Many people who have not experienced an earthquake are under the impression that the dangerous part is the earthquake itself. In fact, the time after an earthquake is much more dangerous, and knowing what to do in the wake of an earthquake is an important part of earthquake preparedness. Earthquakes can cause a wide variety of damages, and sometimes the damage is extremely dangerous, but not very obvious, as for example in the case of damaged electrical wiring which causes fires in the walls of a structure.
After an earthquake is over, the first thing that people should do is to assess their surroundings for safety, and to check on people in the vicinity. If people are indoors, it is a good idea to evacuate, because earthquakes can cause structural instability, which will cause a building to collapse. If survivors smell gas or see spilled chemicals, they should vacate the area immediately. Likewise if flames or electrical sparks are spotted.
Victims should be quickly checked for injuries, with a focus on the ABCs: airway, breathing, and circulation. If someone has severe injuries or a suspected head or spine injury, he or she should not be moved. It is also not advisable to attempt to clear wreckage from trapped victims, unless they are in immediate danger of death, because unstable piles of wreckage can hurt people even more when they are moved by people who are not experienced. If people are left in a building due to injuries or they are trapped, the building should be clearly marked to indicate that there are people inside.
If a suspected utility break such as a gas, electric, water, or sewer line is identified, it should be reported to emergency services and the utility. Emergency services are usually out in force after an earthquake, and they can also be called on emergency hotlines. Keeping a list of emergency numbers handy is a good idea to be prepared for situations like after an earthquake. Phones should only be used for emergency use, to avoid clogging the phone system, and survivors should listen to battery operated radios for information.
Overpasses and bridges should be avoided until they have been cleared by emergency services after an earthquake. People who live near the ocean should be alert to tsunami warnings, and people who live with others may want to establish an emergency meeting point so that if they become separated during an event like an earthquake, they know where to go to find each other. It is also important to be on the watch for aftershocks, as some aftershocks can be as severe or more severe than the initial earthquake, causing additional damage.
Once structures have been cleared for entry after an earthquake, people should be careful when opening drawers, cupboards, and closets, as objects may have shifted during the earthquake. Waiting until all utilities have been cleared is also strongly encouraged, and people should stay away from downed power lines, signs of chemical spills, and sites which are marked as dangerous by emergency services.
To be prepared for the events after an earthquake, people should assemble an earthquake safety kit, which can also double as a general emergency or disaster kit. Supplies of food, clean water, medication, batteries, radios, flashlights, medical supplies, clothing, and blankets should be stored in the kit, along with food and water for pets. Many people also like to keep copies of important documents like birth certificates, deeds to homes and cars, and passports in the kit, so that it will be readily accessible as needed, and keeping cash on hand is also a good idea. As a general rule, there should be enough supplies in an emergency kit to get by for 72 hours without assistance.