Earthquake

Image of North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry taking cover under a desk during an earthquake drill

An earthquake is the sudden, quick shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and moving of underground rock.

Earthquakes are followed by aftershocks. Some aftershock may be as strong as the original quake. Sometimes, aftershock can go on for hours, days or week.

Major earthquakes do not happen very often in North Carolina. Smaller earthquakes have been known to happen in the state. The 2011 East Coast earthquake reminded North Carolinians that earthquakes in other states can cause problems in our state.

You need to know what to do if an earthquake occurs at or near your home, workplace, or while you're driving. At first, you would hear a low rumbling noise followed by the shaking. It could start softly and grow more violent. You could be hit by a quick jolt. Most wounds are from falling objects and trash. Stay calm. Follow three simple steps.

1. DROP – Get down on the floor when shaking starts before the quake drops you.

2. COVER - Take cover under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture. If you cannot find something to get under, crouch against an inside wall. Keep your head and neck safe by using your arms. Stay away from windows, hanging objects, mirrors or anything that might fall over.

3. HOLD ON – Hold on to a desk, table or piece of furniture. Be ready to move with it during the quake.

Before an Earthquake

Follow the steps below to keep you, your family and property safe in an earthquake.

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors firmly to walls. Do not put them near beds, couches or anywhere people sit.
  • Support overhead light fixtures and top-heavy objects.
  • Fix out of order electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. They can cause a fire. Get the right people to help fix problems. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
  • Fix any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert help if there are signs of structural problems.
  • Put weed killers, pesticides, and products that can cause a fire in closed cabinets on bottom shelves. Lock these things up.
  • Find safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Tell everyone in the house about these places. Run through where to go.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on

During an Earthquake

Indoors

  • Think of the three things to do: DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall such as light fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay away from doorways unless you know it is a load-bearing doorway and is close to you.
  • In the Kitchen: Move away from the refrigerator, stove and overhead cupboards.
  • In High-Rise Buildings: Stay near an inside wall. Do not use the elevators.
  • In a stadium or theater: Stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. DO NOT try to leave until the shaking is over.

Outdoors

  • Move to a clear area, away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical wires and poles.
  • On the Street: Duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster and other debris.
  • In the Car: Pull over to the side of the road and stop. Stay away from overpasses, power lines and other dangers. STAY INSIDE THE VEHICLE UNTIL THE SHAKING IS OVER.
  • In a Store: Do not run for the exits. STAY CALM. Move away from anything that might fall.
  • In the Mountains: Watch out for falling rock, landslides, trees and other debris that could be loosened by quakes.

After the earthquake

An earthquake might only last a few seconds. Aftershocks can be as strong as the earthquake. They may occur for days or weeks after the shaking begins.

  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Help hurt or trapped people. Give first aid when it is needed. Do not move badly hurt people unless they are in danger of getting hurt again. Call for help.
  • Look for and put out small fires. Fire is the most common danger after an earthquake.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Do not go into buildings with damage or those that have fallen down.
  • Stay away from electrical wiring, both indoors and out.
  • Be aware of possible tsunamis in coastal areas. When local authorities give a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Be careful when driving. Traffic light may not be working.
  • Check your home for signs of structural damage. Check the full length of chimneys for damage. Unseen damage could cause a fire.
  • Check your gas, water, power.
    • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve. Call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas, a trained person must turn it back on.
    • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the power at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Call an electrician first for help if you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker.
    • Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are not working, stay away from using the toilets. Call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, call the water company. Do not use water from the tap.

More Information

More facts about how to get ready for and handle an earthquake can be found at:

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