The safest place to be during an earthquake is where you are at the time the shaking begins.
I know that wasn’t the answer you were looking for. So I will give you some real-world solutions to real problems.
Since we don’t know when an earthquake will strike, you are not going to get to pick your safe spot in advance. But you can reduce your chances of becoming injured by making smart decisions when the time comes. Your actions will come with consequences, so I will help you make smart choices.
DO NOT RUN!
You cannot out run an earthquake. Most injuries occur while moving during an earthquake or running outside of the building. Inside the building you have protection. Remember, every step you take you inside the building increases your odds of becoming injured. Outside you become very vulnerable to falling plate glass windows, bricks and concrete with zero cover or protection. Sidewalks can become a killing zone.
They are the weakest part of the walls and usually have doors which become weapons when they start swinging. Bracing yourself in a door frame leaves you very exposed to flying glass and debris with your face and vital organs at risk of injury.
Do Not get out of bed and lie next to or under the bed.
In the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California, beds moved violently, hopping up and down and even pinning people to the wall. Stay in bed and cover your head with your pillow and hang on.
Do Not stop under ovepasses or bridges when in your car.
Pull to the side, put your car in park and lie down in the front seat.
Do Not get out of your car.
That metal roof is great protection. Being outside leaves you exposed to traffic, wires and falling objects. Even your own car could bounce on top of you.
So, where is the safest place to be during an earthquake? Well, it should be our homes, because this is where we actually have control of our environment and can mitigate hazards in advance and have all our supplies handy. Read our blog about strapping down furniture to solve problems before they even occur.
Here are some quick tips.
Place protective film over large windows, keep the blinds closed at night when everyone is sleeping, strap down the refrigerator, etc. Basically, strap down anything that is taller than it is wide.
At home the garage is probably the most unsafe room in the house. Aside from all the hazards in the garage, it is also the weakest part of the home. Because stability and strength requires 4 walls, your garage is weak because it only has 3 walls. So don’t store your supplies in the garage.
What you should do, is to find a table or a chair or any substantial furniture that you can get under to protect yourself. You should Drop, Cover, and Hold On to the furniture with both hands until the earthquake stops. If there’s no table or chair to use as cover, then you would drop with your face by your knees and cover the back of your neck with your hands. You want to protect those first six bones of the spine.
If an earthquake happens while you are in a public place, theater, restaurant, or shopping mall, you need to find the nearest cover to protect yourself from falling objects. People will panic and run, but you shouldn’t. You have to protect yourself from the human stampede.
In a movie theater
Get on the floor and use the seat as your cover. Wait til the shaking stops before making your way to the outside. Remember those exit signs will lead you directly to the outside so you don’t have to travel the way you came in. That route will be very congested.
There is a lot of glass which could become very dangerous. When in a store, take advantage of any metal circular clothing racks, get inside to protect yourself from flying glass and falling ceiling tiles and/or light fixtures.
When in a big box store
Big box stores like Costco or Home Depot, you can find safety in the bottom of those tall racks. Remember, the stock at the top of those racks are coming down and landing in the aisles. That is not where you want to be. Most of the energy and swaying will be at the top of the racks, not the bottom.
By staying still, the chances of getting hit by something is much lower than when you are running. When you are moving (running) you are increasing the odds of getting hit by flying or falling debris.
While the earthquake is happening, your priority objective is to protect yourself. You can’t help yourself, your family or anyone else if you become injured. An earthquake may cause massive casualties, this means that emergency responders will be busy helping with hundreds of emergencies. So be sure to learn life-saving first aid skills and what to do after an earthquake.
Hope this helps.
Have you done any earthquake preparedness? If not, please check out my newest Disaster Preparedness Calculator, it will help you for your preparation.