How to survive Washington’s next earthquake

How to survive
next earthquake
Letter from Stan McNaughton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Washington: A high-risk state for earthquakes. . . . . . . . 2
What happens during an earthquake?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
A checklist for preparing your family and home. . . . . . . 4
Reduce the hazards in your home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Hold family drills. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Establish an out-of-state phone contact today!. . . . . . . . 9
Gather emergency and first-aid supplies. . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Stockpile extra food and water. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Review your home, apartment, or condo insurance. . . . 20
Record important information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Develop a neighborhood preparedness plan. . . . . . . . . . 22
What you should do during an earthquake. . . . . . . . . . 23
What you should do after an earthquake. . . . . . . . . . . . 26
How to handle the psychological effects of a quake . . . 30
Where to get additional help after a quake. . . . . . . . . . 32
Out-of-state contact cards. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Dear customers, employees, and friends:
We’re committed to making Washington a safe place
to live. We care about you and your family.
We dedicate much of our time and efforts to programs
that help prevent accidents, fires, theft, fraud, and other
personal tragedies. Although we can’t prevent
earthquakes, we can take steps to protect ourselves and
our loved ones.
This booklet offers guidelines from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency and other safety-related
organizations. Please follow its advice as soon as
possible because an earthquake can strike at any time.
Washington has been hit by several major quakes in the
last half-century.
Please begin to prepare your family and home
immediately. Even if you can’t accomplish some of the
more costly precautions, any preparations you do make
are worthwhile. Your actions today can prevent an
earthquake from taking or ruining a life tomorrow.
Stan McNaughton
President and CEO
PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company
Washington: A high-risk state
for earthquakes
Many people think they don’t need to prepare for
earthquakes if they don’t live in California, Alaska,
Mexico, or other places recently devastated by quakes.
Unfortunately, they’re wrong!
Earthquakes have struck nearly every state and every
country in the past 200 years – and always without
warning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency
and the U.S. Geological Survey report that one of the
areas facing the highest earthquake risk is Washington
state, particularly around Puget Sound.
The following table lists recent earthquakes with
epicenters in Washington:
Puget Sound
Puget Sound
Central Cascade foothills
Puget Sound
South Cascades
Puget Sound
North Cascades
Puget Sound
Puget Sound
Central Cascades
Puget Sound
Southeast Washington
Although scientists can’t predict exactly when it will
happen, they agree that Washington has a 100 percent
chance of suffering another major earthquake. We must
prepare our families and homes now to minimize its
effects and prevent deaths and injuries.
What happens during an
An earthquake is a sudden release of energy when
pieces of the earth’s crust move against one another.
A strong quake can last from a few seconds to more than
a minute, but it seems much longer.
You’ll feel a sensation of shaking. You may get dizzy.
You may hear loud rumbling or rustling noises before
and during a quake. Hanging objects and light fixtures
sway or crash to the floor. Doors rattle or swing open
and close. Windows may break. Items fall off shelves and
sometimes fly across the room. Furniture, bookcases,
and cabinets move and topple. Unanchored furnaces and
water heaters may break loose and start fires.
Water and gas lines may crack, increasing the threat
of fires. Electricity and phone service may be lost.
Depending on the quake’s severity, older buildings and
bridges may collapse.
Earthquakes also can trigger landslides and
generate huge ocean waves, which can cause great
damage along coastal areas.
Aftershocks of varying intensity often reoccur
several days, weeks, months, and even years after a
quake. They act like earthquakes and can cause
further damage and injuries.
Earthquake injuries usually are caused by falling
debris, shattered glass, and fires from ruptured
gas/electric lines or broken chimneys.
Most injuries are preventable.
A checklist for preparing
your family and home
Here’s a brief checklist of actions you should take now to
prepare for an earthquake. You’ll get more details in the
next sections of this booklet.
❏ Check for hazards that could make your home more
dangerous during an earthquake, then correct any
❏ Hold occasional earthquake drills so each family
member knows what to do during a quake.
❏ Establish an out-of-state phone contact for all
family members.
❏ Gather and store emergency supplies, first-aid items,
food, and water. Be sure all family members know
where they’re stored and how to use them.
❏ Review your home, apartment, or condominium
insurance to determine coverage for earthquake
❏ Develop a neighborhood preparedness plan with your
❏ Discuss earthquake preparedness with your
children’s teachers and find out what their schools
plan to do if a quake strikes.
Reduce the hazards in your home
Fire hazards
Fire poses a major threat in an earthquake, so you
should get a professional to repair defective wiring and
leaky gas connectors.
Keep at least one fully loaded fire extinguisher in an
accessible place. Be sure you know how to use it.
Install battery-operated smoke
detectors and test them monthly.
Replace their batteries whenever
Store all flammable liquids in
their proper containers in your
garage or an outside storage area
safely away from heat sources and
appliances. Keep those containers
on lower shelves.
Bolt down water heaters and
other gas appliances, or strap them
securely to the nearest wall studs
or something sturdy with metal
Secure your water heater.
plumber’s tape. A toppled water
heater with a broken gas line may cause a fire and loss
of valuable water. Have flexible connectors installed
wherever gas lines meet appliances.
Know where and how to shut off your gas, electricity,
and water at main switches and valves. Check with your
local utilities for instructions. Keep a large, well-oiled
wrench near your gas shut-off valve for immediate
access. If it’s outside, keep the wrench in a plastic bag to
prevent rusting.
Have flashlights handy in case you need some light to
shut off your utilities properly.
Structural hazards
Be sure your house is firmly anchored to its
foundation. Repair deep plaster cracks in ceilings and
foundations. Get expert advice, especially if there are
signs of structural defects.
Nail plywood to ceiling joists in your attic to prevent
falling chimney bricks from crashing through.
Add bracing to support air conditioners, particularly
on rooftops.
Heavy objects and glass hazards
Walk through your home and determine which objects
could hurt someone in a quake.
Place heavy items on lower shelves. Secure stereos,
DVD players, and other big items to shelves with Velcro
fabric or other adhesives. Fasten large shelves and topheavy furniture to wall studs with angle
brackets, hooks, or braided wire.
Store bottled foods, glass, china, and
other breakables on low shelves or
cabinets that can fasten shut. Place
latches on cupboards to prevent their
doors from swinging open.
Fasten top-heavy
Anchor overhead light fixtures,
furnishings to wall studs.
hanging plants, heavy artwork, and
mirrors solidly in place with closed hooks, eye screws, or
other hardware. Replace heavy items over beds with
lightweight alternatives.
Move beds away from windows, if possible. Always
keep a pair of tennis shoes near your bed so you can put
them on quickly to protect your feet from broken glass
and other debris. Close blinds, drapes, or shutters to
prevent shattered glass from flying around the room.
Protect large windows with security film or a thin
window coating.
Keep heavy, unstable objects away from exits so they
can’t block escape routes. If any furniture or appliances
have wheels, lock them in place or block the rollers.
Hold family drills
Earthquakes are frightening. Not knowing what to do
can cause panic and endanger lives. You and your family
can learn to react correctly and automatically by
practicing with drills.
Conduct calm family discussions about how to protect
yourselves during earthquakes. Don’t tell horror stories
that may upset your children. Use this booklet as a
The greatest hazard is falling objects. If you’re inside
when an earthquake strikes, don’t run outside. Many
injuries occur when people try to exit and are struck
down by glass, concrete, and bricks falling from building
Have your family members learn the safe spots in
each room of your home. Safe spots include areas away
from masonry, large windows, and tall furniture; strong
supported doorways; inner corners of rooms; and
underneath a sturdy table or desk.
To reinforce that knowledge, place yourselves in
those safe locations. Crouch and brace yourselves. This
is especially important for children. Acting out what
they’re taught will help them remember what to do
in case you’re not with them at the critical time.
Next, identify danger zones in each room. Family
members should know to get as far as possible from
these hazards during an earthquake. Danger zones
include windows, mirrors, heavy furniture that may
topple or slide, fireplaces, stoves, and any space that
could be showered with falling debris or chimney bricks.
After practicing your responses, hold a drill by yelling,
“Earthquake!’’ Everyone should move immediately to
the safest place in whatever room he or she is in. Any
adult or older child in the kitchen should turn off the
Praise children when they respond correctly.
In the days following your first drill, hold surprise
drills and repeat them once a month. Let your
children call surprise drills, too.
Test each other periodically by asking questions.
Teach responsible family members how to shut off
your home’s gas, water, and electricity if those utility
lines were broken. But don’t shut off your gas unless an
emergency exists. If your gas is ever turned off, all pilot
lights must be relit.
Arrange for family members to take first aid and CPR
training with the Red Cross, your local fire department,
hospital, or school.
Find out what your children’s schools plan to do if an
earthquake strikes during school hours.
Learn CPR and first aid.
Establish an out-of-state
phone contact today!
Your loved ones may be miles away from each other at
work, school, or elsewhere when an earthquake hits.
Most likely, your top priority will be to find out if
they’re OK. Next, you’ll want to make plans to get
together somewhere safe as soon as possible.
Predetermine three or four possible reunion locations.
Every member of your family should always carry the
phone number of your designated out-of-state contact.
(See page 33 for examples.) Select a reliable relative or
friend who can relay messages for you.
Telephone systems may be damaged and unusable for
several days. But when phone service resumes, long
distance lines usually open up first. Phone companies
are expected to set up emergency systems for long
distance calls. Listen to radio reports for locations of
emergency phones.
As soon as possible after an earthquake, all family
members should call and inform your out-of-state
contact of their physical well-being, location, and plans.
Family members can then track each other’s activities
more easily. Knowing the status of loved ones can reduce
stress and anxiety. Your out-of-state contact also can call
others who may be worried about you.
If you notice any phones off the hook after an
earthquake, hang them up. Dislodged phone receivers
contribute to the disruption of telephone service.
Make sure each family
member carries your
contact's phone number.
(See page 33 for
Gather emergency and
first-aid supplies
You need to be prepared with supplies in case your
utilities are temporarily cut off or hazardous conditions
prevent you from leaving your home. (See pages 15 – 19
for details on stockpiling extra food and water.)
The supplies listed here also will help you and your
family prepare for evacuation and temporary stays in
public shelters.
Your family may need to rely on your own extra
resources for at least three days after an earthquake.
Using the following checklists as guidelines, plan ahead
and pack “emergency kits’’ in backpacks and duffel bags
that each member of your family can help carry. Your
kits should be small enough to carry easily, with the
adults’ kits containing the heavier items.
Safety and communication items
❏ Battery-operated radio
❏ Extra batteries
❏ Lantern and fuel
❏ Flashlights, candles
❏ Fluorescent distress flag
❏ Matches (in a waterproof container)
❏ Citizens’ band radio
❏ Fire extinguisher
❏ Work gloves
❏ Shovel
❏ Whistle or loud horn
Clothing and bedding
❏ One complete change of clothing for each person
❏ Sturdy work shoes
❏ Extra socks and underwear
❏ Rain gear, coats, boots
❏ Pillows
❏ One sleeping bag or two blankets per person
❏ Tent or rain tarp
Personal items
❏ Washcloth, towel
❏ Soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant
❏ Dentures
❏ Hair care items
❏ Mirror
❏ Eyeglasses
❏ Contact lens solution
❏ Shaving kit
❏ Feminine needs
❏ Insect repellent, insecticide
❏ Small toys for children
❏ Reading and writing materials
❏ Family photos for comfort and I.D. purposes
❏ Sewing kit
Sanitary needs
Paper towels and toilet paper
Plastic garbage bags (with ties) for lining your
toilet when flushing isn’t possible
❏ Garbage can or bucket with tight-fitting lid to
use as an emergency toilet
Baby supplies, if needed
❏ Clothes
❏ Diapers
❏ Milk or formula
❏ Powders, creams, ointments
❏ Bottles, nipples
❏ Food
❏ Portable crib
❏ Sheets, blankets, rubber pads
First-aid supplies
Keep the contents of your first-aid kit in a waterproof
metal or plastic box. You can buy a prepacked kit or put
one together yourself. Keep medicines tightly capped.
Check the kit periodically and replace expired
medications. Supplies include:
❏ First-aid handbook
❏ Adhesive tape rolls, two inches wide
❏ Sterile cotton applicators (Q-tips)
❏ Antacid
❏ Antibiotic ointment
❏ Antiseptic solution
❏ Aspirin or aspirin substitute
❏ Baking soda
❏ Bandages – sterile roll, two inches wide
❏ Bandages – sterile roll, four inches wide
❏ Bandages – large triangular, 37" by 37" by 52"
❏ Bandages – plastic strips, assorted sizes
❏ Cotton balls
❏ Diarrhea medication
❏ Eye medication
❏ Hot and cold packs
❏ Iodine water-purification tablets
❏ Isopropyl alcohol
❏ Laxatives
❏ Hearing-aid batteries, if needed
❏ Medical alert tags for epilepsy, drug allergies, etc.
❏ Motion sickness tablets for nausea
❏ Petroleum jelly
❏ Prescription and nonprescription medications
❏ Safety pins
❏ Scissors
❏ Smelling salts
❏ Antibacterial soap
❏ Splints
❏ Table salt
❏ Toothache remedy
❏ Thermometer
❏ Tweezers
Other useful items to have on hand
❏ A protective container for important documents and
small valuables. It should be durable, waterproof,
portable, and fire resistant. Include Social Security
cards, birth certificates, marriage and death
records, wills, insurance policies, deeds, stocks and
bonds, savings and checking account books, inventory
of household goods (with photos or videotape).
❏ Local maps
❏ A fuel-powered generator to supply electricity if power is lost
❏ Short rubber hose to siphon gas from your car to use in your generator
❏ Tools such as a hammer, hatchet, pick, broom, crowbar, knife
❏ Goggles and dust masks
❏ Rope, nails, electrician’s tape, duct tape
❏ Plywood or plastic sheeting to cover broken windows
❏ It’s also a good idea to keep some emergency
supplies in the trunk of your car in case an
earthquake strikes when you’re driving. Include a
first-aid kit, shovel, walking shoes, gloves, warm
clothes, water, and battery-operated portable radio.
Stockpile extra food and water
Though it’s unlikely an earthquake would cut off your
food and water supply for two weeks, you should store a
supply that will last that long. A two-week supply can
relieve a great deal of inconvenience and uncertainty
until services are restored.
Store foods your family is used to eating. You’ll want to
keep your postquake environment as close to normal as
possible. It’s important to stock up on nutritious, well
balanced meals that are low in fat, sugar, and salt.
Be sure to include food for infants, pets, and any family
members with special dietary requirements.
Stock up on nonperishable foods that require no
refrigeration. Canned, boxed, and dehydrated foods have
long shelf lives if stored properly. Include a variety of
Stock up on
nonperishable foods.
Store food in fairly cool, dark places to help it last
longer. Light and heat can destroy the strength of
vitamins in food. Don’t store household chemicals in the
same place you store food supplies.
Keep canned foods in a dry place where the
temperature is above freezing and below 70 degrees
Fahrenheit. Throw away swollen or leaking cans
because they may be spoiled.
To protect boxed or dehydrated foods from pests and
extend their shelf life, store them in tightly closed metal
or plastic containers.
Rotate your extra food supply into your regular
supply. Use foods before they go bad and replace them
with fresh supplies. Place new items at the back of your
storage areas and older ones in front.
If an earthquake knocks out your power, you should
eat food from your refrigerator during the first 24 hours.
After that, eat food from your freezer.
Foods in the freezer may stay safely frozen for a few
days without power if you don’t open the door too
frequently. Keep a list of freezer contents to cut down on
opening the door.
Bacteria grows rapidly in nonrefrigerated perishables
— especially milk, meats, and eggs — and can cause
food poisoning. If anything smells bad or “funny,’’ throw
it away.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!
Include the following with your emergency food:
❏ Manual can opener
❏ Bottle opener
❏ Utility knife
❏ Waterproof matches
❏ Heavy-duty aluminum foil
❏ Heavy-duty plastic bags
❏ Paper towels
❏ Premoistened towelettes
❏ Charcoal and grill, or
❏ Camping stove and fuel.
Use a charcoal grill, hibachi, or camp stove outdoors
only! You can heat canned food in its opened can with
the paper label removed. Don’t throw out the liquid from
canned fruits or vegetables. You’ll need it for drinking if
water is scarce.
You also should stock up on disposable utensils, paper
plates, and paper cups to reduce the need to use water
for dishwashing. Or line regular plates with plastic food
wrap, which you can discard after use, leaving the plate
clean. Family members can reuse their own glasses and
cups to drink water.
Since water lines may break or become contaminated
in an earthquake, stocking a two-week supply of water
today should be among your top priorities.
Why? Because you and your family can survive for
several days without food, but only for a short time
without water.
Everyone’s water needs differ, depending on age,
physical condition, activity level, diet, and climate.
A normally active person needs to drink a minimum of
two quarts of water each day. Heat, stress, and exertion
can more than double that amount. Children, nursing
mothers, and ill people need more, too.
To be safe, store at least two gallons per person per
day. That includes extra water you’ll need for food
preparation and hygiene.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency cautions
against rationing water and recommends that you drink
whatever amount you need, then try to find more later.
You can minimize your body’s water needs by reducing
your activity and staying cool.
You can buy water in half- or one-gallon jugs at most
markets and five-gallon jugs from water distributors. If
you prefer, store tap water in thoroughly washed plastic,
glass, fiberglass, or enamel-lined containers. Never use a
container that held toxic substances. Plastic soft-drink
bottles and milk jugs with screw-on caps work well.
Before storing your tap water, treat it with a
preservative to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
Use liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium
hypochlorite and no soap. Don’t use granular bleach. It’s
Stir in 16 drops (about 1/4 teaspoon) of bleach per
gallon of water (or one teaspoon per five gallons). Seal
your water containers tightly, label them with the date,
and store them in a cool, dark place. Change the water
every six months.
Treat tap water before storing it.
Don’t store water in your garage with vehicles.
Exhaust fumes may contaminate it.
To improve the taste of stored water, expose it to fresh
air or pour it from one container to another before you
drink it.
After an earthquake, you should filter any suspicious
water through layers of clean linen. Then, use bleach (as
described above) and let it stand for 30 minutes to purify
it. Or use water-purifying tablets available at camping or
drug stores. Be sure to read the instructions on the
Another way to purify water is to boil it vigorously for
five minutes.
Other emergency sources of water include:
•Melted ice cubes.
•Toilet reservoir tanks (not the bowl). But don’t drink
water from the toilet tank if a chemical disinfectant
is added.
•Juices from canned foods.
•Water heater. Each month, drain rust and sediment
from your water heater by opening the drain tap for
a few minutes. You may need to open the valve at
the top of the tank as well as the faucet at the
bottom. Before draining off water for emergency use,
be sure to turn off your gas or electricity to the tank.
•Don’t drink water from swimming pools or water
beds. The chemical additives could be poisonous.
•Use undrinkable water for washing, flushing toilets,
and fire fighting.
Review your home, apartment, or
condominium insurance
Read your insurance policy or call your agent to
determine if your home and belongings are covered
against earthquakes, aftershocks, and resulting fires.
PEMCO can connect you with an insurance company
that specializes in residential earthquake coverage and
offers a wide menu of coverage options. For more
information, contact PEMCO Insurance Agency at
Rates and eligibility may vary depending on your
home’s risk factors, such as its location and type of
Wood-frame homes and buildings tend to stand up
well in earthquakes. But unreinforced brick or other
masonry may not withstand a severe earthquake as well
as a wood-frame home, resulting in higher
insurance rates for such structures.
your belongings.
Be sure to document your valuable belongings with
an inventory, photographs, or videotape. Store your
documentation in a fireproof container or a safe deposit
Record important information
After an earthquake, you’ll want quick access to your
vital information. That will eliminate delays and
frustration when completing paperwork for an insurance
claim or financial assistance. Take a few minutes to
record the following information. Store it in a fireproof
container or safe deposit box with deeds, wills, tax
records, birth certificates, and other important
•Names and Social Security numbers of all family
•Names, addresses, and phone numbers of employers
•Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors
•Names, addresses, and phone numbers of schools
•Names, addresses, and phone numbers of insurance
•Medical information, such as allergies
•Auto and boat license numbers and Vehicle
Identification Numbers
•Police and fire phone numbers
•Poison control center’s phone number
•Electric company phone number and account number
•Gas company phone number and account number
•Water utility phone number and account number
•Bank or credit union account numbers.
Develop a neighborhood
preparedness plan
Neighbors often help each other in a crisis. You should
encourage earthquake awareness and begin planning
before the crisis hits.
Try to arrange a neighborhood meeting once a year.
Share information from this booklet.
Develop a neighborhood plan to account for everyone
after a quake. Locate your neighbors’ utility shut-offs.
Identify disabled or elderly neighbors who have special
Create a neighborhood resource network that includes
a list of tools, equipment, materials, and neighbors who
have special skills and resources to share.
Try to spread earthquake awareness throughout your
community. Organize and support local programs that
prepare people for earthquakes. Schools and civic
organizations can provide a great community service by
holding earthquake drills and training sessions.
Support community efforts to replace old, weak
structures with earthquake-resistant structures. Ask for
the removal or strengthening of loose objects, like
cornices, from building exteriors.
What you should do
during an earthquake
You may hear a loud rumbling sound several seconds
before a quake hits. Those few seconds could give you a
chance to move to a safer location. Wherever you are, try
to remain calm.
If you’re inside:
Stay inside. Don’t try to run outside. Many injuries
occur when people rush through a building to the outside
and get hit by flying objects, falling plaster, and other
Move away from large windows, outside walls,
bookcases, and unsecured heavy objects. Try to avoid
airborne objects and potential hazards.
Take cover.
Take cover under a table or other sturdy furniture.
Kneel, sit, or stay close to the floor. If possible, hold onto
furniture legs for balance. Be prepared to move with
your cover.
If there isn’t anything to get under, you should kneel
or sit on the floor next to a structurally sound interior
wall. Cover your head and neck with your arms.
Doorways may not be the safest location for
protection. Violent motion could cause doors to slam
against your body or crush your fingers.
If you’re in bed, stay there. Hang on and protect
yourself with pillows and blankets.
If you’re in or near a high-rise building:
Stay in the building and follow the advice given above.
Stay on the same floor until directed to evacuate.
Don’t use the elevator. The power may fail, trapping
you inside. Don’t run for the stairwell because crowds
may cause trampling injuries.
Be ready for alarm and sprinkler systems to go on.
If you’re outside and close to the building, you may
prevent injuries from falling objects by seeking shelter
If you’re outside:
Move to an open area away from buildings, power
lines, poles, and large-limbed trees. Stay away from
cliffs, steep embankments, and riverbeds to avoid
landslides and large rushes of mud and water.
If there’s no safe open area, seek available shelter to
avoid falling objects.
Get low to the ground and balance yourself.
If you’re in a store or mall:
Don’t rush for the exit. You may be injured as other
people run for the door.
Move away from windows, glass display cases, or other
If you’re in a theater or other public place:
Stay by your seat, crouch low to the ground, and ride
the earthquake out.
Don’t run for the exit. Wait for the crowd to disperse
before attempting to exit.
If you’re in an automobile:
Stop your auto as safely as possible. Don’t stop next to
buildings or under bridges, overpasses, or overhead
power lines. Don’t drive over bridges or overpasses. They
may be damaged.
Stay in your auto during and after the earthquake. In
most situations, it’s a safe place to be. You don’t want to
get pinned between vehicles
bounced around by the quake.
Listen for radio reports.
Cooperate with public safety
If electrical wires fall on your
auto, stay inside it. The wires
could be live and could electrocute
you if you step outside. Wait for
someone outside to remove the
If you must leave your vehicle,
move quickly to a safe open area.
If you’re disabled:
Lock your wheels and protect
your head if possible.
Follow as much of this section’s
previous advice as possible. Be
sure your neighbors and co-workers know about any
special needs you may have in an emergency.
If you’re in a wheelchair, get to a safe spot, then lock
your wheels and protect your head.
If you can’t move safely and quickly, stay where you
are. Cover your head and body with your arms,
pillows, blankets, books, etc. to protect yourself from
falling objects.
If you’re hearing-impaired and your electricity still
works, turn on your TV as soon as possible. There will
be captioned instructions to watch. Otherwise, have
someone give you information as it comes over the radio.
Yell for help if you need it. Use a whistle or flashlight
to signal others. Get attention in any way possible.
While waiting for help to arrive, gather your necessary
items in a small bag to prepare for evacuation.
What you should do
after an earthquake
Remain in a safe position until the shaking stops. Then
move slowly and carefully. Wear shoes to protect your
feet from broken glass.
Help people first
Account for everyone. Check for trapped or injured
people. Don’t move seriously hurt people unless they’re
in danger of further injury where they are.
Yell for help. To help prevent phone lines from
jamming, don’t use the phone unless there’s a
life-threatening emergency.
Provide first aid if necessary.
Check for fires, gas leaks, and other immediate threats
Open doors cautiously. Beware of objects that may fall
on you. Be alert for aftershocks, which may cause
additional damage to weakened structures.
Use a flashlight, not a candle
or house lights!
Use a flashlight, not a candle or house lights, to look
for gas leaks or other fire hazards. Turn off the stove
and other appliances if they’re on. Don’t use electric
switches because sparks can cause a fire or explosion if
there’s a gas leak.
Extinguish fires if they’re small. Always keep yourself
between the fire and an escape route. If you can’t put it
out, evacuate. Don’t risk your life needlessly.
Shut off your
utilities if necessary.
If you smell, hear, or even suspect a gas leak, leave the
building immediately. Open windows if possible and shut
off your gas with a wrench at the meter. Report the leak
to the gas company. Stay out of the building until no gas
odor remains.
If you suspect damage to your electric wiring, shut the
power off at your main electric box. Never touch a
downed power line. It may electrocute you.
Don’t switch your gas or electricity back on until the
utility company has checked your home.
If you see damaged water pipes or water flowing where
it shouldn’t, shut off your water supply at the main valve.
Clean up spilled household and industrial chemicals.
They can cause toxic fumes, so open windows and doors
to ventilate the area. If cleanup is risky, stay away.
Look for structural damage and restrict entrance to
potentially unstable areas. Check chimneys for cracks
and damage from a safe distance. Have a professional
inspect your chimney for internal damage before lighting
a fire later.
Don’t flush toilets until you know
the sewage and water lines in your
neighborhood are intact.
Maintain sanitary conditions
Diseases can spread through
unsanitary conditions. Personal
hygiene helps prevent disease and
keeps up morale.
If you can’t flush your toilets, empty
the bowl and line it with a heavy
plastic bag. Or use waste baskets or
Don't flush toilets.
Line the bowl with a
plastic bag when needed.
buckets lined with plastic bags. Tie the bag securely when
it’s half full. Store used bags in a tightly covered garbage
can away from living and food-preparation areas. Add
household chlorine bleach, powdered chlorinated lime, or
other disinfectant to waste.
You also can use a portable toilet, which may be
available at camping stores. You should provide a
private and ventilated sanitation area away from your
home’s main living area.
Leave the phone lines open for emergency use, but
eventually try calling your out-of-state phone contact to
briefly inform him or her of your status, location, and
plans. Your contact can relay your message to other
loved ones or friends.
If phones are out of service, pay phones may begin
operating before personal phones. The media will report
locations of emergency phones.
Hang up any phones you see off their cradles. This
will help restore service more quickly. To prepare for
aftershocks, tape your phone receivers to their cradles.
Turn on the TV or radio to listen for damage reports
and emergency advisories. If your electricity is out, use a
portable or car radio.
Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or
disabled people.
If you evacuate, leave a written message at a
prearranged location in your home. State your
destination and route of travel.
Other actions to take
Leave roads clear for emergency vehicles. Don’t
attempt to drive anywhere because roads may be
blocked with obstacles and downed electric wires.
Bridges and overpasses may be impassable.
Stay away from damaged areas unless the police,
fire department, civil defense, or relief organizations
request your help.
Confine pets. They may become nervous after an
earthquake. Restrain them so they don’t get away and
hurt themselves or others.
Use plywood and plastic sheeting on broken
windows and doors. Move your valuable belongings to a
secure area.
Follow the guidelines on food and water provided on
pages 15–19 of this booklet.
If you must evacuate your home, take your “emergency
kits” of supplies with you. See pages 10–14 for a list of
items to bring.
How to handle the
psychological effects of a quake
Fear of the unknown or losing control may cause adverse
reactions, which may not surface immediately. People
often mask their anxieties while trying to find a place to
stay, care for the injured, clean up, and make repairs.
After they’ve taken care of those needs, they can
experience a letdown and release negative feelings and
Anxiety reactions may include irrational hysteria,
anger, irritability, sadness, fatigue, nightmares,
inability to complete simple tasks, loss of appetite,
diarrhea, vomiting, or headaches.
If anyone you know seems overwhelmed and has
trouble coping with the situation, try to calm the
person. Encourage the person to speak freely and share
feelings. Listen and don’t interrupt.
Acknowledge the person’s fears. Be honest. Don’t say
everything is OK if it isn’t. Communicate confidence in
yourself and concern for the victim. Reassure him or her
that someone is in control. Stay with the person. Give
the person something to do.
Discuss sleeping, eating, and recreation arrangements.
Try to return to a normal routine as soon as possible.
Anxiety reactions are common in all age groups, but
younger children tend to be more susceptible to severe
emotional stress from an earthquake.
Since children are used to having adults in control, it
frightens them to see an adult out of control. It can be
more frightening than the earthquake itself. A child’s
greatest fear may be the fear of being alone or
separated from the family. Therefore, it’s extremely
important for the family to remain together after an
earthquake. Younger children may cling more to
parents and show immature behavior.
If any child or adult fails to overcome his or her fears
and anxieties after several weeks, it may be necessary to
seek help from a mental-health professional.
Where to get additional help
after a quake
You may need information and help with temporary
housing, counseling for stress or grief, transportation,
referral to special services, or contacting your family and
friends. Assistance agencies are listed in the Yellow
Pages under “Social Service Organizations.”
The American Red Cross sets up emergency
shelters that provide food, beds, and other forms of aid.
The Salvation Army also provides emergency help
including food and clothing.
If the state and federal governments declare it a
disaster area, the Federal Emergency Management
Agency will open disaster application centers in your
area. Agency representatives at the centers will help you
apply for federal disaster assistance if you have suffered
losses. They also can refer you to other resources.
Local churches, senior centers, civic groups, and
health departments also may offer help.
Look up
“Social Service
Out-of-state contact cards
Each family member should carry your contact’s
number. Cut these out and complete them. Make copies
if you need more.
Emergency Out-of-State Contact
Contact’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s address
Medical conditions
Emergency Out-of-State Contact
Contact’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s address
Medical conditions
Emergency Out-of-State Contact
Contact’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s name
Phone number
Cardholder’s address
Medical conditions
(1- 800 -467-3626)
PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company
3 2 5 E a s t l a ke Av e n u e E a s t
S e a t t l e , Wa s h i n g t o n 9 8 1 0 9
This information is provided by PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company.
11290.002 Rev. 07/2010