You can prepare for potential hazards by having a plan in place to deal with the anticipated impacts of an event. Having your plan and emergency kit prepared in advance is the best way to support your family and pets. You may need to Shelter in Place or “hunker down” in your home for at least 72 hours (3 days) without needing to leave for supplies. Plan to be without power in many hazards that could occur.
In Canada, the coast of British Columbia is the region most at risk from a major earthquake. Other areas prone to earthquakes are the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valleys, as well as parts of the three northern territories. Earthquakes have been reported in Nova Scotia as recently as March 2020. Approximately 5,000 mostly small earthquakes are recorded in Canada each year. In the past 100 years, at least nine earthquakes in or near Canada have registered a magnitude of 7 or higher. A few have caused extensive damage. Even a magnitude 6 earthquake could do extensive damage in a built-up area. In fact, a strong earthquake near one of Canada's major urban areas would likely be the most destructive disaster this country could experience.
What can occur during an earthquake:
Small or moderate earthquakes
- These can last only a few seconds and represent little or no emergency risk.
- Ceiling lights may move, and some minor rattling of objects may occur in your home.
- You may feel a slight quiver under your feet.
- If you are close to its source, you may hear a loud bang followed by shaking.
- These can last up to several minutes and constitute a disaster if its epicentre is near a densely populated area, or its magnitude is sufficiently large for the region.
- The ground or floor will move, perhaps violently.
- Whether far away or close to the source, you will probably feel shaking followed by a rolling motion, much like being at sea.
- If you are far away from the source, you might see swaying buildings or hear a roaring sound.
- You may feel dizzy and be unable to walk during the earthquake.
- If you live in a high-rise or a multi-storey building, you may experience more sway and less shaking than in a smaller, single-storey building. Lower floors will shake rapidly, much like residential homes. On upper floors, movement will be slower, but the building will move farther from side to side.
- Furnishings and unsecured objects could fall over or slide across the floor.
- Unsecured light fixtures and ceiling panels may fall.
- Windows may break.
- Fire alarms and sprinkler systems may be activated.
- Lights and power may go off.
Before an earthquake
- Go through your home, imagining what could happen to each part if shaken by a violent earthquake. Check off the items that you have completed in this list.
- Teach everybody in the family (if they are old enough) how to turn off the water and electricity. Leave simple instructions at each switch as a reminder.
- Clearly label the on-off positions for the water, electricity and gas. If your home is equipped with natural gas: tie or tape the appropriate wrench on or near the pipe, to turn off the gas, if necessary.
- Repair loose roof shingles.
- Secure the water heater to studs along with other heavy appliances (stove, washer, dryer), especially those that could break gas or water lines if they shift or topple.
- Secure large appliances such as refrigerators, water heaters, air conditioners, and top-heavy furniture and shelving units with straps, bolts, and other stabilizing methods to prevent tipping.
- Affix mirrors, paintings, and other hanging objects securely, so they won't fall off hooks.
- Position beds and chairs away from chimneys and windows. Don't hang heavy pictures and other items over beds. Closed curtains and blinds will help stop broken window glass from falling on beds.
- Put anti-skid pads under TVs, computers, and other small appliances, or secure them with Velcro or other such product.
- Store heavy items or glassware in lower cabinets so they do not become dangerous projectiles. Also use anti-skid liners for kitchen and bathroom cupboards, medicine cabinets, and closet shelves.
- Use child-proof or safety latches on cupboards to stop contents from spilling out.
- Keep flammable items and household chemicals away from heat and where they are less likely to spill.
- Consult a professional to find out additional ways you can protect your home, such as bolting the house to its foundation and other structural mitigation techniques.
- If you live in an apartment block or a multi-storey building, work with your building manager or condominium board to decide how best to "quake-safe" your unit. Seek advice from professionals (building engineers, emergency preparedness authorities) if you are unsure about what to do.
- If you live in a mobile home, you can leave the wheels on the mobile home to limit its fall. Or you can install a structural bracing system to reduce the chance of your unit falling off its supports. Ensure the awning on your home is securely supported and fastened to the unit. For information on the best way to brace your unit, contact your local mobile home dealer or a mobile homeowner’s association.
- Learn First Aid and CPR as first responders may not be able to get to you for quite some time.
- Don't shut off the gas unless there is a leak or a fire. If the gas is turned off, it must be turned on again by a qualified tradesperson, which can take some time after an emergency.
- Discuss earthquake insurance with your insurance broker. Check your coverage - it could affect your financial ability to recover losses after an earthquake.
During an earthquake
Wherever you are when an earthquake starts, take cover immediately. Move a few steps to a nearby safe place if need be. Stay there until the shaking stops.
If you are indoors: "DROP, COVER, HOLD ON"
- Stay inside.
- DROP under heavy furniture such as a table, desk, bed, or any solid furniture.
- COVER your head and torso to prevent being hit by falling objects.
- HOLD onto the object that you are under so that you remain covered.
- If you can't get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.
- If you are in a shopping mall, go to the nearest store.
- Stay away from windows, and shelves with heavy objects.
- If you are at school, get under a desk or table and hold on. Face away from windows.
- If you are in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck.
If you are outdoors
- Stay outside.
- Go to an open area away from buildings.
- If you are in a crowded public place, take cover where you won't be trampled.
If you are in a vehicle
- Pull over to a safe place where you are not blocking the road. Keep roads clear for rescue and emergency vehicles.
- Avoid anything that could collapse i.e. bridges, overpasses, underpasses, buildings.
- Stop the car and stay inside.
- Listen to your car radio for instructions from emergency officials.
- Do not attempt to get out of your car if downed power lines are across it. Wait to be rescued.
- Place a HELP sign in your window if you need assistance.
- If you are on a bus, stay in your seat until the bus stops. Take cover in a protected place. If you can't take cover, sit in a crouched position and protect your head from falling debris.
AVOID the following in an earthquake
- Doorways. Doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
- Windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures. You could be hurt by shattered glass or heavy objects.
- Elevators. If you are in an elevator during an earthquake, hit the button for every floor and get out as soon as you can.
- Downed power lines - stay at least 10 metres away to avoid injury.
- Coastline. Earthquakes can trigger large ocean waves called tsunamis.
After an earthquake
Stay calm. Help others if you are able.
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
- Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities. Follow their instructions. Place telephone receivers back in their cradles; only make calls if requiring emergency services.
- Put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass.
- Check your home for structural damage and other hazards. If you suspect your home is unsafe, do not re-enter.
- If you have to leave your home, take your emergency kit and other essential items with you. Post a message in clear view, indicating where you can be found. Do not waste food or water as supplies may be interrupted.
- Do not light matches or turn on light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Use a flashlight to check utilities and do not shut them off unless damaged. Leaking gas will smell.
- If tap water is still available immediately after the earthquake, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, remember that you may have water available in a hot water tank (make sure water is not hot before touching it) and toilet reservoir (not the bowl).
- Do not flush toilets if you suspect sewer lines are broken.
- Carefully clean up any spilled hazardous materials. Wear proper hand and eye protection.
- Check on your neighbours after looking after members of your own household. Organize rescue measures if people are trapped or call for emergency assistance if you cannot safely help them.
- Cautiously open cabinets, cupboards, and closets in case items may be poised to fall.
- If you have pets, try to find, and comfort them. If you have to evacuate, take them to a pre-identified pet-friendly shelter.
- Place a HELP sign in your window if you need assistance.
Beware of secondary effects
- Although ground-shaking is the major source of earthquake damage, secondary effects can also be very destructive. These can include:
- Landslides caused from saturated sandy soils becoming soft and unstable
- Fires if gas lines ruptured or power lines spark blazes
- Flooding of low-lying areas or if dams break or rivers are diverted
- Tsunamis washing over coastlines
- Power, utilities, and telecommunication outages can be expected. Ensure you have supplies in advance to support your family until things resume. It may take emergency responders time to mobilize or get to your location depending on the damage. Use your First Aid and CPR training as you may be the person who saves a life.
Source: Get Prepared