Earthquakes and How to Survive Them

The Earth is made up of three main layers: the crust, the mantle, and the core. The crust, the layer that you live on, is like the skin of an apple. It is very thin (from 6 to 30 kilometers) in comparison to the other two layers. It is broken into many pieces called plates. These plates float on the soft, plastic mantle below the crust. The core, which is at the center of the Earth, consists of heavy metals and is about 4000° centigrade hot.

The plates of the crust move along smoothly but sometimes they stick together and create pressure. The pressure increases and the rock bends until it breaks. When this occurs, an earthquake is the result.

Earthquakes happen every day. Though millions of people may never experience an earthquake, it is a very common happening on this planet. So today, somewhere, an earthquake will occur. It may be so light that only special instruments can record its movement; it may shake houses, rattle windows, and change the place of small things. It may be strong enough to cause damage, injury, and death.

It is thought that about 700 shocks each year have this power when they occur in a populated area. Luckily, most of these destructive earthquakes occur in less populated places.

Since a large number of the world’s earthquakes each year occur along the Pacific Ocean, this is the most probable area for today’s earthquakes. But it could hit any place because no area is entirely free of earthquakes.
Saying that an earthquake is going to happen today is not really predicting earthquakes. So far, they cannot be predicted, but anyone, on any day could say this and it would be true. This is because several million earthquakes occur each year. So, thousands occur each day, although most are too small to be located. The problem is in finding the exact area where and when a strong shock will happen.

Earthquake prediction is a future possibility. Just as the weather organizations now forecast floods and strong storms, the national earthquake information centers may one day predict earthquakes. This may someday become a reality, but only after much more is learned about earthquake mechanisms.


Before an Earthquake
• All family members should know how to turn off gas, water, and electricity.
• Plan family emergency procedures, and make plans for your family to get together.
• Know emergency telephone numbers (doctor, hospital, police, fire department, etc.)
• Fix heavy things strongly to walls (bookshelves, mirrors, cabinets, etc.)
• Never place heavy things over beds, and keep them lower than the head height of the shortest member of the family.

During an Earthquake
• Stay calm.
• If you are inside, stand in a doorway, or go under a desk or table, away from windows or glass doors.
• If you are outside, stand away from buildings, trees, and telephone and electrical lines.
• If you are on the road, drive away from underpasses and overpasses; stop in a safe area, and stay in your car.
After an Earthquake
• Check for injuries. Provide first aid.
• Check for gas, water, and electrical lines.
• Check for building damage and possible problems during aftershocks.
• Clean up dangerous chemicals off the floor.
• Wear shoes.
• Turn on the radio, and listen for instructions from police and fire departments.
• Use the telephone for emergencies, only.