A man holds a child in his arms after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on Tuesday. (Iain McGregor / Reuters)
Once the earth has stopped shaking from an earthquake, all danger has not passed. Because of aftershocks, there is a constant need for vigilance even after an earthquake. Earthquakes also create many different hazards. Awareness of these hazards can help you to protect your family from any additional harm.
* Expect aftershocks.
Get yourself and others out of locations that might be dangerous with continued shaking. Be aware of hazards such as fires, electrical lines, or spills that might still put you in danger. Be especially careful as you enter or exit buildings. Buildings can continue to shift even after the earth has stopped shaking.
* Be aware of Tsunami potential.
Move to a higher location if this is an issue.
* Check for injuries.
Do not move seriously injured individuals unless they are in danger of further harm. Help trapped persons if possible.
* Check for hazardous conditions.
Damage from an earthquake can cause fires, leaks in the water, sewer or gas systems, downed or exposed electricity wires, spills and broken items. Extinguish any fires. Check your utilities. If you smell gas, turn off the gas at the meter. If you don't smell gas, do not turn off the gas because it might be many days before you can have it turned back on. If wires are sparking or exposed, turn off the electricity at the breaker box. Do not step in water in order to access the electricity box.
* Check your home for damage.
Turn off water if you have any broken pipes. Do not use the water until you have been told that it is safe. Don't use the toilets if you suspect problems with the sewer system. Inspect your chimney, walls, and foundations.
* Ongoing needs.
Don't use your phone except for emergencies. Listen to your radio for instructions. Gather your children from local schools. Stay away from damaged areas. Be careful as you open cupboards (expect items to fall out). Make sure to check on your neighbors.
Assess the liveability of your home. Find a shelter if staying in your home is not an option. Remember that shelters are typically crowded and also often lack basic services. You might be better off staying in your home if you just lack basic services or have little to moderate damage. If you do leave, make sure to communicate your whereabouts with a staying neighbor.
Hopefully, you never have to use any of these recommendations. But knowing, practicing and thinking about them will help you and your family to be better prepared in an Earthquake.
Utah Seismic Commission - Putting down roots in earthquake country.
Fema - What to do after an earthquake.