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The Informed Parent

An Earthquake Reminder

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Aug. 04, 2008

On July 29, 2008 all of us in Southern California were given a brief reminder that we are in earthquake territory. I was in the middle of seeing patients when the rolling and rocking started. Once we realized what was going on, we moved into the steel doorway until it ended. Although our office and the patients survived without much more than rattled nerves, it got everyone talking about, “what if it had been worse?”

It seems like a good time to remember the basic safety precautions for an earthquate. The tips below are taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website and are thorough and concise. I hope they keep you and your family safe, considering the distinct likelihood we will all experience more earthquakes in the future. More references and disaster information may be found directly through the website:

What To Do During An Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger one might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps toward a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.


  • DROP to the ground. Take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms. Crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls--anything that could fall such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out and the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.


  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside the buildings, only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects.


  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged.


  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

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