Massachusetts is located in a ‘moderate’ earthquake zone. Although they cause only mild to insignificant damage, we experience several small tremors every year.
Scientists cite the Cape Ann Earthquake of 1755 (with a magnitude of 6.0) as the last major earthquake to cause significant damage in Massachusetts. Considering the age and type of construction of many structures in the area, a repeat of that event today could be expected to cause serious damage to buildings, as well as the infrastructure.
Since small tremors continue to take place in the Commonwealth, and larger earthquakes are possible, it is important for us to be aware of some simple safety rules if the ground begins to shake.
Before an Earthquake:
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.
During an Earthquake:
In general, you should do the following during an earthquake: Drop, Cover and Hold On. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
If you are inside:
- DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
- Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection..
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
- DO NOT use the elevators.
- Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
If you are outside:
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
- Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.
If you are in a vehicle:
- Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If you are trapped:
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
After an Earthquake:
- When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move. Then exit the building.
- Expect aftershocks.
- Help injured or trapped persons.
- Look for and extinguish small fires.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
- Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- Go to a designated public shelter if your home had been damaged and is no longer safe.
- Stay away from damaged areas.
- Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.
- After it is determined that its’ safe to return, your safety should be your primary priority as you begin clean up and recovery.
- Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
- Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.
- Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.
- Inspect utilities.
- Check for gas leaks.
- Look for electrical system damage.
- Check for sewage and water lines damage.