Are you prepared for an Earthquake?


Tuesday September 23, 2011 the DMV area, along with many states that border the east coastline was rocked by a 5.8 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in the capital city. Many people across the District felt the heavy shaking and panicked.

The quake hit at 1:51pm and was about 3.7 miles deep according to the U.S. Geological Survey and it was felt from North Carolina to New York City. No injuries were reported, but all the federal buildings in the city were shut down due to the quake. Memorials and monuments on the National Mall were also evacuated and closed. Even some P.G. County schools were closed due to damage.

Kesha Smith, a northeast resident, was working on Capital Hill when the quake struck. She said, “I was in the basement of my building and literally didn’t know what to do! I was scared and stood up, but almost feel down due to the rumble.”

Marie Jones said she was downtown handling business when she felt the quake. “My heart started racing and people just started panicking and running everywhere.” She said as a result of the mayhem her heart briefly stopped and she was afraid she might have had a small heart attack.

Although earthquakes are rare in D.C., city officials did not seem as prepared as they could have. Also ask yourself was your home or office prepared for such an event?

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) here are some tips on what you should do before, during and after an earthquake:

Six Ways to Plan Ahead

     1. Check for Hazards in the Home

    2. Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors

    3. Educate Yourself and Family Members

    4. Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

    5. Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

    6. Help Your Community Get Ready

During an Earthquake:

If indoors

DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ONuntil the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
• Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
• Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.
• Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
• Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
• DO NOT use the elevators.


If outdoors

• Stay there.
• Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
• Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.


If in a moving vehicle

• Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
• Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.


If trapped under debris

• Do not light a match.
• Do not move about or kick up dust.
• Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
• Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

What to Do After an Earthquake

Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
Listen to a battery-operated radio or television. Listen for the latest emergency information.
Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
Stay away from damaged areas.
Help injured or trapped persons.
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage.
Inspect utilities.


For more information on earthquake preparedness please visit


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