Planning for and dealing with Earthquakes

Earthquakes are a movement of the earth’s crust caused by stress built up within geological faults or volcanic activity. They can strike suddenly and without warning. In Canada, the areas most at risk for earthquakes are:  the coast of British Columbia, the St. Lawrence and Ottawa valleys, and parts of the three northern territories. Approximately 5,000 mostly small earthquakes are recorded in Canada each year. A strong quake near one of the country’s major urban areas would likely be the most destructive natural disasters in Canada.

Earthquakes can strike at any time without warning. The best way to protect yourself and your family in case of an earthquake is to follow these steps:

  • Drop, Cover and Hold.
  • If in a vehicle, go to a clear location, pull over until the ground stops shaking.
  • Expect aftershocks and be aware of secondary hazards: flooding, tsunamis and landslides. 

What you should do:

Before

 
  • Know your earthquake risk and local plans by contacting your municipality.
  • Sign up for local earthquake alerts as available.
  • Review and practice evacuation and earthquake plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly – home, office, schools, community centers, etc.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. 
  • Practice drop, cover and hold in each safe place.

Other Actions to Take

  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed as there may be debris.
  • Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
  • Bolt and brace large items such as water heaters, bookcases, mirrors, pictures.
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
  • Practice your evacuation plans and know your gathering place.
  • Consult a professional to find out additional ways to protect your home, such as structural mitigation techniques. 

During

 

If you are inside:

  • Stay inside and drop, cover and hold:
    1. Drop under a piece of heavy furniture such as a desk, table, or bed;
    2. Cover your head and torso to protect yourself from falling objects;
    3. Hold on to the object you are under to remain covered.
  • If inside and unable to get under something sturdy: flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.
  • Stay away from windows and heavy objects.
  • If at school, get under a desk or table, and hold on. Face away from windows.
  • If in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck.
  • Use stairs to exit buildings.

If you are outside:

  • Stay outside and go to an open area away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights.
  • Drop to the ground and stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in your car:

  • Pull over to a clear area.
  • Avoid bridges, overpasses, buildings, underpasses or anything that could collapse.
  • Put on your seatbelt and stay in your car.
  • Do not attempt to get out of your car if there are downed power lines across it; wait for assistance.
  • Place a “Help” sign in your window if you need assistance.

If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.

If you are near the coastline, be aware of possible tsunami warnings – if the earthquake lasts for more than 20 seconds, a tsunami may occur. If possible move to higher ground. 

After

 
  • After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides or even a tsunami. Tsunamis are often generated by earthquakes.
  • Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on. Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks and even months following an earthquake.
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid, if necessary, before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
  • Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
  • Listen to a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio for updated emergency information and instructions.
  • Check the telephones in your home or workplace to see if you can get a dial tone. Make brief calls to report life-threatening emergencies.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleach, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
  • Help people who require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas.
  • Keep animals under your direct control.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • If you were away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Use extreme caution and examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows to check for damage.
  • Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.
  • Do not light matches or turn on lights or appliances until you are sure there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Place a HELP sign in your window if you need assistance.
  • If tap water is still available immediately after an earthquake, fill safe containers in case the supply gets cut off. 

Continue to take precautions and listen to and follow directions from local authorities.