Immediately After…

In getting back to the roots of this blog I want to review what to do after an earthquake. No one can really say when the big one will hit Southern California, and perhaps this is a regional issue, but I think many tips can be drawn from the post earthquake response and apply them to other natural disasters.


  1. Make sure you have your shoes on!
  2. You need to check yourself and others for injuries. Provide aid immediately to anyone who needs it. Stopping bleeding is the most important thing. A person will bleed out arterially in 30 seconds while most people can go into the four minute mark without oxygen, so the priority is Bleeding, Airway, Circulation. Spinal injuries are a big mystery these days. It used to be standard practice to immobilize the victim before moving them, but new research has come out that all the immobilization we had been doing is just wasting time in getting the victim to the hospital – which is more important. Why am I saying this? I am not a medical professional but if a persons life is in danger and you suspect a spinal injury the first priority should be getting them to a safe area. If they die lying where they are then it doesn’t matter that they would’ve been paralyzed… they’re dead. After you have stabilized your dwelling, check on any elderly neighbors.
  3. Check utilities. Make sure the gas line is shut off, especially if you suspect a broken line. If you smell gas open all windows and doors and turn off the main breaker to your house. After shutting off the main breaker then turn every smaller breaker OFF. This way when you feel it is safe to turn power back on you can do so slowly and by one circuit at a time, making sure there isn’t any damage. Remember to use all your senses, look, smell, touch. Yes, touch feel the surface of plugs and switches for heat – if there’s heat then there might be a short which will lead to fire. Mark the device, turn off that breaker and move to the next circuit. Later, when the power is still off on that circuit and you have the time check the wiring inside the device. I recommend turning off the water supply to your house immediately, this way if there is damage down the line the tainted water won’t enter your pipes and any reserve you have left in your pipes and water heater will still be potable.
  4. Check your structure for damage. If doorways look out of square or the roofline looks off you may need to think about creating an emergency shelter, make sure you inspect the chimney – it is a structure which goes from the living space all the way through the structure and if damaged can cause serious injury or death if it falls in an after shock. In addition you may need to create a makeshift rest room in the back yard.
  5. Begin to get your emergency supplies in order – you have your earthquake kit in a safe place right? Access all your canned goods and items from the fridge and freezer, use frozen items immediately, then fridge items, then canned goods. Get your drinking water supply in order quickly – people need at least 1 gallon per person per day. Most water heaters are 32 gallons, use this as drinking water only – do not waste this resource on cleaning. When that water is exhausted, use bleach to purify water, 16 drops per gallon. Before adding bleach to dirty water use a bandanna to strain the water and try to get it as clear as possible first.
  6. When opening doors and cupboards, do so slowly – items have moved and a can of peaches can hit your head harder than an 8 year old swinging a bat during T ball practice.
  7. Do not go out sightseeing, use your vehicle only for emergencies, do not spread rumors – only report factual information you have witnessed by eye. Rumors can lead emergency personnel on wild goose chases wasting valuable assets.
  8. Check to see if your land line works – the land line will still be the most reliable form of communication because of the redundancy in the system. Land lines operate on 52 volts DC and are separated from the power grid. If you have a dial tone then great – only use it in an emergency. If you need to get in touch with family do so first by trying to send a text. It’s a short burst of information and attempt to get the message to one family member out of state first who then can notify the rest of your family from their communications center. This way you are not tying up a limited stressed out communications network telling Aunt Sally that it was scary, but you’re okay.
  9. Turn on your radio to get information and learn what the extent of the damage to the community is.




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