October conjures up memories of me practicing to drop, cover and hold on under a desk as a child in an earthquake drill. I always giggled with my classmates but carried this lesson with me. Growing up in California I have had my share of earthquakes. At home, my family taught me to run for the doorway immediately. I recall one strong quake in my teens when my sister and I bolted for the same doorway in our living room. The earth shook below us and the water in the swimming pool sloshed back and forth onto the pavement.
Later in my training I learned that standing in the doorway during an earthquake is NOT the way to go. So where did this idea come from? It dates back to the 19th century when some California homes were built of adobe and the only wood in the house were the door frames. So, when there was a strong quake, the adobe crumbled and all that was left were the doorways. During an earthquake, objects will sway, fall over or fling off of shelves. Doorways do not protect you from flying or falling objects. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than other parts of the house. You also run the risk of the door swinging back and forth.
Over the years, I have been asked, is it safer to stand in a doorway or to go under a sturdy piece of furniture in the event of an earthquake?
The answer: under a sturdy piece of furniture.
Now that we know this, let cover what to do in an earthquake:
- If you are in your home or office, drop, cover and hold on. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a desk or table and hang on. Cover your head and neck with your other hand. If there is not a piece of furniture, scan the room quickly for a spot that is not under a hanging light fixture, window or bookshelf. The idea here is not to have anything fall on top of you. Crouch down and cover your head and neck.
- If you are outdoors, move to an open space away from trees and powerlines.
- If you are in bed, cover your head and neck (gently) with a pillow and wait for the quake to pass. (Do not hang anything heavy over your bed) Many of us are inclined to jump out of bed and run but you risk stepping on broken glass or being injured by falling debris.
- If you are in your car, pull over to a safe spot quickly, engage the parking break and cover your head and neck.
October 21st at 10:00 a.m. is the Great Shakeout! Practice your drop, cover and hold on skills with your family, coworkers, neighbors and friends. Stay safe everyone!