What to do during the next earthquake

Last year\'s earthquake sent hundreds of people spilling into the street a block from the White House. (WTOP File)

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – On the first anniversary of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the D.C. area, an expert who’s lived through dozens of temblors reminds the region that it could happen again.

“They’ll happen without any warning,” says Mark Benthien, of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

At the first sign of shaking or sliding, Benthien suggests doing three things: “Drop, cover, and hold on.”

Benthien says while many people fear being caught inside a building during an earthquake, “it’s pretty rare for a building collapse in the U.S.”

A far larger danger is being struck by items in the room. Dropping low and covering yourself with a table or at least covering your head with your arms can protect you.

“Your TV or other items, no matter how heavy they seem, can certainly be thrown, and you don’t want to be a target,” Benthien says.

Benthien says its unwise to seek a door frame during an earthquake.

“It used to be suggested that ‘there’s more wood around the frame, therefore it’s a stronger part of the building.’ That may have been the case in the 1800s, but not anymore,” he tells WTOP. “If you were in room and there was one door and 10 people, and everybody tried to get in that doorframe, it’s just not going to work.”

In most cases, Benthien suggests staying inside the building, rather than trying to go outside.

“Trying to move in an earthquake that’s strong is going to be very difficult, like trying to walk down the aisle of an airplane but there’s nothing to hold onto,” said Benthien.

Benthien believes Mid-Atlantic region “got a bad rap” during last year’s earthquake. He notes residents here rarely receive any education or training about what do during an earthquake.

Later this year, residents of the region will be able to participate in The Great SouthEast ShakeOut drill, part of a national preparedness effort.

“On Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m. you’ll be able to practice ‘drop, cover, and hold on,’ so next time you’ll be perhaps more likely to protect yourself,” he says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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