Earthquakes

What Do I Do After a Quake?

The moments after the shaking ends in an earthquake can be frantic. Here's a checklist you can use, built from a wealth of resources, to help you navigate through the next steps following a quake:

  • Check yourself, others and pets immediately for injuries -- also, pay close attention to gas, fires, chemical spills and broken electrical lines
  • When safe, remain where you are
  • Listen for instructions
  • Expect aftershocks
  • Send brief text to emergency contact
  • Keep mobile phone use to a minimum
  • Be careful of structures and things maybe have been shifted or damaged at home: fireplaces, cabinet contents, water pipes, etc.
  • Take photos of damage for insurance purposes
  • If your home is uninhabitable, you need to evacuate
  • Stay on top of insurance

IMMEDIATE THINGS TO CHECK, WITH EXTREME CAUTION:

YOURSELF

  • Check yourself for injuries
  • Get first aid if needed
  • If you are sick or injured and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for instructions
  • If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1
  • People often tend to others without checking themselves - you will be better able to care for others if you have first taken care of your own injuries

OTHERS

  • Make sure everyone around you is safe
  • Give first aid for anyone who needs it
  • Help people who require additional assistance -- infants, older adults, those without transportation, large families, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them
  • Before helping someone seriously injured or trapped, call 9-1-1
  • Don’t try to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury

ANIMALS

  • Behavior of pets may change dramatically after a quake
  • Watch them closely and keep them under your control
  • Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard

IF INDOORS OR AT HOME

SCENARIOSNOTES
GAS


• Check for gas leaks
• If you think that gas is leaking, don’t use anything electric because the spark can ignite the gas
• DO NOT TURN OFF GAS unless you smell it, hear gas escaping, or suspect a broken gas pipe, appliance, vent or flue
• The gas service service shutoff valve is typically located near the gas meter
• IF YOU TURN THE GAS OFF for any reason, the gas must be turned back on by a professional using the correct procedures
• It may take a long time -- weeks or months -- for PG&E to turn gas back on
• Explosions have caused injury and death when homeowners have improperly turned their gas back on by themselves

EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY IF:
• Leaking gas starts to burn - do not try to put the flame out
• You think a gas line is broken
• You smell gas
• You hear a blowing or hissing noise

Open a window, turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, find a phone away from the building and call 9-1-1 immediately, then call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
FIRESFire is the most common hazard after an earthquake
• Look for and extinguish small fires
• Eliminate fire hazards
• Putting out small fires quickly, using available resources, will prevent them from spreading
• Avoid smoking inside buildings - smoking in confined areas can cause fires
CHEMICALS• Avoid the hazard of a chemical emergency
• Normal household items, such as cleaning products, can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if they mix
• Carefully clean up spilled medications, bleach, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately
ELECTRICAL LINES• If you see sparks, 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
• Inspect the panel box for any breakers that may have tripped - tripped breaker may indicate damaged wiring inside your home
• DO NOT TURN ON ANY TRIPPED BREAKERS - call a qualified electrician for assistance

IF OUTSIDE

SCENARIOSNOTES
DOWNED/FALLEN POWER LINESNEVER TOUCH ANY DOWNED LINES -- STAY AWAY!
• Downed wires can still carry current and can shock, injure or even kill if touched
BROKEN GAS LINES• If you smell gas, move as far away as possible, call 9-1-1, then report to PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 immediately,

IF YOU ARE IN A VEHICLE

Only leave your vehicle if staying inside poses an immediate threat to you or the passengers.

SCENARIOSNOTES
PARKING• Avoid parking near or under bridges, overpasses, signs, building overhangs, power lines, trees, or any other
hazard that might fall onto your car
• Once the shaking stops, get out of your vehicle and assess any damage to your car and the immediate vicinity
• It may be safer to stay where you are, particularly if there is chaos on the roads
POTENTIAL LANDSLIDES• If you are driving in a mountainous or rocky area, be wary of the potential for landslides onto the road
DOWNED POWER LINES• Never drive over a downed power line
• If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay inside and wait until an emergency worker removes the wire

IF YOU ARE NOT SAFE

SCENARIOSNOTES
IF TRAPPED• Send a text or bang on a pipe or wall
• Cover your mouth with your shirt for protection
• Instead of shouting, use a whistle if you have one
IF HOUSE IS TOO DAMAGED OR UNINHABITABLE• Get everyone out of your home
• Seek out emergency shelter

WHEN SAFE, REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE

  • Stay where you are if it's safe to do so
  • Await instructions from authorities

LISTEN FOR INSTRUCTIONS

  • Once you are safe, pay attention to local news reports for emergency information and instructions via battery-operated radio, TV, social media or from cell phone text alerts
  • Local radio and local officials provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation
  • If the electricity is out, a battery-operated or handcrank radio may be your main source of information

EXPECT AFTERSHOCKS

  • If your home has experienced damage, get out before aftershocks happen
  • Aftershocks following earthquakes can cause further damage to unstable buildings
  • Be ready to Drop, Cover and Hold On each time you feel one:

SEND BRIEF TEXT TO EMERGENCY CONTACT WHO LIVES OUTSIDE OF THE BAY AREA

  • Phone networks will be flooded with calls immediately after a major quake, so text may be more reliable than phone calls
  • Use text messages to communicate as much as possible

KEEP MOBILE PHONE USE TO A MINIMUM

  • Conserve as much mobile phone battery as you can

OTHER THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR AT HOME

SCENARIOSNOTES
FIREPLACES• If you suspect the quake has caused damage to your home’s structure, do not use your fireplace for cooking until the chimney has been inspected
• Sparks may escape through an undetected crack and start a fire - cracks in chimneys can be the cause of fire years later
• Unnoticed damage could lead to fire or injury from falling debris during an aftershock
OPEN CLOSE AND CABINET DOORS• Open closet and cabinet doors carefully and cautiously
• Contents may have shifted and could fall, creating further damage or injury
CHECK STAIRCASES, WALLS, WINDOWS, FLOORS, CEILINGS• Be careful around broken glass or debris
• Watch for loose plaster or drywall that could fall
• Make sure the home or building is not in danger of collapsing
WATER• If water pipes are damaged, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber
• If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using sinks, showers or toilets and call a plumber
• Signs your plumbing took an earthquake hit: damp spots in the walls, water seeping across the bathroom floor, fluctuating water pressure faucets, gurgles and bubbles in the toilet, unexplained water meter spikes, persistent puddles and wet spots in the backyard, sudden growth of shrubs or grassy areas or foul odors
REFRIGERATOR• Use your refrigerated food first if there is no electricity
• Throw away unsafe food - WHEN IN DOUBT THROW IT OUT!
TELEPHONE LANDLINE
(IF YOU HAVE ONE)
• Check each telephone to see if it is still on the hook
• Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies
• Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations.
• If you don’t have a dial tone, contact the telephone company to report the problem and request repair -- they need to be clear for emergency calls to get through
APPLIANCES• Disconnect and check all appliances for damage before using them
• If you suspect any damage, shut off the power at the main electric switch
• If your power goes out, turn off all electric appliances and unplug major electric appliances to help prevent possible damage to the appliances when the power is restored

TAKE PHOTOS OF DAMAGE FOR INSURANCE PURPOSES

  • Begin taking photos of the damage
  • Contact your insurance company

IF YOUR HOME IS UNINHABITABLE, YOU NEED TO EVACUATE

  • Return only when authorities say it is safe to do so
  • If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information and instructions from your local authorities
  • Stop unneccesary expenses - if your home is temporarily uninhabitable or totally destroyed, notify the utility company and other service companies, such as the phone company, so they can stop billing immediately
  • Call any creditors and ask for more time to pay - most creditors will be willing to work with you, especially if you notify them before a payment is due
  • Estimate the amount of income and emergency savings you have to pay bills while you recover from the disaster, then prioritize your bills -- paying your insurance premiums and rent or mortgage should be your top priority
  • Replace vital documents lost in a disaster
  • In the weeks following the quake, contact state and federal agencies like FEMA to inquire about federal assistance.
  • If you are allowed back to your home, wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes

STAY ON TOP OF INSURANCE

  • Contact your insurance agent, broker or insurance company as soon as you can to report how, when and where the damage occurred - provide a general description of the damage
  • Prepare a list of damaged or lost items and provide receipts if possible
  • Consider photographing or videotaping the damage where it occurred for further documentation to support your claim
  • If possible, do not throw away anything you plan to claim without discussing it with your adjuster first
  • Keep receipts for all additional expenses that you may incur such as lodging, repairs or other supplies
  • Make copies of all documents and pictures given to your claims adjuster or insurance company


911 CALL: CHILLING MOMENTS RECORDED AFTER 6.0-MAGNITUDE SOUTH NAPA EARTHQUAKE

On August 24, 2014, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Napa and was felt widely throughout the Bay Area -- sparking fires, damaging buildings, injuring over 200 people and sending panicked residents running out of their homes in the darkness.

This 911 call from that night offers a very personal look at what the moments after a quake can feel like:

After an earthquake hits, electrical or water service could be lost for days or weeks. Hopefully, you are prepared and have created an earthquake kit with food, water and gear for 72 hours.

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