When An Earthquake Hits
Living in California a state that is considered earthquake prone, it is more than likely that an earthquake can strike suddenly and without warning. Nevertheless, if the business that you own or work for is in a high risk region for earthquakes there are many things that can be done to reduce the chances of injuries, property damage, or disruption to your day-to-day business operations.
The primary dangers to workers from earthquakes result from: being struck by structural components or furnishings, inadequately secured materials, fires resulting from gas leaks or electrical shorts, exposure to chemicals released from stored or process chemicals. Many of the hazards to workers both during and following an earthquake are predictable and may be reduced through hazard identification, planning, and mitigation.
There are many things you can do to prepare your workplace before an earthquake occurs:
- Pick "safe places". A safe place could be under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance to move to safety, the less likely that you will be injured.
- Practice drop, cover, and hold-on(at least twice a year) in each safe place. Drop under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to one leg of the table or desk. Protect your eyes by keeping your head down.
- Frequent practice will help reinforce safe behavior. When an earthquake or other disaster occurs, many people hesitate, trying to remember what they are supposed to do. Responding quickly and automatically may help protect you from injury.
- Establish a plan for workers to follow in the event of an earthquake and be sure that it includes the following precautions:
- Wait in your safe place until the shaking stops, then check to see if you are hurt. You will be better able to help others if you take care of yourself first, and then check the people around you. Move carefully and watch out for things that have fallen, broken, or created hazards. Be ready for aftershocks.
- Be on the lookout for fires. Fire is the most common earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released.
- If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use the stairs, not the elevator, and look for falling debris. Earthquakes can cause fire alarms and fire sprinklers to go off. You will not be able to rule out whether there is a real threat of fire, and the elevators may have been compromised. Always use the stairs.
- If you're outside in an earthquake, stay outside. Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights and overhead lines. Crouch down and cover your head. Many injuries occur within ten feet of the entrance to buildings. Bricks, roofing and other materials can fall from buildings, injuring persons nearby. Trees, streetlights and overhead lines may also fall, causing damage or injury.
- Get training. Take a first-aid class from an organization such as the American Red Cross. Get training on how to use a fire extinguisher. Keep your training current. Training will help you to keep focused and know what to do when an earthquake occurs.
- Look for furniture or materials that could fall and strike workers or block means of egress, or cause a release of hazardous materials, or otherwise affect the health and safety of workers as a result of utility loss or system/structural failure.
Keep in mind that there is a possibility of an aftershock.
Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that follow the main shock and can cause further damage to weakened buildings. After-shocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. Be aware that some earthquakes are fore-shocks, and a larger earthquake might occur.