What to Do in the Event of an Earthquake

ring of fireWhat to Expect When the Big One Hits
When – not if – the big earthquake hits: Violent shaking may last two minutes or more. Sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, with potential for serious injury.

The clock is ticking on when a major earthquake will next strike the West Coast. Each day small quakes occur along the Ring of Fire reducing the stress on other locations. Do you know where your city is located along this Ring of Fire? See graphic.

Exactly What to Do in the Event of an Earthquake

The Drop, Cover and Hold Survival Strategy

1. DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
2. COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
3. HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

Why is “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” the best thing to do?
It will protect you from falling and flying debris, and increase your chances of ending up in a Survivable Empty Space if the building actually collapses. The space under a sturdy table or desk is likely to remain clear even if the building collapses on top of you. Photos from around the world show tables and desks still standing with rubble all around them, and even holding up floors that have collapsed.


There is an old belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. This is no longer true. Modern houses and apartments are not built with strong doorways anymore. Doorways can collapse and will not protect you from the most likely source of injury – falling or flying objects. You are safer under a table.

Watch for Falling Objects
The greatest danger is from falling and flying objects: Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over the last several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building.

What to do if there is no furniture nearby?
If there is nothing to hold onto, you can still reduce the chance of injury from falling objects by getting down next to an interior wall and covering your head and neck with your arms.
Remember, outside walls are more likely to collapse and have windows that may break.

If you are in bed
The best thing to do is to stay in bed and cover your head with a pillow. Studies of injuries from earthquakes show that people who left their beds would not have been injured if they had stayed there.

Never Start Running While the Earth is Shaking

You can fall, twist your ankle, break your legs, and you then put yourself in the position of needing help from someone else. Don’t take the chance of losing your independence.

During an earthquake glass is breaking, falling on the floor/ground, and you can trip and embed that glass in your body. But if you Drop, Cover and Hold On, you are much more likely to be safer than running in an earthquake. Because there is really nowhere to run to.

After the Earthquake
– When the shaking is over, move to high ground. Don’t wait for an official directive.
– Move away from the waterline. Waves can hit the shoreline for hours.
– Listen to your battery-powered radio, or your car radio, if you are driving, for an official “All Clear” notice before returning to a shoreline dwelling.
– Make prior arrangements with family or friends to meet at their house on higher land.
– Stay alert for aftershocks.

What is likely to happen to the shoreline?
Some areas of land will suddenly rise, while some coastal areas will sink below sea level. The ocean floor will drop, and this is likely to create a tsunami that would move along the coastline.

Following the 6.9 Eureka earthquake on March 10th – 2014. This is what happened:
– Within minutes quakes of 3.0 to 4.0 magnitude popped up on the BC border.
– Within this same time-frame, a volcano in Alaska lit up.
– A 5.1 magnitude quake hit just off the coast of Oregon.

Within 5 days there was:
– a 6.1 earthquake off the coast of Japan
– a 6.3 earthquake off the coast of Peru
– a 6.3 earthquake off the coast of Chile

Every one of these earthquakes sits on top of a subduction zone.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone
Put these events together and you just outlined the Cascadia Subduction Zone; one of the most volatile and dangerous zones along the entire North American continent.

Cascadia Subduction Zone

The Ring of Fire
This area is also located along the so-called Ring of Fire, which circles the Pacific and extends up to Alaska, and down to Japan. This long stretch of coastline has produced a number of devastating earthquakes including Japan’s March 2011 earthquake-tsunami, which killed thousands of people. You can see on this map the huge number of active volcanoes along this region.

Ring of Fire

Geologists say an earthquake capable of widespread destruction is 99 percent certain of hitting California in the next 30 years.

Protect Yourself and Your Family

– Develop a family disaster plan. Everyone needs to know what to do on their own to protect themselves during and after an earthquake.
– Be familiar with local Emergency Management earthquake and tsunami plans. Know where to go to survive a tsunami.
– Be prepared to survive on your own for a minimum of 3 days.
– Prepare a disaster supply kit for your home, car and workplace.

Watch This Video on Personal & Family Emergency Preparedness

Consider taking a first aid course and learn survival skills. Knowledge is your greatest defence against potential disaster.

Canadian Tire Emergency Supply Checklist
The Canadian Tire puts out this flyer that lists basic supplies to have on hand in an earthquake. You can use this list to shop for and gather together your own Emergency Supply Kit. Aisle numbers are uniform for all Canadian Tire Stores.
1. Water
2. Food
3. First Aid Supplies
4. Tools & Emergency Items
5. Kitchen Items
6. Sanitation & Hygiene Items
7. Household Documents & Contact Numbers
8. Clothes & Bedding
9. Specialty Items

Posters that illustrate some kits that you can put together yourself.
Grab one of these posters in the Safety Kit Handout below and pin to your wall – use it as a reminder of what you need to buy for your kits.

The 4 Basic Emergency Preparedness Kits – Poster
Here: www.vancouver.ca/files/cov/Safety_Kit_Handout.pdf
1. Grab and Go Kit for a day or two, toothbrush, meds, change of clothes, snack food.
2. Emergency Food & Water Home Kit – 72 hour kits
3. Emergency Pet Kit
4. Emergency Car Kit

How to Make Your Own Emergency Kits – Poster

The Home Hazard Hunt – Poster

The 10 Step Emergency Preparedness Program – Poster

Neighbourhood Emergency Preparedness Guide

Locations to Purchase Emergency Supply Kits in Vancouver

You can purchase a pre-made kit or the supplies to create your own kit from these vendors who specialize in emergency supplies.

Braidner Survival Kits – www.survivalkits.com
Phone: 604-254-0455 Fax: 604-254-8685
Address: #410 – 1000 Parker Street, Vancouver, BC

F.A.S.T. Ltd. – www.fastlimited.com
Phone: 604-940-3222
Address: 8850 River Road, Delta, BC

Krasicki and Ward – www.krasickiandward.com
Phone: 604-739-9455 Fax: 604-739-1937
Address: Suite 2500-900 West 8th
St. Vancouver, BC

72 Hours – http://www.72hours.ca/
Phone: 778 228 0398 or 1 800 964 8699
Address: 169 – 5489 Byrne Road, Burnaby, BC

Quake Safe Ltd. – www.qsquakesafe.com
Phone: 604-980-9900
Address: 1959 Alderlynn, North Vancouver, BC

Other stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canadian Tire, Taiga and 3 Vets carry supplies to help build an emergency kit.

Note: All earthquake kits and resources can be ordered online at the above links.

Most Important is This
Although there is nothing that can be done to prevent an earthquake or other disaster, you can learn how to prepare before a disaster strikes, to cope effectively during the event, and to recover quickly after it is over.

Now is the time to prepare! Remember: Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail.

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