East Hawaii News

Volcano Scientists Offer Tips on Earthquake Safety

July 19, 2013, 12:38 PM HST
* Updated July 19, 5:00 PM
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Scientists at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the folks who know a thing or three about earthquakes, are offering tips on how to be safe when the earth begins to move around you.

In its weekly Volcano Watch column, HVO said extensive research has debunked the common perceptions of what to do when caught in an earthquake.

Standing in a doorway or running outside are not the recommended actions, the column says.

“In modern buildings, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the structure, so they are not necessarily the safest place to be,” it said. “Worse, they provide little, if any, protection from flying debris or falling objects, the most likely causes of earthquake injuries.”

And trying to run outside during an earthquake is more dangerous than staying inside a building, they say.

Ground movement could result in a loss of balance and fall with the risk of serious injury.

“Also, the exterior walls of a building — with their windows and facades — are often the first parts to collapse, which means that you’d be running toward peril, rather than escaping from it,” the scientists said.

There are only two exceptions to the above, the column said.

Standing in a doorway of an unreinforced adobe (mud-brick) building or older wood-frame house could provide a measure of protection during an earthquake, it said.

And if in a country with poorly engineered construction, or if on the ground floor of an unreinforced adobe building that has a heavy ceiling, moving quickly to an outdoor open space could be the best option.

HVO said according to emergency managers, safety experts, earthquake rescue teams and researchers, the best plan is to follow the credo: “Drop! Cover! Hold on!”

Dropping to hands and knees allows one to move if necessary.

Then, protect as much of your body as possible, especially your head and neck, by taking cover under a sturdy table or desk, the column said.

“If safe cover is not nearby, drop down next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.”

And finally, hold on to the table or desk providing cover until the shaking stops.

The scientists noted that Hawaii experiences thousands of earthquakes annually. While most are too small to be noticed, a few are large enough to cause damage, sometimes statewide, such as the 6.7-magnitude Kiholo Bay tremor in 2006.

“Consequently, residents throughout the State of Hawaii should know how to protect themselves when the ground shakes,” HVO said.

HVO scientists say that ideally, the procedure should be practiced, and an earthquake drill to be conducted this fall will be the perfect opportunity.

On Oct. 17, Hawaii will participate for the first time in the Great ShakeOut.

Started in 2008 in California – another well-known shaky place – the drill last year drew more than 19 milllion participants worldwide.

Information on the 2013 Great Hawaii ShakeOut is available here.

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