what to do during, before, and after an earthquake

2 08 2007

[By Shideh]  In response to a number of requests, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few tips with all the Tehranis and people living in other earthquake prone areas on how to protect themselves during, before, and after an earthquake (if you don’t know them already). IMPORTANT: PLEASE SEE THE STRING OF COMMENTS BELOW FOR IMPORTANT DEBATE ON THIS.

Here’s a good link which summarizes all the steps that you all need to know, so try to read through it carefully: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/index.shtm

  table-a.gif  table-b.jpg  table-c.jpg

(sketches borrowed from http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/earthquake/prepare2.html)  

The material below directly taken from Fema’s website:

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON on until the shaking stops. 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.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. 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.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits 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.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • 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.





18 responses

25 08 2007
Hooman Hosseinpour

Dear Shideh: thank you for valuable information you posted here.

I have noticed that some ideas provided in this document are in conflict with what I read several months ago through an email I received. That was an article provided by Doug Copp, Dean of American Rescue Team. In fact, he rejects “Duck and Cover” method and recommends his so called “Triangle of Life” method. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to ask you and others to discuss about this matter (advantages and disadvantages of each method) and clarify which method is better.

Thank you,

26 08 2007

“triangle of life” vs. “drop, cover, and hold” depends on the type of building and damage expected in an earthquake…

Hooman, thanks for the great comment. In essence, I think the best method of injury prevention depends on the prevalent type of building construction and the nature of earthquake damage expected. So this varies between cities, regions, countries, and cultures. I think that it is possible that neither method adequately addresses the types of hazards one would expect in Tehran.

The “triangle-of-life” vs. “drop, cover, and hold” methods of preventing injury during earthquakes were a big topic of discussion around 2004, when I believe the original “triangle-of-life” email was sent out. I even remember the SEAONC (Structural Engineers’ Association of Northern California) and EERI (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute) meetings where this was discussed. The findings where that in the US, the “triangle-of-life” method is actually quit dangerous and exposes people to injury/death from falling objects, because in that method you curl up in the fetal position beside a large object such as a couch – but you are not covered by anything. The “drop, cover, and hold” method protects (to some extent) people from falling and flying objects such as glass, books, etc – which account for the majority of injuries when the structure does not collapse. In the US and certainly in California, such is typically the case: structures don’t collapse, but flying/falling objects can do considerable damage, therefore the EERI and SEAONC recommend “drop, cover, and hold” for the US.

However – and I welcome/urge debate on this – things are different for places like Tehran, where building collapse will be much more widespread. So in this case, would “triangle of life” be better? I think it really depends on what type of structure you are in and how strong of an object you may be able to get under or near. For example, in houses built with brick roofs (i.e. in Tehran – often the brick are arched between parallel steel beams), I would think being under an object would be wise in order to prevent injury from falling bricks. On the other hand it can be argued that the triangle of life method would be more helpful if one of the roof beams came crashing down and bricks or other heavy objects were not an issue… this could occur when you are willing to sustain some injury in order to live.

Another thing to keep in mind is the type of furniture and household objects common in most Iranian homes. Most housing for mid-income and above in Tehran have tables, couches, chairs, etc… but lower-income households (especially in southern Tehran) probably have more traditional furniture… probably no couches, tables, or other objects to get under… so perhaps someone should create some guidelines for what they should do in an earthquake… (unless something already exists).

Here are some links on “triangle of life” vs. “drop, cover, and hold” as they pertain to the US… I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how applicable either of these methods is for different types of housing in Tehran and the rest of Iran:

http://www.eeri.org/cds_publications/newsletter/2004_pdf/Nov04.pdf (see article on Page 9)

28 08 2007
what to do before, during, and after an earthquake « Tehran Shake

[…] what to do before, during, and after an earthquake 28 08 2007 Some important discussion has come up regarding this issue and particularly the post below from August 2nd, 2007. […]

29 08 2007
Hooman Hosseinpour

Great information! … Thank you.

It shows that we must not only rely on other countries’ research achievements and easily accept it as applicable methods or approaches for our problems, in that they may only be applicable for their own countries, and there are very detailed factors which can remain hidden from a superficial point of view. This easily demonstrates the necessity and significance of local research activities which is only possible by local researchers supported by related research institutions or organizations.

Indeed, in order to see how applicable these methods are for different cities, specifically Tehran, more detailed information in addition to direct research studies is needed …

2 01 2008

this is kind of good use but not that great

6 01 2008

My name is Paula. Im in 7th grade at El Tejon School California. Im doing a science project on whether it is safer to be next to a desk during a major earthquake or beneath one. I received the same e-mail about Doug Copp. I believe what he says and my hypothesis clearly states so. I also think that it is much safer to crouch next to your car during an earthquake. Also to lie beside your bed. I don’t think there is any way that you can prove him wrong.

Even my Grandparents when there second story house collapsed during the Northridge Earthquake, if you had been on the floor downstairs next to the couch or in the kitchen crouched next to the cabnets, you would have have survived the major quake due to the large voids that the large pieces and the furniture left.

With all due respect,

23 10 2010

Dear Paula:

You are a very intelligent and thoughtful individual. Lots of people are driven like cows into doing what may not be in their interest. Always think..and think for your self and don’t let other people do your thinking for you.

What you saw at your gradparents home is the same that I saw, in Northridge and almost 1 million other buildings in a 100 major disasters around the world.

I can assure you that my life as an unpaid volunteer has not been pleasant trying to save lives and ‘buck the system’. Daeth threats and all the hatred that you can imagine from school boards who don’t want to pay higher insurance premiums and insurance companies who don’t want to lose profit.

In their words, to us, it is cheaper and less trouble if children are killed by ‘duck and cover’ rather than live with physical or emotional trauma needing medical expenses and compensation.

Myself, I consider children’s lives more important than insurance company profits. I act as my conscience demands.

Again, good for you..you will undoubtedly be a leader, in life.

23 10 2010

Dear reader from Amerrescue, thank you so very much for your work and for sharing your valuable insight on how to protect ourselves during earthquakes. This was very helpful.

Do you have any insights or suggestions for readers in developing countries where the probability of collapse is high (any thing they should keep in mind that is different from the general recommendations for Americans)?

Warm regards and please do stay in touch,

7 01 2008

Very interesting. Thanks so much for your comment and good luck on your science project.

8 01 2008

Paula –
Thanks for the great comment.
I hope your grandparents are alright. Having a house collapse is devastating.

Regarding drop and cover vs. triangle of life – did you also read the links in my post above? I thought there were some strong arguments in the links I read regarding injury from building collapse vs. injury from flying/falling objects in addition to arguments on the nature of collapse in typical US residential buildings. At the same time you pointed out that in your grandparent’s house there were large voids beside furniture that would have provided a shelter from say a collapse ceiling or floor beams.

I guess ideally, if I was in an EQ in a California home, I would like to be covered by something like a table to protect from flying objects AND also be up against a large and strong piece of furniture in order to benefit from the type of voids you mentioned…
But if I had to choose one or the other…?

10 06 2008
Shubham Oswal

This page is fit for the tips for earthquake.

10 06 2008
Shubham Oswal

My name is Shubham Oswal. Std-10th. I am working for my social science project.Thanks to website manager and google. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

24 11 2008

this info. was sooooooooooooo STUPID!!!!!!!!!

26 03 2009

Thanks! You guys you really helped me become educated on earthquake safety!

19 10 2009
tehran’s minor earthquake on saturday « Tehran Shake

[…] Posts tehran mapearthquake prone tehran | تهران زلزله خیزtehran historic earthquakeswhat to do during, before, and after an earthquakegetting to know tehran […]

28 08 2010
What to do before, during and after an earthquake | Stefan Grozescu's so called "Blog"

[…] What to do before, during and after an earthquake Posted on August 28, 2010 by tsgrozescu [By Shideh] In response to a number of requests, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few ti… […]

23 08 2011

NO….NEVER EVER GET UNDER A DESK OR UNDER ANYTHING!!! Whoever wrote this is really giving misinformation!! One must never get under anything during a quake. You get beside it. To get under something you would be crushed, not saved!

23 08 2011

Thank you for your input. Please see the comments (particularly the second comment). I added a comment at the end of the post to see the string of comments, which are informative and important. These procedures depend on many factors and one rule does not apply to all places and construction types.
Thanks again

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