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Earthquake Safety

Drop, Cover and Hold On in the Great ShakeOut

Maiclaire Bolton    |    Natural Hazard Risk

On October 20, 2016, millions of people around the world will Drop, Cover and Hold On as part of the Great ShakeOut1, the largest earthquake drill in history. Several million earthquakes occur globally each year, but most are very small or happen in remote locations.2 Small-to-moderate and large-magnitude earthquakes may be felt in regions close to the earthquake epicenter, but, fortunately, only a small number of these events will cause any significant damage. Even so, the probability of a damaging earthquake is real, and people should know the best way to protect themselves when an earthquake strikes.

Research has shown that the safest thing to do during an earthquake is to Drop, Cover and Hold On: Drop to the ground, cover your head and neck and hold on to the closest sturdy shelter, such as a desk or table.3

Since large-magnitude earthquakes are so rare, it is common to be startled when the ground begins shaking, and most people’s immediate reaction is to run outside. However, it’s important to understand that evacuating a building could be dangerous, so instead, emergency preparedness experts recommend staying indoors and taking shelter under the nearest sturdy table or desk 3. The most common injury during earthquakes is usually the result of falling objects, whether that be off shelves or non-structural components, like ceiling tiles, light fixtures or ornamental building features.

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In regions with modern construction and well-adhered-to building codes, building collapse is rare. Building codes are life safety codes4, designed to keep the building’s occupants alive. A common misconception is that a strong or recent building code will equate to a damage-free building, when in fact, a building could sustain significant structural damage but still remain standing. The purpose of a building code is not to ensure that damage won’t occur, but to protect the safety of a building’s occupants. In addition, building codes continue to improve as we learn and better understand how buildings respond to different types of ground shaking.

The Earthquake Country Alliance in California has developed one of the best sources of information to explain why emergency officials recommend Drop, Cover and Hold On as the best way to stay safe during an earthquake: http://earthquakecountry.org/dropcoverholdon/.5

With more than 46 million participants around the world in 2015, the Great ShakeOut is one of the most effective life-safety awareness initiatives in recent years. Since 2009, ShakeOut has become an annual drill that is held on the third Thursday of October at the time that mirrors the date (10/20 at 10:20). The earthquake drill is quick and easy to do, and learning and practicing this response to earthquake shaking could help save your life when the next earthquake strikes.

To participate in this year’s ShakeOut, register at http://shakeout.org/register/, and remember to Drop, Cover and Hold On at 10:20 am, local time in each region, on October 20.

Sources:

  1. http://www.shakeout.org/
  2. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/aboutus/
  3. http://earthquakecountry.org/dropcoverholdon/
  4. http://peer.berkeley.edu/tbi/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/performance_background.pdf
  5. http://earthquakecountry.org/dropcoverholdon/

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