Planning for 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.

What you should do:

Before

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 three steps:

  1. Know your risks: Find out if you live in an area where earthquakes could potentially happen.
  2. Make a plan: Work with your family to make a plan so that when an earthquake happens, you are ready.
  3. Get a kit: You can buy a preparedness kit from the Red Cross, or make your own.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. These include: under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice drop, cover and hold in each safe place.
  • Teach everyone in your family (if they are old enough) how to turn off your home’s water and electricity.
  • Clearly label the on-off positions for water, electricity and gas. If your home is equipped with natural gas: tie or tape the appropriate wrench on or near the pipe so you are able to turn it off, if necessary.
  • Secure top heavy furniture to the wall in order to prevent tipping.
  • Locate beds and chairs away from chimneys and windows. Don’t hang heavy pictures or other items over beds.

During

If you are inside:

  • Stay inside and drop, cover and hold:
    • Drop: under a piece of heavy furniture such as a desk, table, or bed;
    • Cover: your head and torso to protect yourself from falling objects;
    • 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.

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.

After

Following an earthquake, continue to take precautions and listen to and follow directions from local authorities.

  • Be prepared for aftershocks. When you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold.
  • Listen to the radio for further instructions from officials.
  • Check your home for structural damage and other hazards. If your home is unsafe, do not re-enter.
  • If you have to evacuate your home, take your emergency kit and other essential items with you.
  • Check on vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours (the elderly, ill, disabled) who may require special assistance.
  • Wear study shoes and protective clothing when clearing debris.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleach, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Do not light matches or turn on light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks and no flammable liquids have been spilled.
  • If tap water is still available, fill your bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, you may have water available in your hot water tank (make sure the water is not hot before touching it) and in your toilet tank (not bowl).
  • Check on your neighbours, particularly elderly people or those with reduced mobility.
  • Place a “Help” sign in your window if you need assistance.
  • If you are away from home, only return home when authorities say it’s safe to do so.