The 5.4 moderate earthquake that recently rolled through Southern California was felt from the Modesto/Merced area south down to Baja and even in Las Vegas, and left nerves on edge and some people confused about what to do in case of such an emergency.
According to the Los Angeles County Emergency Management office, if you are indoors when an earthquake hits, drop to the ground and take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. Remember nearby outer walls are very dangerous during a quake, so do not try to go outside during the shaking.
If there is not a desk or table nearby, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building. However stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls as well as anything that could fall such as lighting fixtures, furniture or pictures on the wall.
If you are in bed, stay there until the shaking stops, 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.
Use a doorway for shelter only if it is near you, and you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway.
Load-bearing doorways are those that are used to enter and exit buildings; that are part of a real room with real walls and are also part of a floor to ceiling room. Partial walls, closet doors and shed doors are typically not load bearing.
Stay inside until the shaking stops.
If you are outdoors, stay there but move away from buildings, street lights, street signs and utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.
If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. But avoid stopping under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
Once the earthquake has stopped, drive on cautiously but avoid roads, bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.
If you are trapped under debris, do not light a match, move about or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing, and tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort because that can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust, which may contain dangerous particles such as asbestos, lead from old paint, fiberglass from insulation and even bacteria.
Once the shaking has stopped, residents should examine the interior of their home for damage to the structure including wiring. If you detect any, shut off the power at the main breaker switch. Also unplug broken lights or appliances because they could start fires.
Hazardous chemicals such as bleach, chemicals and gasoline should be covered with dirt or cat litter.
Individuals should also do a visual inspection of the outside of a home to look for visible cracks in brick chimneys or walls. If there are cracks in the chimney do not use the fireplace.
If there are small fires, put them out immediately, and only if you suspect there is a gas leak, should the main gas valve be shut off.
In the first days after an earthquake, do not use open flames or operate any electrical or mechanical devises that could create a spark, until you are sure there are no gas leaks.
After the quake Tues., July 29, which was centered in Chino Hills on a blind thrust fault, the Los Angeles County Emergency Management office surveyed dams and other critical flood control structures for damage. They also looked at bridges within their jurisdiction and were responsible for evaluating the damage at all county-owned buildings.
The office can also conduct damage assessments for private property in the unincorporated areas of the county. Inspectors will look for structural damage or hazardous conditions such as exposed electrical and gas piping.
Officials remind everyone in Southern California living within 30 miles of an earthquake fault, that it pays to be prepared. To get full details of the steps to follow before, during and after an earthquake, visit the Web site www.espfocus.org and click on 2008 ESP Focus sheets or call (213) 974-1166, to ask questions or receive a copy of “The Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety” in the mail.