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Driving during an earthquake – What to do

Car damaged during an earthquake (note: picture is NOT from recent earthquake in Oklahoma)

Car damaged while driving during an earthquake (note: picture is NOT from recent earthquake in Oklahoma)

When you live in the central plains, you get used to tornadic weather, hellacious hailstorms, sometimes brutal winters and nearly always extremely hot, sticky summers. In recent years though, the plains has gotten even more exciting with the onset of regular earth shaking action – EARTHQUAKES! Most of us know to get in the doorway if we are inside when an earthquake hits, but what does one do while driving when one occurs?

Step 1: Recognize that you are in an earthquake situation.

It may seem like there is something wrong with your car’s road handling all of a sudden. Use your senses and look around. You should feel the earth jolting and shaking and begin to see things falling or cracking.

Step 2: Quickly move to the side of the road.

It is important to move to the side of the road as soon as possible, but also stay focused on general road safety and traffic. Be aware that some drivers may panic. Avoid pulling up under bridges and overpasses or near signs, building overhangs, power lines, trees, and other things that present a hazard of falling on your car. This includes parking next to a building, you do not want to put your car in an area where the risk of heavy objects may fall on it. If you are in a parking lot, exit the car and crouch down low and close to the side of the car to use it as protection. Do not get under the car as it will take the impact of any large falling debris such as concrete.

Step 3: Turn off your engine; set your parking brake.

Step 4: Turn the radio on to listen for news, update reports, warnings, etc.

Step 5: Stay in your vehicle until the shaking stops.

Once the shaking stops, you can exit your vehicle. Check to see that all passengers are all right. Expect shock or panic emotions and do your best to reassure everyone that it is okay. Attend to any injuries using first aid (hopefully you keep a first aid kit in your vehicle). Assess the damage to your car and the vicinity around you to see if it is safe to proceed.

Step 6: Proceed home or to a safety shelter.

Determine if it is safer to remain where you are or if you should go home or to the nearest safety shelter. If there is mass chaos on the roads, you may want to stay put for a bit. Use your cell phone and call people to let them know you are okay. Do not drive through flood waters, over large cracks in the road, or on bridges and structures that have visible damage. Be wary of all overhanging objects, signs, walls, overpasses, etc.

Step 7: Realize there is the possibility of aftershocks.

Aftershocks have the potential for knocking loose already damaged overhanging objects, etc.