How to survive an earthquake


Natural disasters are difficult to predict, and till date many scientists continue to look for fool-proof measures that can predict these happening. While there are no obvious tell tale signs of a major earthquake going to occur, these few indications have been noted from time to time.


Here is how to sense an earthquake


  • Look for: Unusual behavior of animals

Animals like snakes, rats, dogs etc. have been noted to behave differently before a massive earthquake occurs. Various accounts of such anticipation by animals have been noted through history. Many believe that animals can feel the earth vibrating before humans do. Others also believe that animals can detect the gas released by the earth or electrical charges in the air before a large earthquake. However what animals exactly react to continues to remain a mystery and a topic of study for many researchers.


  • Look for: Foreshocks

Many large earthquakes are often preceded by small tremors often known as ‘foreshocks’. While these small tremors can mean nothing more, and can end with tremors, they may predict that a larger earthquake is coming. People are thus advised to become prepared at such a time, that a bigger earthquake may come.


  • Look for: Scientific seismographs

Seismographs are instruments that record the motion of the ground during an earthquake. These systems are installed underground and are connected to other such systems across the world as part of a seismographic network. These instruments record the shaking of the ground on to a graph and scientists can use this to predict when and how large the next earthquake will be.


  • Look for: Predictions by ‘sensitives’

Many people, termed as ‘sensitive’ are noted to have definite symptoms before earthquakes are about to occur. These include migraine attacks, inner ear tones or screeching sounds. These symptoms are also noted to disappear after the earthquake passes by. While this has been noted in some people, it is still difficult to predict the epicenter of earthquakes or the exact date and time. Various sensitives are now trying to coordinate their symptoms, to predict this.


  • Look for: Eruption of a volcano

Volcanic activity in a region can also put pressure on the underlying tectonic plates, further leading to an earthquake. Few experts also believe that as it is easier to predict volcanoes than predict earthquakes, data from the former could help gather information for the latter.


And now, How to survive an earthquake


Before the Earthquake:

  • Learn how to survive during the ground motion. This is described in the “During the Earthquake” section below. The earthquake safety tips there will prepare you for the fast action needed – most earthquakes are over in seconds so knowing what to do instinctively is very important.
  • Teach all members of your family about earthquake safety. This includes: 1) the actions you should take when an earthquake occurs, 2) the safe places in a room such as under a strong desk, along interior walls, and 3) places to avoid such as near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture and fireplaces.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies. These include: battery operated radio (and extra batteries), flashlights (and extra batteries), first aid kit, bottled water, two weeks food and medical supplies, blankets, cooking fuel, tools needed to turn off your gas, water and electric utilities.
  • Arrange your home for safety: Store heavy objects on lower shelves and store breakable objects in cabinets with latched doors. Don’t hang heavy mirrors or pictures above where people frequently sit or sleep.
  • Anchor heavy appliances and furniture such as water heaters, refrigerators and bookcases.
  • Store flammable liquids away from potential ignition sources such as water heaters, stoves and furnaces.
  • Get Educated. Learn what to do during an earthquake (see below). Then you will be ready for the fast action needed. Make sure that all members of your family have this important education.
  • Learn where the main turn-offs are for your water, gas and electricity. Know how to turn them off and the location of any needed tools.


During the Earthquake:

  • If you are indoors, stay there. Quickly move to a safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room. Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.
  • If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.
  • If you are outdoors, move to an open area where falling objects are unlikely to strike you. Move away from buildings, power lines and trees.
  • If you are driving, slow down smoothly and stop on the side of the road. Avoid stopping on or under bridges and overpasses, or under power lines, trees and large signs. Stay in your car.


After the Earthquake:

  • Check for injuries; attend to injuries if needed, help ensure the safety of people around you.
  • Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
  • If you smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open windows and doors. If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter. Report the leak to the Gas Company and fire department. Do not use any electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
  • If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation turn off electricity at the main fuse box or breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity you should call a professional to turn it off for you.


The staff of would like it to be known that their thoughts are with the families of anyone who has been affected by the recent earthquake disasters in New-Zealand and Japan.

Author: Shaun De Kock

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1 Comment

  1. Great to see that there is someone out there taking so much time to write these articles.

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