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What to Do DURING an Earthquake When Indoors

Being anywhere during an earthquake is easily one of the most terrifying experiences that exists. Unlike disaster phenomena that are to do with weather, such as a hurricane or blizzard, there’s no warning with earthquakes and the devastation afterwards can be unimaginable. However, most of the damage done by earthquakes to humans isn’t as a direct result of the ground moving and cracking during and earthquake; it’s through flying objects and broken sharp edges in the aftermath.

If you ever consider how much time you spend indoors, in bed, in the office (or the classroom), on the couch or elsewhere indoors, it is important to have a plan of action in mind for every setting you find yourself in. With an idea of what to do during an earthquake, you and those around can mitigate some of the dangers of an earthquake, such as avoiding glass windows that might break during a quake. Consider the amount of time you spend in different indoor scenarios and the chance of an earthquake happening during that time. For example, the average person spends nearly 62 hours per week in bed, more than 11 hours per week cooking and doing household chores and over 30 hours per week on the couch watching TV. For more info on outdoor scenarios, click here. But while you are indoors, here are some do's, don'ts and other tips to keep safe during an earthquake:

Earthquake Dos and Don’ts

Fortunately, even though earthquakes aren’t predictable, if you live in an area like British Columbia which is highly prone to earthquakes, you can make plans to help you survive both the earthquake and the aftermath. For most people, much of their lives is spent indoors due to work and home life so the first step in learning what to during an earthquake indoors is to remember the dos and don’ts during an earthquake:

  • DO drop down to the floor and take cover – This can be under a bed, table or any other hard surface. Being low to the floor helps you to keep your balance and prevents you from stumbling and tripping.

  • DON’T go near the windows – or anything made of glass. One of the biggest causes of injury after an earthquake is broken glass from windows, and while most window frames in British Columbia are designed to be shatter proof, you can’t prevent large objects from smashing through and causing chaos.

  • DO stay inside until the shaking stops – Doors are one of the weakest points in your home, so trying to exit the house during the quake puts you at extreme risk of having things collapse on you. In a major earthquake, even the walls of your home could be moving and falling, so if someone asks “do you evacuate during an earthquake?” the answer is categorically no.

  • DON’T use stairs or elevators – If you’re upstairs, or on the upper floors of a high rise building, the best advice is to stay put and wait it out. The stairs and elevators are weak points in a building, and are more likely to collapse, especially with the added weight of a human being on them.

  • DO stay in bed – if the earthquake happens at night. Our instincts will say to get up and panic, but as soon as you get up, you’re at risk of falling or being hit by flying objects. You’ve also got your pillows and covers to provide padding, so it’s best to stay safe.

  • DON’T stand in the doorway – Contrary to popular belief, the doorways of most homes aren’t as strong as you think, and there are better places to take cover around your home. Standing in a doorway also puts you at risk of being hit by debris.

Remember: if there's nothing to hide under, lay down away from other debris!

Earthquake Safety Kit

One final DO is to set up an earthquake safety kit somewhere central in your home. This is likely to be in the living room or kitchen; places where you spend most of your time when you’re in the house, and somewhere that you can grab it quickly and find cover. Your earthquake safety kit should contain everything you and your family would need to survive for two or three days without outside help. Ideally, you should have:

  • Food and water supplies – these should be sealed and non-perishable

  • First aid kit – this should have the basics of plasters, anti-septic wipes and painkillers, but also a sterile bandage and heat packs. If anyone in your family requires daily medication, you should keep a spare set in with the first aid supplies

  • Flashlight – you’ll also need either a set of spare batteries or buy a flashlight that is powered by a hand crank

  • Spare clothing – you can’t predict the weather or whether your home will be dry and warm. If you’re worried about over packing, you can change out clothing with each season.

  • Money – the world is unlikely to end as we know it, even during a major earthquake, but having cash instead of relying on your credit card will help you get back to a sense of normality quicker.

While creating a large earthquake safety kit for your home is essential, it will also make sense to create smaller packs for your car, work and in other areas of your home in case you’re not near the larger pack.

Dispelling the Panic with Quake Cottage

Recent studies have shown that many of the injuries sustained during major earthquakes are due to people making poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Earthquake survivors say it’s one of the scariest experiences that they’ve had as your whole reality changes and nothing seems safe anymore. People react to these kind of stressful situations in different ways, but it can lead to bad decision making which can lead to injury.

The best way to prepare for these stressful situations is to experience them and notice how your body deals with the panic. Think about fire drills at school and work that help people know how to react. However, the unpredictable nature of earthquakes has meant that up until recently, there’s been no way to experience an earthquake indoors so you know what it feels like.

This is where the Quake Cottage experience has made a mark in British Columbia. It’s a portable earthquake “ride” which shakes users to mimic a major earthquake. Visitors to the Quake Cottage will find the inside of the earthquake machine decked out like a lab setting on one side, and a domestic environment on the other. Once everyone is safely strapped and buckled in, the machine starts to move and shake, recreating the sudden shifts and sounds of a real earthquake. It’s an excellent way to experience the way that your body would react to an earthquake, and repeated visits to the Quake Cottage will help to prepare your body for panic and help promote discussions about what to do during an earthquake indoors.

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