The First 24 Hours After an Earthquake or Natural Disaster Strikes


When a catastrophe like an earthquake or other natural disaster first hits your neighborhood or community, it’s a total game changer. All of the conveniences and necessities that we take so for granted like electricity, sanitary running water for drinking and bathing, communication sources – can all be immediately compromised… Being ready by having the best emergency preparedness kits and having done some simple disaster readiness planning can make an enormous difference.

Here are the critical steps to tackling the first 24 hours after an earthquake or other natural disaster:

  1. Make sure you and your family and neighbors are safely out of harm’s way – and if rescuing is needed, tackle that first.
  2. If anyone is injured, seek help right away if possible from local emergency response personnel or from local sources that have skill with first aid.
  3. If your home is damaged by the disaster, shut off the gas line (an emergency gas valve shut-off may already be present as is found in many homes in California where earthquakes are a constant threat). Shutting off the gas line can prevent explosions, fires or gas leaks causing altered breathing.
  4. If your home has been damaged, do not rush back in…instead find a safe location nearby to gather and stay together.
  5. If there are downed power lines or broken gas pipes, let local emergency personnel know right away so that they ca respond
  6. Listen by radio or use your smart phone to find out what the local emergency agencies are recommending as next steps such as where to go to seek shelter, and other immediate assistance
  7. Move any debris away from a fire hydrant if it is near to where you live, so that the fire department can quickly get to it.
  8. Let your boss know that you have been involved in a disaster and cannot make it to work that day.
  9. Contact your insurance company to let them know that you have damaged property (home, car, belongings) – depending on your coverage.
  10. Stay off the roads to allow emergency personnel and their vehicles easy passage to get to and from locations where people need help
  11. Water: make sure you stay hydrated, but avoid wasting water. If the water supply has been compromised and is unclean, sources of clean water can include bottled water that you may have put aside for emergency use, water from your water heater tank, ice cube trays, and even water from the tank of your toilet (but definitely NOT from the toilet bowl!)
  12. Food: If power has been lost, eat the perishable food first from the fridge, and then move on to your canned and other foods. For cooking, make sure that fires are lit safely and not lit inside your home, unless you have a fireplace that hasn’t been damaged.
  13. Shelter: By listening to your radio or Smartphone, you will be able to learn where the nearest Red Cross or other agency provided shelter is located. If your home is no longer safe, take your bare necessities and make your way to the shelter or ask for assistance to get there from emergency personnel.
  14. Family: You can contact family members through cell phones or through social media: email, Facebook, texting, Twittering

Having disaster and emergency preparedness planning handled in advance (check out great sources such as Ready or Not!  The Best Emergency Preparedness System e-book

FEMA or Red Cross) will make your first 24 hours (and up to 72 hours) far more comfortable and will reduce stress for yourself and your loved ones.

If you have a passion to help others, consider starting or joining a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to be able to assist professional emergency personnel who are often over-taxed at times of true emergency.

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