Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Notifications on your Phone

An earthquake is “an intense shaking of the Earth’s surface” (NASA). It is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere.


An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere. On average there are 20,000 earthquakes a year, or roughly 55 per day (USGS).  Many earthquakes go unnoticed but we historically expect about 16 major earthquakes per year. 15 that register a 7 range magnitude and one that registers an 8.0 or greater.  The majority of earthquakes occur in the “Ring of Fire” which runs along the rim of the Pacific Ocean where there are over 450 volcanoes. 

Earthquakes can cause both injuries and death. Roughly 60,000 people die worldwide because of natural disasters, the majority of which are caused by building collapses in earthquakes (Kenny). Taking the time to prepare, and knowing what to do both during and after an earthquake, can help protect your family and reduce the likelihood of injury or death.


Some things you can do if there’s an earthquake in your area are:

BEFORE an earthquake occurs:

  • Fasten shelves securely to walls;
  • Place heavy objects on lower shelves;
  • Hang items away from beds and anywhere people regularly sit (such as mirrors and pictures);
  • Bracing hanging light fixtures;
  • Repair known defective electrical wiring and gas connections;
  • Strap the water heater to studs in the wall and bolt it to the floor;
  • Repair any existing cracks in walls and foundations;
  • Store poisons and flammable liquids on bottom shelves of latched cabinets;
  • Pre-identify safe places in every room (under sturdy furniture, against inside walls, away from glass);
  • Locate safe places outside (away from buildings, trees, electrical lines, and bridges);
  • Teach family members how to turn off gas, electricity and water;
  • Teach children how to dial 911 in an emergency
  • Have disaster supplies on hand (flashlight and extra batteries, battery operated radio, first aid kit, emergency food and drinking water, non-electric can opener, sturdy shoes, etc); and
  • Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated

DURING an earthquake (indoors):

  • Take cover beneath a sturdy piece of furniture or against an indoor wall away from glass;
  • Drop, cover and hold on; and
  • Stay inside! The most dangerous thing you can do during an earthquake is try to leave

DURING an earthquake (outdoors);

  • Move into the open, away from buildings, street lights, and overhead utility wires and stay put

DURING and earthquake (in a moving vehicle):

  • Try to find a clear area away from buildings, trees, overpasses, and overhead wires;
  • Stop quickly and stay in the vehicle; and
  • Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution.  Bridges and ramps may have been damaged during the quake

AFTER the earthquake:

  • Be prepared for aftershocks;
  • Help injured or trapped persons within the limits of your abilities;
  • Make sure your family is safe;
  • Use television or radio to stay updated on any available emergency information;
  • Check on the elderly and disabled, or children who may need special help;
  • Stay out of damaged buildings;
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls;
  • Clean up any spilled materials;
  • Open cabinet and closet doors cautiously;
  • Inspect chimneys for damage; and be extremely cautious when lighting fires in fireplaces as chimney damage can lead to fires; and 
  • Check utilities for damage. If you smell gas, turn off the gas and do not use electrical devices.  Stay away from broken electrical wires, and turn off the main fuse box or circuit breaker.  

When dealing with pets, remember that their behavior may change after an earthquake and they may become more aggressive or defensive.  Because of this keep dogs on their leash or keep them in a fenced area.  Some emergency shelters do not allow pets so make sure that you prepare an emergency supply kit that includes several days of dry pet food and a large water container.  (New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources) 

Participating in International ShakeOut Day is a great way for you to prepare for an earthquake.

Every year on the third Thursday of October (October 15 this year) people around the world practice earthquake safety and hold an earthquake drill.  In British Columbia there are over 370,000 participants currently registered and worldwide that number jumps to 16.7 million (ShakeoutBC).  

While earthquakes themselves can cause a lot of harm, earthquakes can also trigger a tsunami.  For example, In 2004 an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a series of tsunamis, some of which brought 100-foot waves and killed over 225,000 people. 

 If your area is under a tsunami warning:

  • First, protect yourself from an earthquake; Remember to DROP, COVER, then HOLD ON;
  • Get to high ground as far inland as possible;
  • Be alert to signs of a tsunami, such as a sudden rise or draining of ocean waters;
  • Listen to emergency information and alerts;
  • Evacuate: DO NOT WAIT! Leave as soon as you see any natural signs of a tsunami or receive an official tsunami warning; and
  • If you are in a boat, go out to sea (Ready

One way that you can prepare for either an earthquake or tsunami is to use Alertable.  Severe weather alerts from both Environment and Climate Change Canada and the US Geological Survey come through automatically.  By downloading the Alertable app on your phone, or choosing one of the other options such as social media or instant messaging, you will receive every alert as soon as it is issued.  Sometimes this warning can mean the difference between safety, injury or death.

To learn more about International ShakeOut Day click here.  

For more information on how to prepare for and survive a tsunami click here

What are other tips we could talk about? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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