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Safety Series: What to do in the event of an Earthquake

Posted on Sep 28, 2016 by

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There are many regions around the world that are prone to earthquakes. Earthquakes are unpredictable and can cause extensive damage to natural and built environments. They occur when there is a great deal of stress built up within fault lines where tectonic plates press up against each other and there is a sudden slip where all the built up energy is released. This causes a rolling or shaking vibration that can be felt on the surface. Some hazards that occur after an earthquake are:

  • Liquefaction- A process by which water-saturated sediment temporarily loses strength and acts as a fluid
  • Landslide- movement of surface material down a slope.
  • Tsunami- a sea-wave of local or distant origin that results from large-scale seafloor displacements associated with large earthquakes.

The magnitude of an earthquake can vary on the Richter scale. Minor low magnitude earthquakes (1.0-1.9) are continual and several million can occur per year. Whereas high major magnitude earthquakes (7.0+) can occur 10-20 times per year and results in moderate to severe damage. Knowing the average scale of earthquakes at your project site is important so you know how to prepare.


Being prepared for an earthquake:


Companies and projects based in earthquake prone areas should already know the objectives of earthquake preparedness planning but it is up to the individual to also be aware of them:

  • To minimize potential for injury/death of employees
  • To evaluate and reduce hazards
  • To reduce expenses caused by loss and liability
  • To put tested procedures and equipment in place

The most important part of earthquake emergency planning is the preparation beforehand, which you should be notified during your health & safety training. The key to surviving an earthquake and reducing your risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you will do if it happens. In the event of an emergency, there will only be time for the execution of the plan.


If your camp or worksite is in an earthquake prone area, it is imperative that you are aware of the site’s emergency plan since earthquakes can happen at any time. A way to prepare and plan for an earthquake is to look around your work space/site. Identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall of the building; these will provide a safe location to take shelter when the ground starts shaking.


Actions to take when earthquake occurs:


If you are indoors, move no more than a few steps then:

  1. DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!),
  2. Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
  3. HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.
  • Avoid windows, elevators, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and cabinets filled with heavy objects
  • If you can’t get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, crouch against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are notified or sure it is safe to exit
  • If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on while protecting your head with a pillow


If you are outdoors:

  • Move to a clear area if you can safely walk then proceed to Drop, Cover and Hold On; avoid power lines, buildings and trees
  • In a vehicle – Pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seat belt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.
  • If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out; wait for assistance
  • If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris; landslides are often triggered by earthquakes
  • If you are near the coast, move to higher ground; an earthquake can cause a tsunami


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