Most of us Orange County residents know exactly what to do in the event of an earthquake, especially if we grew up here. Do you remember the earthquake drills in elementary school, teaching you to get under your desk and cover the back of your neck with your hands? Second only in popularity to the fire drill of “Stop, Drop and Roll”…
But there are people moving to Southern California every day from across the nation and across the world who may never have experienced an earthquake before – and there are some things people might do that can cause injury, large-scale property damage and even death. Here we outline the definite “DON’Ts” for our quake newbies—especially since we’ve had two in the last 16 hours!
1. Don’t stand next to a window: Hey, the earth is shaking! What’s it look like outside? STOP. You can have a look after the shaking’s stopped. And please don’t stand under a big mirror, under a heavy lighting fixture or next to a wall. These things can come loose and shatter or squash you.
2. Don’t run outside: It’s not necessarily safer outside a building than in it—in fact, many injuries and even fatalities can be caused by falling debris from collapsing walls and downed power lines.
3. Remember the drill: Okay, you didn’t learn it, but you need to go UNDER that desk, not on it. Protect yourself from falling debris and other furnishings.
4. Don’t panic: Once you’ve found shelter, stay put until the shaking stops. Research has shown that most injuries occur during the panic of people inside buildings trying to get to another location or outside—and we already covered why that’s not advisable in #2, above.
5. Please, don’t get up: Earthquakes don’t happen at a set time, so if you’re in bed when one comes knocking, stay there. Hold on, say experts, and protect your head with a pillow. The only time to ignore this advice is if there’s a big, heavy light fixture or wall hanging that could fall and injure you.
6. Take the stairs: If your first thought is to get into the elevator, resist it – especially if you’re on a floor with a double digit. Take the stairs, as the quake could knock out the power in your area and trap you in the elevator. Which would make it a very bad day.
7. Stay on terra firma: If a quake hits while you’re driving, first you must stay calm—some say it can feel like you blew a tire. But NEVER, if you can help it, drive on a bridge or overpass during or after an earthquake, especially if it could have been damaged. Stop your car and stay inside, just avoid trees, overpasses or utility wires overhead.
8. Don’t light up: Now, there are few people who smoke in Orange County, but goodness knows you may feel like a cigarette after an earthquake. Or maybe you’ve found a candle to light your way now that the power is out. But that match or lighter could ignite a gas leak and cause an explosion, and whatever’s left of your home or building will really be in bad shape.
9. Keep your mouth shut: If you are trapped in a building, especially under rubble, shouting for help is not the answer. This could cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. Instead, tap on a wall or pipe; alternatively, if you’ve got a whistle handy (and who doesn’t?) blow it till kingdom come.
If a fire starts or a pipe bursts after an Orange County earthquake, please call us immediately after the emergency services. We can help reduce the damage with our specialized tools and professional service people trained in fire, water and mold restoration. We can also help you deal with the insurance companies, as we’ve been through this process often, and successfully.