Earthquakefilter: How to "cover" with nothing to cover under?
March 29, 2014 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I am a California transplant. Our decorating sensibilities plus the configuration of our apartment mean that we have nothing to take cover under in an earthquake. We've got one tiny coffee table and that's it. What should we do during an earthquake? In yesterday's, we tried the "hold hands on the couch and say 'holy shit'" method, but it seems there must be something more proactive we can do.
posted by rednikki to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Stand in a doorway. They're the structurally strongest part of the room (see a building under construction to see why), and there is usually one nearby.
posted by anonymisc at 1:19 PM on March 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This publication put out by the US Geological Survey has good information. The specific "during" advice is on page 18. Don't feel bad, most of us who've lived in earthquake country our entire lives still sit and think, "holy shit." (The publication switches back and forth with Spanish - at first glance it looks like a Spanish only version)

PS - standing in a doorway is outdated and no longer the recommendation from experts!
posted by cecic at 1:21 PM on March 29, 2014 [11 favorites]

Actually, the doorway advice is no longer considered a default best practice. It really depends on the doorway. And frankly, if it's a big enough shaker, or your building is so poorly constructed, that the ceiling and walls are in danger of collapsing on you, you are probably SOL anyway.

One thing you can do: inventory your living space and make a conscious effort to pare down non-essential decor so that you reduce or eliminate things that can come crashing down on you, or get flung across the room. One advantage of a minimalist aesthetic is that there are fewer objects that can break or become projectiles.

It's not a bad idea to have your bed be a safe zone. Clear the adjacent area, and overhead, of anything hard, heavy, or sharp. If a shaker hits and you're in bed, stay in bed and cover your head with a pillow.
posted by nacho fries at 1:27 PM on March 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you've got anything hanging on the wall above your bed be sure you're using earthquake hooks. Being conked while you're snoozing is no fun.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:43 PM on March 29, 2014

Cover your head and neck that's the most important thing.
posted by radioamy at 2:12 PM on March 29, 2014

Yeah, don't stand in doorways.

This might not be very reassuring but all you can really do is get away from exterior walls or anything that might fall on you and then hope for the best.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on March 29, 2014

Earthquake wax is very useful. Don't hang anything above your bed. Have an earthquake kit in your car and another someplace you can easily get at it. Anchor bookcases, chests of drawers to the wall. Depending on the age of your building, I don't think you need to worry about the ceiling crashing in. I'd rather be home than on the freeway.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:30 PM on March 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh and in honor of the little aftershock we just had--make sure you have a pair of shoes (not flip flops) right by your bed.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's only an aftershock if there isn't a bigger earthquake in the next couple days! In that case it is a foreshock.

That's why its important to have your go-bag and stuff always ready. Because we have no idea if these quakes are aftershocks or foreshocks except in hindsight.
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem with doorways these days is that a lot of them are weak-ass interior partitions that are barely up to the job of holding a door in place. Doorways in load-bearing walls, exterior doorways, security doorways (i.e. your apartment's front door, which was built to support your relatively heavy solid or metal door). Any old doorway will not do, but with the application of sense, one can find a reasonable doorframe in which to stand-- and since it's your home, apply the sense part now, so you don't have to think about it later. I rode out the 2001 Nisqually quake (a lively 6.8 shaker) in a door that I knew was cut through a 6" reinforced concrete wall that ran across our office, and wasn't going anywhere, at least not without taking the building with it.

The go-bag (aka B.O.B or "bail/bug-out bag", a staple of the prepper community that we can all use and learn from) is great advice. Rule of thumb is to have 3 days-worth of everything you'll need, seasonally appropriate. It goes best with a plan of someplace to go that you can get to in 3 days without using a car. Backup plan at your discretion.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:40 PM on March 29, 2014

Get hooks for your cabinets so nothing flies out of them.
posted by brujita at 3:50 PM on March 29, 2014

I grew up in Southern California, and we had a family escape plan that included meeting on our front lawn. Outside is safest as long as you're away from trees and overhead power lines.
posted by summerstorm at 5:08 PM on March 29, 2014

I grew up in Southern California, and we had a family escape plan that included meeting on our front lawn. Outside is safest as long as you're away from trees and overhead power lines.

I don't think you're saying this, but just to clarify you really don't want to run outside during an earthquake. The chances of being injured by falling debris, glass, bricks, walls, power lines etc. is much higher if you run out in the middle of a tremor. Having a designated gathering point for when it's over is a good idea.
posted by cecic at 5:47 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, another California transplant here. My understanding is that you're much more likely to get injured by falling things, than by collapsing buildings. Because most buildings do not collapse, but almost every building has stuff in it that falls down in a quake. So the best spot would therefore be away from lots of heavy stuff like bookshelves, cabinets and so on. Don't stand in the doorway (you'll likely get a door in your face for starters), and I believe the triangle theory has been debunked too.
posted by Joh at 8:29 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take the time now to secure your bookcases, make sure anything above your bed is not heavy, etc.
posted by radioamy at 10:26 PM on March 29, 2014

Do you have a couch? You can duck and cover behind a couch. Basically the idea is to be away from things which might fall on you, and next to or under something large and immobile.
posted by Wavelet at 10:26 PM on March 29, 2014

Yes, that's what they now call the Triangle of Safety. Hunker down next to something solid (not under). Then if the roof falls on you it'll hit the solid object (and the floor, making the roof the triangle's hypotenuse).

Take the time now to secure your bookcases

As a victim of a falling bookcase in the '94 Northridge quake, I'll second this advice.
posted by Rash at 9:36 AM on March 30, 2014

Doorways are bad because you're very likely to get hit by the door itself. The biggest danger is not a totally collapsing building, but being hit by various falling things. Best thing is to get next to something solid like a wall (with no shelves on it) because you've now likely eliminated the possibility of things flying at you from at least that one direction.
posted by the jam at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2014

A Californian friend of mine who has done volunteer rescue work with the Red Cross one explained to me that a big reason you don't want to run outside or run to a doorway or, in fact, move at all if you're not in immediate danger of something falling on you, is that a large number of injuries during earthquakes is due to people trying to walk or run and falling when the floor isn't where they expected it to be.
posted by telophase at 10:03 AM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

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