Dog senses Northern California earthquake

Earthquake survival: What not to do

  • Posted: 3:16 AM
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  • Author: Jessica

PHOTO: Josh Jackson

For those of you who grew up in earthquake country, you know all about “duck and cover.” Well, given that this was our first earthquake experience altogether, you’ll have to forgive our knee-jerk response. As you can clearly see in the now famous videos, Brian and I each followed our instincts, which told us to get the hell out, and fast. But as it turns out, our actions make a perfect list of what not to do during an earthquake.

First, of course, duck and cover. Get on the ground, preferably beneath a study table or desk. Do not run frantically for the exit. When the building really starts shaking, do not take this to mean run faster.

If there is no furniture to take cover beneath, find a strong doorway, post or inside wall and hang on. Remember, the biggest risk of earthquake injury in a structurally sound building is falling debris, furniture and broken glass. It’s important to immediately find a secure spot to ride out the rumble. As soon as the shaking stops, safely and slowly evacuate the building, as you can see many of our coworkers do. (It turns out they’re all familiar with “duck and cover.”)

If you happen to be in your vehicle, slow to a stop while being aware of traffic around you and behind you. Look for a spot to pull off that is clear of poles, wires, trees and even buildings. Turn on your radio and wait. If you're in a tsunami hazard zone, take stock of your position and be prepared to evacuate uphill - preferably on foot.

In the hours after a major earthquake it’s important to remember three things - stay off the phone, stay off the roads, and stay informed. I confess we only maintained one of the three.

The first thing we did was call our families, to not only make sure they were all right but to make sure they knew we were OK. Next, we got in our car and drove home - I had horrible visions of my rinky-dink rental collapsing and trapping our kitties inside. It seems half of Eureka forgot about Rule No. 2 as well, considering the traffic we encountered on our way out of town. It was bumper-to-bumper in the residential Henderson Center neighborhood, which is unheard of. We returned to find no damage and very little mess at home - we were lucky, especially living 30 miles south of Eureka at the time of the quake.

At this point, we’d spent so much time in the car in the hour immediately after the quake that we had found the only AM radio station broadcasting up-to-the-minute reports. This coupled with the few calls we were able to make before the phone lines jammed meant we were far better informed than most.

We returned to the newspaper to start on the emergency eight-page earthquake edition - we were still working out the details at this point given that we had no power and had yet to assess the damage in the building. As darkness fell, we again broke with common sense. We drove headlong into the tsunami hazard zone to a little business park on the peninsula across the bay - with power, internet and a state-of the-art press. By then we were well aware of the potential for aftershocks, but we didn’t have much choice. We had but one layout computer and no printer so we made the best of it, working into the wee hours of the morning. A stunning newspaper filled with photos was delivered to doorsteps on time Sunday morning.

And luckily, there was no tsunami.

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