Earthquakes are unpredictable and can happen at any time. Would you know what to do if you were driving when an earthquake started? Here are some helpful tips from the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) and the Center for Disease Control to help in case you find yourself in a shaky situation.
If an earthquake hits while you’re on your commute home from work, chances are you’ll feel it before you know what’s happening. According to the CUSEC, slow down, safely pull over to the side of the road in an open area free from signs, overpasses, bridges, power lines, trees or anything else that could fall on you and your car. When in doubt, the CUSEC recommends you drop, cover and hold – a proven method for helping reduce injuries related to earthquakes. Be sure to turn on the radio and listen for instructions from local authorities on what to do. Even if you’re not listening to a news channel, most stations will change over to emergency broadcasting.
Once safely off the road, turn off your car, turn on the parking break and stay in your car with your seat belt on until the earthquake is over. While you may want to call and check in on your loved ones, only use your phone if you have an emergency and need help. Due to high call volume, it could not only be hard for you to reach them but hard for those who need emergency help to get it with the high call volume. If a tree or other large object does fall on you, stay inside your car and wait for emergency assistance. Only leave your vehicle and belongings if remaining inside the car causes an immediate threat.
Once the earthquake has passed, the CUSEC has many helpful suggestions on how to help prevent additional damage from occurring. Make sure you and any passengers with you are not injured. Then, get out of your car and check to see if there is any damage to your car and the area around it. Unless it is an emergency, do not drive unless you’ve heard it is safe by authorities. Sometimes it’s safer to stay put than try to travel home as you don’t know what conditions the roads are in.
After you’ve been given the okay to get back on the roads – be careful! With large earthquakes there is always the potential for tremors and aftershocks that could create further damage to the roads, your vehicle and yourself. If you think a road or bridge may have been damaged during the earthquake, avoid it even if you don’t see any real physical damage. When driving, watch out for cracks in the roads and avoid those areas at all costs. Never drive over objects that are obstructing your path such as downed power lines or other debris. There will likely be traffic lights out which may distract drivers, so stay alert! If you have to drive near mountains or rocks, landslides may occur due to the movement of the ground so be alert.
No matter how curious you are, it isn’t safe to travel through damaged areas. If anything, you’ll only disrupt authorities’ relief efforts, blocking their way as they try to get through to help injured or trapped individuals.
Being prepared when an earthquake strikes can help keep you and your loved ones safe. If your area is prone to earthquakes, keep an emergency kit in your vehicle and remember these safety tips.