings, or crevasses in the earth.
    • Do not use elevators for egress. The power can go out, causing you to be trapped. Your best bet is to use the stairwell if it's free.

Method 2
Triangle of Life (Indoors)

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    Use the triangle of life method as an alternative to drop, cover, and hold on. If you can't find a desk or a table to duck under, you have options. Although this method is disputed[5][6][7] by many of the world's leading earthquake safety officials, it could save your life in the event that a building you're in collapses.
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    Find a structure or piece of furniture nearby. The triangle of life theory is that people who find shelter near, not under, household items such as sofas are often protected by voids or spaces created by a pancake collapse. Theoretically, a collapsing building would fall on top of a sofa or desk, crushing it but leaving a void nearby. Devotees of this theory suggest that sheltering in this void is the safest bet for earthquake survivors.
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    Huddle in the fetal position next to the structure or piece of furniture. Doug Copp, the main proponent and proponent of the triangle of life theory, says that this safety technique is natural for dogs and cats and can work for you, too.
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    Consider this list of what not to do in the event of an earthquake. If you can't find a safe place to duck nearby, cover your head and get into the fetal position wherever you are.
    • Do not:
      • Go under a doorway. People under doorways are commonly crushed to death if the door jamb falls under the weight of the earthquake's impact.
      • Go upstairs to get under a piece of furniture. Stairs and staircases are dangerous places to tread during an earthquake.
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    Know that the triangle of life method is not supported by scientific findings and/or expert consensus. The triangle of life technique is controversial. If you find yourself with several options about how to proceed during an earthquake indoors, attempt the drop, cover, and hold technique.
    • There are several problems with the triangle of life technique. First, it's difficult to know where triangles of life form, since objects in a quake move up and down as well as laterally.
    • Second, scientific studies tell us that most deaths in earthquakes are linked to falling debris and objects, not falling structures.[8] The triangle of life is predominantly based on earthquakes that cause structures, not objects, to fall.
    • Many scientists believe that it's also more likely to sustain injuries trying to move somewhere instead of staying put.[9] The triangle of life theory advocates moving to safe areas over staying put.

Method 3
Surviving Earthquakes Outdoors

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    Stay outdoors until the shaking stops. Do not try to heroically rescue someone or venture indoors. Your best bet is to stay outside, where the risk of collapsing structures is diminished. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls.
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    Stay away from buildings, street lights, and utility wires. These are the main risks of being outdoors when an earthquake or one of its aftershocks is in progress.
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    If in a vehicle, stop as quickly as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.[10]
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    If trapped under debris, stay calm and take preventative measures. Although it may seem counterintuitive, waiting for help is probably your best bet if you find yourself trapped under immovable debris.
    • Do not light a match or a lighter. Leaking gas or other flammable chemicals may accidentally light on fire.
    • Do not move about or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
    • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
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    If you are near a big body of water, be prepared to face a possible tsunami. A tsunami happens when an earthquake causes an extreme underwater disturbance, sending powerful waves towards shores and human habitation. If there's just been an earthquake and its epicenter is in the ocean, there's a good chance you'll have to be on the lookout for tsunamis.



  • Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur.

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