While earthquakes can’t be prevented, here’s how you can help avoid injury, minimize property damage and prepare to survive at least 72 hours without help.
- Prepare your home and family
- Understand earthquake insurance
- Stay safe during an earthquake
- After an earthquake
Prepare your home and family
Here are a few precautions you can take to help prevent earthquake damage to your home and keep your family safe:
secure top-heavy furniture to walls to prevent them from tipping and keep heavy items on lower shelves
put anti-skid pads under electronic equipment and small appliances
place beds away from chimneys, windows and heavy pictures – close curtains and blinds to protect against falling broken window glass
use safety latches on cupboards to keep contents from spilling out
store flammable items and household chemicals in an outside shed or in a safe cupboard, away from any source of heat and where they can’t spill
reinforce ceiling joists around each chimney in the attic to help prevent bricks and mortar from falling through the ceiling
tie down your water heater and other appliances that could topple over and breakwater or gas lines
make digital copies and store birth certificates, passports, wills, financial documents and insurance policies in waterproof and fire-resistant containers
check for and repair home hazards – are roof tiles or shingles loose, are walls braced, is your home bolted to its foundations?
know how to use your fire extinguishers
practise an evacuation plan with your family
maintain an emergency kit that includes in-town and out-of-town contact information and alternate meeting locations if you can’t get home
talk to your children about what to do if they’re at school and know their school’s earthquake plan
keep outdoor clothing and sturdy shoes handy
know safe places in your home such as under heavy tables or desks, inside hallways, in corners of rooms or under archways
know dangerous places such as near windows or mirrors or under any objects that can fall, the kitchen and under doorways – shaking may cause the door to slam on you
Did you know?
There are a number of regions in Canada that are particularly susceptible to earthquakes including British Columbia (notably the southwest region), the Ottawa-Quebec region (along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valleys) and parts of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.
Understand earthquake insurance
Earthquake insurance is available as optional coverage and covers the loss or damage to your property and its contents caused by the shaking of the earth. Talk to your insurance representative and know that:
coverage for earthquake damage isn’t included in a standard home insurance policy but can be purchased as an optional, add-on to your existing policy
earthquake insurance is subject to a higher deductible
if an earthquake causes a gas main to break and ignite a fire, the resulting fire damage would be covered under a standard home insurance policy – subject to the legislation in your province or territory
in certain circumstances, homeowners who can’t return home due to insurable damage may be entitled to additional living expenses
earthquake coverage and business interruption insurance are also available for businesses
Stay safe during an earthquake
Wherever you are, take cover immediately. Find a safe space and stay put until the shaking stops. Follow these precautions during an earthquake:
drop, cover your head and hold on
get under a nearby heavy table or desk or take refuge in a hall, corner or under an archway
avoid doorways and areas near windows
if you use a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck
if you're in an elevator during an earthquake, hit all of the floor buttons and get out of the elevator as soon as you can
if you're in a vehicle, drive away from buildings or off a bridge or overpass; pull over to the side of the road and stay inside your car – if safe to do so
if you’re outdoors, stay clear of buildings and wires and keep watch for any falling debris
remain in a protected place until the shaking stops - anticipate aftershocks soon after the first quake
tune to a local radio station for emergency instructions
After an earthquake
Remain calm. If you're able, take care of life-threatening situations first. Get your emergency kit and prepare to be on your own for 72 or more hours before help arrives.
check for injuries and administer first-aid as needed – after looking after your family, check on your neighbours
if you need assistance, place "HELP" signs in all of your windows
turn on your battery-powered, hand-cranked or car radio for broadcast emergency instructions
if safe to do so, check your home for structural damage and other hazards and secure it against intruders
don’t shut off utilities unless they are damaged
don’t light matches or turn on light switches unless you are sure there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids in the area
don’t flush the toilet if you suspect that nearby sewer lines may be broken
don't use your land-line telephone or vehicle, except in an extreme emergency
wear gloves, protective clothing and sturdy shoes
be cautious of debris, particularly broken glass
if you’re evacuating, bring your emergency kit with you and
stay at least 10 meters away from downed power lines
avoid waterfront areas due to the threat of large waves and strong currents
beware of secondary effects, such as landslides and flooding
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