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How to Survive an Earthquake

Think smart, stay safe

I plan for flight delays, unexpected weather and the occasional hangover when I travel. I don't plan for earthquakes. Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards, earthquakes aren't seasonal and strike without warning. Traveling to an earthquake-prone zone is the only alert you get - and that's a long shot at best.

earthquake travel alertsSo how do you survive something unpredictable and random? Use these tips from expert sources across the Internet to keep you safe during an emergency.

Before an earthquake strikes

  • Keep your phone charged and carry a power cable. I use restaurants and meetings as opportunities to top up my phone when traveling. Letting the battery dip into the red zone is never smart.
  • Store the number of your country's consulate along with your favorite (or most used) phone numbers.
  • Always carry picture ID with you. I'm amazed at how many travelers go for an early morning jog without ID. Not a smart idea at any time but especially in an unfamiliar city.
  • Protect your passport and other documents in a safe in your room.

When an earthquake strikes

Emergency planningAccording to Earthquake County Alliance, stay inside and drop, cover and hold on. Find a safe place under a sturdy table or desk. Crouch under the table and hold onto the leg, moving with it if it shakes its way across the room. If you can't find a table or desk, sit with your back to an interior wall, covering your head and neck.

Stay away from windows, tall furniture and wall hangings. If you're in bed when the earthquake begins stay there until the shaking stops.

From an article published on FoxBusiness.com - "If you're trapped under debris, use a whistle or cellphone to signal for help. If you don't have these, tap on a wall or pipe three times every few minutes, so rescuers can locate you. Don't yell, so that you'll conserve energy and won't breathe in dust."

If you're:

  • Outside - Move away from buildings, power lines, trees and street signs. Crouch down, protecting your head and neck.
  • Driving - Pull over, engage the parking brake and stay inside. Do not park near overpasses, bridges, power lines or buildings. If a power line does fall on the car, stay inside until someone moves the wire - you can't be electrocuted if you don't touch the ground.
  • In a stadium or theatre - Stay in your seat and protect your head and neck. When the shaking subsides, move slowly to an exit, watching for falling debris during the after-shocks.
  • Near the shore - Count during the shaking like you would during a lightning storm. If severe shaking extends longer than 20 seconds, move to higher ground immediately. Continue inland and try to get at least 100 feet above sea level - to protect yourself from a possible tsunami. Walk quickly instead of driving to avoid traffic and other delays.
  • Below a dam - Follow the same advice as if you're near a shore. During a catastrophic earthquake, floods are possible.

Earthquake predictionsDuring an emergency, information can be your lifeline, especially if you have a medical emergency and need to know if help is on the way. If cell service is available, use it sparingly as the authorities need as much bandwidth as possible to push information to rescue teams.

If you're waiting for the "Big One" to happen in California, you might find the following articles on the predictability of earthquakes and earthquake preparations interesting.

  • Earth hums could give a head's up on earthquakes - Forecasting earthquakes has long been an elusive goal for geoscientists, even along the San Andreas Fault, one of the most well-studied and active earthquake faults on Earth.
  • Overdue and unprepared for the big one - The San Andreas Fault could shake any day now, but Southern California behaves as if it will never happen.
  • ShakeOut.org - Features earthquake drills to help people practice how to be safe during big earthquakes, and provide an opportunity for everyone to improve their overall preparedness.
  • DropCoverHoldOn.org - Test your earthquake-readiness skills and stay during an emergency.
  • Real Time Earthquake map - global plotting of the worlds hotspots.

If you're looking for on-the-ground reporting, there are some interesting Twitter accounts that report earthquakes in real time:

Got a travel safety advice? Share it here or follow us on Twitter and Facebook and let's start talking!

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These are all very good tips. However nothing can really prepare you for the first time. I happened to be in Tokyo during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and I had heard before of going under the desk and protecting yourself. But in reality that moment was so shocking and unexpected that it was hard to act in any way, except to just wait for the earthquake to stop. Nevertheless it's good to know these things if you have a chance or the courage to act!

Hi Julia, it is a pleasure reading your post. I definitely agree with your tips. We should always be ready in all weather condition including earthquakes and of course we should always prepare food for emergency. Thank you for posting this. It is very useful and informative. Keep it up!

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