An earthquake occurs without any warning. During the earthquake we may expect to feel:

  • Movement of the ground or the floor.
  • Hanging objects will most likely swing (e.g. plants).
  • You may feel slight dizziness.
  • Animals may display signs of nervousness- they may bite, scratch or kick.

The actual earthquake does not usually inflict harm on human life.

The most common reasons for damage following an earthquake:

  • Collapse of buildings or parts of buildings.
  • Broken glass from shattered windows and mirrors (especially in tall buildings).
  • Fires resulting from gas leaks or electricity short-out.
  • Electrocution resulting from a fallen power line.
  • Stress and fear causing heart attacks.

Preparing the family
Preparing the house
Preparing the kitchen
Storing hazardous materials
The bedroom
The bathroom
The living room, dining room, work room
Storage and service areas

Preparing the family for an earthquake

  • Practice behavior during an earthquake; crouch down and hide under a heavy piece of furniture and hold on to one of the legs – crouch, cover and hold.
  • Set a meeting place where the whole family can reunite when it’s over. The meeting place should be in an open area, near the house or a place accessible to all family members, for example the public park.
  • Discuss the possibility of an earthquake with children and instruct them how to act when it happens if they are at school or at home, and practice.
  • Choose the safest places in the house and instruct all the house-dwellers to seek shelter in these places.
  • Stay away from heavy furniture, large windows, pictures etc.
  • Know where the main gas valve and water faucets are and the main electricity switch. In the event there may be a gas leak, the main gas valve must be closed.
  • Prepare an emergency kit in advance that contains everything stated in necessary  equipment for emergency situations: battery operated flashlight and radio (including extra batteries), a first aid kit with antibiotic cream, painkillers, disinfectant, materials for water purification, bandages, band aids, tourniquet, splints, any medication that the family takes on a regular basis, spare eyeglasses, medical documents, spare clothing, ID documents, money, matches, candles, a multi-purpose knife and personal hygiene items, special equipment for babies.

The equipment should be kept in a safe and accessible place in the home. All family members must know where it is and how to use the items stored. Besides all of these preparations, it is worthwhile preparing financially as well by purchasing insurance for earthquake damages.

Preparing the house for an earthquake

Preparing to minimize damages

Prior to purchasing a house, it should be examined for its durability during an earthquake. If possible, avoid purchasing a house on an active fault line, unsteady ground that is prone to the danger of landslides or leakage, or on a steep hill. In each of these instances one must take special actions to ensure the structure’s earthquake resistance. This requires consulting with certified professionals, it is worthwhile bringing in an engineer to examine the structure and provide recommendations for reinforcement if needed.

Preparing the kitchen for an earthquake

During an earthquake family members could be hurt from broken glass, spraying of dangerous cleaning fluids or falling objects. In order to prevent this, the following actions should be taken:

  • Install a lock or a clasp on kitchen doors, drawers and cabinets so they remain closed during an earthquake (extra magnets are not strong enough).
  • Store heavy pots/pans/containers on lower shelves.
  • Install stoppers on open shelves to prevent stored items from falling. Breakable objects should be adhered with silicon or sticky patches (Velcro).
  • Breakable dishes should be packed and stored in a box at the bottom of the cupboard.
  • Reinforce lampshades, clocks, hanging plants and other hanging kitchen utensils.
  • Install a flexible gas pipe.
  • Heavy devices that roll on wheels should be fixed to the floor.

Storing Hazardous Materials

  • Only materials used on a regular basis should be kept in the home.
  • Store chlorine and other whiteners separately – when these two materials are mixed they creates poisonous gases.
  • Store insecticides, kerosene, paint thinner and such on a low shelf, well-closed in a cabinet affixed to the wall.
  • Install a special cable on open shelves where bottles or jugs are stored to prevent them from falling on the floor.
  • Securely cover and close jars and containers.
  • Store kerosene in special containers that don’t allow evaporation.

The bedroom

Preparing the bedroom is meant to prevent people getting hurt from falling objects, to enable an open escape route and to ensure accessibility to vital accessories (flashlight, eyeglasses, shoes, robe or clothing, necessary medicines, radio, transistor).

  • Reinforce furniture such as night-stands, dressers and bookcases to the wall. This can be done by drilling straight through the back of the item (make sure the back piece is attached strongly to the piece so it will hold). In the event the piece is not strong enough, it can be attached to the wall using an angle.
  • In the event there are several bookcases next to each other, they should be attached to each other and also attached to the wall to increase stability.
  • Avoid hanging pictures or mirrors in places where they may fall on people, such as  above a bed or a couch.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, placing bookcases and dressers in the exit path from a room to maintain a clear passage.
  • Store heavy objects on the bottom of a cabinet.
  • Close cabinets and drawers with locks and clasps

The Bathroom

The most dangerous thing in the bathroom is broken glass – mirrors, bottles and medicines fall, break and shatter. Despite more and more products being marketed in plastic bottles, some items such as perfumes, are in breakable glass bottles.

  • It is preferable to purchase products in unbreakable containers.
  • Do not leave breakable containers in the bathtub or the shower.
  • Close the medicine cabinet with a good lock – also for child safety.
  • Place only soft items on open shelves, such as towels.
  • Store cleaning materials on low shelves of the cabinet with a clasp or a lock.

Living room, dining room, work room

  • Anchor computers, sound systems, TVs, video players etc. to the furniture they sit on. This can be done using Velcro, cables or ropes. Fasten the machine to the table or the wall.
  • Hang mirrors and pictures on round hooks instead of on nails. For large pictures or mirrors it is recommended to use two.
  • Avoid hanging mirrors or pictures in a place that they may fall on people, for example above a bed or couch.

Storage and service areas

  • It is advisable to anchor the hot water heater to the floor or the wall with cables.
  • Water and gas pipes leading into the hot water heater should be flexible.
  • Poisonous or flammable materials should be stored in durable, clearly-marked containers. These should be stored on low shelves in a cabinet with a strong clasp. It is advisable these be stored in a well-ventilated room.
  • Fireplaces or wood-burning stoves should be anchored strongly to the floor.
  • It is advisable to have a fire extinguisher(s) in the house.