Post-Quake Safety

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Release date: 
March 11, 2004
Release Number: 

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- What steps should you take to ensure the safety of yourself and family members after an earthquake?

Officials of the federal and state agencies coordinating the San Simeon Earthquake recovery effort offer the following recommendations to minimize post-earthquake hazards. These agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Be prepared for aftershocks

  • Although smaller than the main shock, aftershocks cause additional damage and may bring weakened structures down. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
  • Help injured or trapped persons.
  • Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Listen to a battery-operated or hand-crank radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately. Use kitty litter or other absorbent material. Sweep up and store waste in metal waste cans with tight-fitting lids or in covered containers away form buildings or habitable areas. Leave the area if you smell natural gas or fumes from chemicals.
  • Open closet and cupboard doors cautiously.
  • Have a trained professional inspect your fireplace and chimney if you suspect damage. Undetected damage could lead to a fire.

Inspect Utilities

  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. Shut off water at the meter or service entrance to the house. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Prevent future injury or damage

  • Emergency-management specialists use the term “mitigation” to refer to activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency’s happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies.
  • Taking steps now, such as repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations, anchoring overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling, and following local seismic building standards, will help reduce the impact of earthquakes in the future.
  • For more information on mitigation, contact your local emergency management office.

Provide special care for your pets

  • The behavior of pets may change dramatically after an earthquake.
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Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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