Earthquakes: Preparing for the Big One

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A moderate earthquake rattled east-central Canada yesterday. The quake, which the US Geological Survey pegged at 5.0 magnitude, was centered about 38 miles north of Ottawa, Ontario, at a relatively shallow depth of about 12 miles. Tall buildings swayed in Ottawa, Toronto and Detroit, while tremors were felt as far away as Maine and as far south as Wheeling, West Virginia. The quake was also felt in Québec.

Canadian trains were halted in both Ontario and Québec to check for damage to tracks. There are reports of minor damage but no major injuries and no fatalities.  

Earthquakes in the region are relatively rare. But if your company is based in an area on or near a fault line, what should you do to prepare for earthquakes?

Earthquake Preparedness

Natural Resources Canada has a website dedicated to earthquakes. Earthquakes Canada provides a wide range of information on earthquakes, including details on recent and historic earthquakes, a map of the areas in Canada most prone to quakes and links to sites with guidance on how to prepare for earthquakes.

BC is Canada’s most earthquake-prone province. The provincial emergency program provides detailed information on earthquake preparedness. It has a school earthquake safety guide that contains lots of information that could easily be applied to other kinds of workplaces.

For example, if your workplace is located in an area known to have earthquakes, create an earthquake safety program that includes:

  • Earthquake drills
  • Identification and correction of hazards
  • Preparation of a response plan
  • Preparation of a communications plan
  • Training for staff on the program.

During the Quake

During an earthquake, do the following:

  • If you’re inside, stay there. The safest places are inside halls, in corners and in archways. Avoid areas near windows. Take cover under a heavy table, desk or any solid furniture that you can get under and hold onto. Protect your head and face. Doors may slam on your fingers if you’re in a doorway.
  • If you’re outside, stay there and get clear of buildings and wires that could fall on you. Sidewalks next to tall buildings are particularly dangerous.
  • Avoid elevators. If you’re in an elevator when an earthquake happens, hit all floor buttons and get out when you can. 
  • If you’re in a vehicle, pull over to the side (leave the road clear) and away from bridges, overpasses and buildings. Stay in your vehicle.
  • If you’re in a crowded public place, take cover and watch that you don’t get trampled. In shopping centres, take cover in the nearest store and keep away from windows, skylights and display shelves of heavy objects.
  • Remain in a protected place until the shaking stops. Anticipate aftershocks, which may occur soon after the first quake.
  • Try to remain calm and help others.