If there was an earthquake today – right now – would you know what to do? While Canada does get its fair share of earthquakes, many Canadians are not prepared for them, or any other type of emergency. According to Statistics Canada, only 47% of Canadians have an emergency supply kit in their home. There were 22 “felt” earthquakes in Canada in 2022, and an average of 4000 total earthquakes in Canada annually. Combine that with the fact that Canada’s west coast sits on a locked fault line and is part of the Ring of Fire, and 47% starts to feel pretty low!
What to do if there is an earthquake today
During an earthquake it’s important to stay calm and follow the safety procedures outlined in your emergency plan, if you have one. Make sure to stay away from windows and outside walls and get under a sturdy table or desk if possible. Stay away from any heavy furniture or objects that could fall on you.
If you’re outdoors, move away from any buildings, trees, or other objects that could fall on you. Don’t try to run or drive during an earthquake, as this could be dangerous. Instead, find a clear area and stay there until the shaking stops. Always avoid downed power lines and don’t enter puddles that may hide liquification.
During the shaking, follow the Drop, Cover, Hold on, model:
- Drop to the ground so you are as stable as possible.
- Get under a sturdy piece of furniture if possible. Protect your head and neck with one hand, and with the other…
- Hold on! Grab hold of the furniture providing you cover, or whatever else might be around that is secure and sturdy.
If there is no sturdy furniture around, some of the safest places to shelter include:
- In a hallway
- The corners in a room
When the shaking stops
Once the earthquake ends, it’s important to check yourself and others for any injuries or signs of shock. Make sure to also check your home and the surrounding area for any damage. To help avoid injury, stay clear of windows or mirrors that can shatter, cupboards (especially in the kitchen) where objects can fall out, doorways, since they can slam shut on you, and near any objects that can fall on you. The kitchen can be an especially dangerous area with fridge doors opening and where sharp utensils can be thrown about. If your home has gas lines, watch for the smell of rotten eggs that could indicate a gas leak.
Tune into your emergency radio, TV channel, or social media account – wherever you can get information from officials. They should let you know if you need to take special precautions or evacuate. If you feel a significant earthquake, and live in a tsunami zone, don’t wait for officials, just get to high ground.
After an earthquake, aftershocks can occur. An aftershock is a smaller earthquake that can come within minutes or days of the main tremor. Aftershocks can be extremely dangerous, toppling things that have been weakened by the initial shaking. In an aftershock, follow the same guidelines set out above.
If there was an earthquake today, where would your household be? Are you all together, or in separate workplaces, schools, or day cares? If you were separated from your cell phone, the cell towers were damaged or overwhelmed, and power was out, how would you find out if they are alright? These are all questions that should be answered in an emergency plan.
Have three meeting places picked out: one outside your home (eg. end of the driveway), one in your neighbourhood (eg a neighbour’s house or nearby park), and one further away (eg grandma’s house or one of the children’s schools.) Always aim for the closest meeting spot, but go to the others if your routes are blocked. If you have to leave a meeting place, leave a message for anyone else that arrives letting them know where you have gone.
While most towns and cities have well established emergency preparedness plans, the reality is that these aid agencies may not be able to reach you right away. In fact it can take several days and even when they do arrive, they are unlikely to have supplies and electricity for everyone. Emergency preparedness is a personal responsibility, after all.
Earthquakes can cause fires, power outages, and floods, along with damaging buildings and infrastructure directly. In many situations, it is not safe to re-enter a home after a major earthquake, making it dangerous to go in and gather crucial supplies or essentials. Because of this, it is recommended that every household keeps enough supplies on hand to be self-sufficient for at least a week in case of an emergency.
Having a kit is the third part of any good emergency preparedness strategy:
For details on how to build your own emergency kit, or what to look for when buying a professionally compiled kit, check out What You Need to Know About Emergency Survival Kits.