Even a small earthquake, say a 5 on the Richter scale, is strong enough to damage homes and buildings and harm or kill those inside. We’ve all heard to do things like shelter in a doorway or hide under a desk, but will these practices really save your life? Many search-and-rescue professionals say no. Here are five things not to do if the ground starts moving underneath your feet.
1. Don’t hide under the bed
The small space beneath a bed will be made even smaller if the ceiling collapses on it. If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. The bed will hold up some of the debris, creating a safe void around the perimeter. Never get under it, and teach your children never to crawl under the bed in an earthquake.
2. Steer clear of the stairs
The average stairway is a deathtrap in an earthquake if the building collapses on top of you. Don’t be on the stairs, or under them, in a quake.
3. ****Skip the doorway: We’ve all been told at some point to get under a doorway in an earthquake. But what really happens in that spot? The idea behind this “shelter” spot is to take advantage of the extra studs in the wall around the doorway, but the reality is quite different. If you are standing under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward, you will still get crushed by the ceiling. And if the doorjamb falls horizontally, people have actually been cut in half by a failed and collapsed doorway. Don’t hang out under doorways!
4. Flee from windows
Windows might seem like a way to escape danger, especially since you can see through it, but just imagine the damage big broken pieces of glass will inflict on the human body. Glass moves and breaks in strange patterns during earthquakes, and these broken pieces can be deadly if they fall on you—or you fall onto them.
5. Don’t get under a desk
Furniture can become a lethal deadfall trap when the weight of debris is added on top of it. Under the desk may seem like a logical hiding place from a quake, but it’s safer to crouch beside the desk. Even if it is crushed, the ceiling will still be supported by the desk somewhat. This creates a small triangular space next to the desk that could provide enough room to survive.
Did you make it through a big earthquake? What did you do for shelter? Tell us in the comments.