How to Survive an Earthquake: 3 Essential Safety Tips

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Prepare for and stay safe during an earthquake with these tips from Nomad Stephanie, an earthquake expert. Includes advice how to prepare, where to go and what to do after an earthquake.


Photo © Getty Images/Semba Hisayuki/Eye Em

Earthquakes can happen at any time, but unfortunately there’s no way to predict exactly when and where an earthquake will happen. Earthquake detectors can give about 10 seconds warning, and earthquake apps often alert you hours after the earthquake happens - so helpful! If you are heading into an earthquake prone region, the best way to survive is to prepare yourself.

Preparing for an earthquake

Have an emergency kit with your phone, some food, water, water purification tablets, money, first aid kit, a charged power bank and important documents like your passport and travel insurance policy in your daypack.

Keep this bag on you, it’s your lifeline if anything happens.

Write down the phone numbers of your important contacts, as well as saving them in your phone.

At a minimum you want the embassy and an emergency contact at home who can keep your friends and family updated. Your local friends, airline, tour company and travel insurance company are also good numbers to have.

Identify an evacuation point close to your accommodation. It should be an open area away from overhanging trees, powerlines and bridges.

Keep in mind secondary dangers like tsunamis in coastal areas (head for high ground) and landslides in hilly areas (head for flat, open areas or wide ridges).

You should also identify the safest places in your room. Underneath sturdy pieces of furniture is best. If this isn’t possible, find a space against an internal wall away from windows, heavy pieces of furniture, and anything else that can fall on you.

During an earthquake

If you’re outside or very close to the exit, move to an open space away from hazards like buildings, trees, powerlines, and bridges, and get on the ground. Make sure your head is covered.

If you’re not close to an exit, it’s better to find a safe place inside and ride it out. Look for a place away from falling objects and crouch to the ground, covering your head.

Rushing outside during the shaking isn’t the best option, plenty of earthquake injuries happen from falls when people try to run. Unless you’re in an old adobe or wood house, doorframes aren’t the safest place either. Get under some strong furniture or against an internal wall.

The bathtub or “triangle of life” spaces beside furniture aren’t the safest places either, the danger inside is mainly from falling objects. Hiding under the bed or a strong table is a better idea, it provides protection from those falling objects.

If you’re in bed, stay there and cover your head with a pillow.

If you’re in a wheelchair, make sure you stay away from any objects which could fall. Lock the wheels and cover your head with your arms.

What to do after an earthquake

Go to your evacuation point, and take your emergency kit with you.

Try to get in touch with your embassy and emergency contact. Save your phone’s battery and let your emergency contact keep your friends and family posted. Social media has also become a tool for crisis communication. Use the check in apps or post a message.

If you’re trapped under rubble, avoid moving to save your energy, and avoid stirring up dust. Only call for help when you can hear people nearby.

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