Earthquakes are unpredictable and can vary in size. Although the idea of an earthquake is daunting, being prepared and knowing the facts about how to stay safe can reduce anxiety.
British Columbia has the highest earthquake risk in Canada with over 1000 earthquakes recorded in Western Canada each year. Although earthquakes are common, few are large enough to cause significant damage. As scientists discover more about earthquakes, more information becomes available to the public for their safety.
Understanding how to protect yourself in an earthquake is crucial. Here we explore three common myths about earthquakes, to help you be better prepared when the ground starts to shake. Additionally, you may be surprised to find some previously common advice has now been reformed.
1. MYTH: During an earthquake, seek a doorway for protection.
While the doorway has been widely known as an earthquake shelter area, they may not always provide adequate safety during an earthquake event. Doors may swing shut, or continue to swing, during the movement and it may be difficult to remain standing. Remember, not all doorways are built into the physical structure of the building – in modern structures, the doorway is no stronger than the rest of the building.
If you begin to feel earthquake tremors, remember to Drop, Cover and Hold On. If you are inside, best practice is to take refuge under a sturdy table or desk while holding onto the legs for stability. Depending on where you are when an earthquake strikes, the safe response will vary, so educate yourself in advance and know your surroundings.
2. MYTH: Turn off your gas after an earthquake
Following an earthquake, check the vents, chimney and connections of each appliance. Check to ensure there are no breaks in the connection. Turn off your gas only if you see a break in the connection or if you smell/hear gas escaping after an earthquake. Depending on the severity of the event, turning off your gas may mean losing heat, hot water and cooking abilities until a representative from the utility company can access your location to turn it back on (FortisBC).
3. MYTH: If you are driving during an earthquake, immediately get out of the car.
It may feel like something is wrong with your vehicle if you are driving when an earthquake strikes. Slow down and safely pull over. Staying in your car may protect you from falling objects such as trees, power lines and other debris. You’ll also have access to turn on the radio after the shaking stops to listen for any warnings or updates from officials. Have a grab-and-go bag ready in your vehicle.
On October 20 at 10:20 a.m., join millions of people worldwide in practicing how to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” during an earthquake. Register yourself and your organization to participate in the 2017 Great BC ShakeOut.