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June 1, 2012 > Prepare for an emergency - respond safely to an earthquake

Prepare for an emergency - respond safely to an earthquake

Submitted By Tamar Sarkissian

What to Do Before:
Prepare an emergency plan and conduct an emergency drill.
Prepare and maintain an emergency preparedness kit to be self-sufficient for at least three days, and preferably up to one week, following an earthquake.
Evaluate your home. Have your building and appliances inspected to assure that they are able to withstand a significant earthquake.
Know the location of your gas service shutoff valve, and how to shut off your gas supply.
Most gas appliances have a shutoff valve located near the appliance that lets you turn off the gas to that appliance only. Know which of your appliances uses gas, and where the appliance shutoff valves are located. In some cases, turning off the gas at the appliances shutoff valve will suffice.
Know the location of the main electric switch and how to turn off your electric supply.

What to Do During:
If you are indoors, stay indoors and take cover under a sturdy desk or table, or stand in an interior doorway. Stay away from exterior walls and windows, masonry veneers (such as fireplaces), tall furniture, and hanging pictures or mirrors.
If you are cooking in the kitchen, turn off the stove before you take cover.
If you are outdoors, get into the open away from buildings and power lines. Be alert for falling debris.
If you are driving, pull to the side of the road and stop if it is safe. Move your vehicle out of the normal traffic pattern as much as possible. Do not stop on or under overpasses, bridges, or tunnel. Do not stop under or near electrical power lines, light posts, trees, or signs. Stay in your car until the earthquake is over.

What to Do After:
Ensure that everyone is safe.
Inspect your building for damage. Do not use electrical switches, appliances, telephones or any flame if you suspect a gas leak, because sparks can ignite gas.
If you smell gas, hear gas escaping, see a broken gas line, or suspect a broken gas line, evacuate the building. Find a phone away from the building and call PG&E or 9-1-1 immediately. If it is safe to do so, turn off the gas service shutoff valve normally located near the gas meter. Do not shut off the gas service shutoff valve unless you find the presence of any one of these conditions because there may be a considerable delay before PG&E can turn your service back on.
If leaking gas starts to burn, do not try to put the flame out. Evacuate the building. Call 9-1-1 and PG&E immediately. If it is safe to do so, turn off the gas service shutoff valve normally located near the gas meter.
Once the gas is shut off at the meter, do not try to turn it back on yourself. Only PG&E or another qualified professional should turn the gas back on.
Check for downed or damaged electric utility lines. Stay away from downed power lines and never touch wires lying on the ground, wires hanging on poles, or objects that may be touching them. Downed wires still may be carrying current and could shock, injure or even kill if touched.
Check for damaged household electrical wiring and shut off the power at the main electric switch if you suspect any damage. If the power goes out, turn off all electric appliances, and unplug major electric appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on.

After a major earthquake, outside help may not be available for at least three days. PG&E urges customers to prepare and learn how to respond during and after an earthquake. Useful emergency preparedness information can be found at the following websites: The American Red Cross (, the California Office of Emergency Services (, the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( and the Earthquake Country Alliance (

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