What to Do After an Earthquake

by Kanopy Insurance


After the recent earthquake in Mexico, it's natural to worry about the same happening where you live. 

Experiencing an earthquake can be frightening, but there are many ways you can be prepared for the eventuality.

You want to be aware of what to do after an earthquake, getting together an earthquake survival kit and having your property checked for vulnerabilities that could make it dangerous in the case of an earthquake.

You can also protect yourself from the financial implications of damage to your building by taking out earthquake insurance.

Here is our guide to what to do after you experience an earthquake at home.


8 Things To Do After An Earthquake

1. Stay where you are

Many people's first instinct when they feel an earthquake while inside a building is to run outside. However, an earthquake is not like a fire - in most cases, it is not necessary to hastily evacuate the building, and often, it is safer to stay indoors. If you are standing outside during an aftershock, you could be badly hurt.

The only exception to this rule is when the building has suffered severe damage, and there is a risk of collapse, potentially causing injury to the inhabitants.

2. Evacuate, if necessary

When you are confident that the earthquake has finished, you can evacuate if you think it is essential. Here's what you need to remember:

  • Take any personal belongings that you will need such as your wallet and cell phone
  • Wear comfortable and suitable clothing, bearing in mind the weather
  • Make sure vulnerable people in your group, such as children and the elderly, have everything they need such as food and medication
  • Head to an open space where you aren't at risk of injury from issues such as falling trees or flying debris
  • Avoid areas overlooked by tall buildings and power lines

Once the emergency services arrive; they will be able to advise on where the safest place to go is and may provide shelter in nearby community buildings.

3. Check for injuries

Check yourself for injuries first, then others around you. Administering first aid may be necessary. The most frequent injuries sustained from earthquakes include lacerations, bruises, fractures (including spinal, pelvic, rib, and extremities), burns, head trauma, asphyxia and crush syndrome.

During the event, injuries can occur, but also later, such as during evacuation and cleanup activities. Be vigilant and cautious to avoid injuries where possible, and use first aid experience and common sense when attending to anyone who is injured until professional help is available.

4. Look for damage to the building

Even if the building seems safe to inhabit and you've determined it's not necessary to evacuate, there are still several important things to check. Earthquakes can cause damage which is not immediately obvious. So, be sure to check water, gas and electric lines. Shut off the valves straight away if they are damaged.

If you smell gas, it is important to evacuate the building as soon as possible, leaving windows and doors open. Report the gas leak to the emergency services urgently, as there is a risk of fire if this is left unattended.

5. Check the news

The best way to find out what happened and get advice on whether further shocks are expected is to check the news. Cell phone and Internet service may be disrupted, in which case you should turn the radio to a local station for the latest information.

If you can access the Internet, check local news or local authorities websites rather than social media, as these are likely to be more accurate. Social media can be targeted by trolls looking to create panic and spread misinformation during natural disasters.

6. Wear sturdy shoes

After an earthquake, there may be glass and other sharp pieces of debris on the ground, so whether you're leaving the building or not, dress appropriately. You also need to be comfortable in case you need to spend the night outside the house, so sneakers, boots or walking shoes are the best options.

7. Expect aftershocks

The initial earthquake might seem to be over, but aftershocks can occur at any time afterward, from hours to days to even weeks later.

Therefore, it's important to remain in a safe place and have a plan in case of aftershocks. This is also a reason to get any damaged and dangerous parts of the building taken care of as soon as possible, as an aftershock can cause further damage, especially if the earthquake already weakens the structure.

8. Have the damage inspected

Arrange to have the damage checked by a professional engineer or local building official as soon as possible, such as the day after the earthquake. Even if there doesn't seem to be any visible damage, ask them to look for structural issues and check potential hazards such as chimneys and water, gas and electric line damage. Get any problems fixed urgently, so you are prepared for aftershocks and any future earthquakes.

One of the things you don't want after an earthquake is to find you have to cover all damage repair yourself. Earthquake insurance is a worthwhile investment for anyone concerned about the impact of an earthquake, especially those living in California which are especially prone to natural disasters of this kind, due to proximity to the San Andreas Fault.

If you live in an area less prone to earthquakes, such as New Jersey, it's still a smart move to get insured because the cost of insurance will be cheaper due to the lower risk. The insurance covers your home, plus its contents, and additional living expenses if you are unable to live in the building after the earthquake.

Always Be Prepared

If you're living in an area prone to seismic disturbances, or worried by the effects of earthquakes that you see on the news, there are ways to alleviate the concern. Having an earthquake plan will reassure you that you needn't stress about future incidents, as you'll know what to do if they occur.

Following the tips above, such as having earthquake insurance, a first aid kit and an evacuation bag at hand will allow you to relax and get on with your life as normal, even if you do experience an earthquake at home.

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