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Do this if you’re driving when an earthquake hits

Wednesday, October 11, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

earthquake cracked road​Imagine you're driving your car when the inevitable Big One hits – the Cascadia earthquake. Would you know what to do? 

Safety experts offer these tips:

  • Safely pull over and stop the car.

    If you're on a freeway, take the first exit that's safe. Find an open space to park, away from overpasses, tall trees, power lines, bridges, and buildings.
  • Stay in your car with your seat belt fastened until the shaking ends.

    It could last several minutes. Most injuries during earthquakes occur because of people moving around, falling and suffering sprains, fractures, and head injuries.
  • Check the radio for updates.

    Most stations will switch over to emergency broadcasting, which will keep you posted on hazards.
  • Don't expect to make phone calls – cell networks likely will be overloaded.

    You'll have better luck trying texts and email.
  • Use caution when you resume driving since you won't know what's ruined.

    Watch for road damage, fallen power lines, landslides, and be alert for panicked drivers.
  • Traffic lights may not work, so treat intersections as 4-way stops.

    Electronic traffic signs also might be dead.

cars on freeway stuck in trafficMuch of the Puget Sound region has bottlenecks because of our terrain. Salt water, lakes, rivers, and hills hem us in so much that we rely on bridges, overpasses, and narrow traffic corridors for everyday travel. A severe earthquake might sever those routes and leave you stranded.

That's why it's important to always carry an emergency kit in your vehicle.​ At a minimum, your kit should include:

  • first-aid supplies

  • needed prescriptions

  • bottled water

  • non-perishable food, even if it's just energy bars

  • a flashlight

  • a blanket or two.

washington and oregon from space imageAfter the earthquake, expect and prepare for possible aftershocks, falling rocks, or a tsunami near coastal and inland waters. In risky tsunami zones, head for higher ground.

Once you've arrived home or at your destination, stay out of damaged buildings. Watch out for fallen power lines and broken gas lines. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, stay away and call the fire department.

Though the Puget Sound area is most often associated with a megaquake calamity, Oregon falls within the danger zone, too. This Oregon Public Broadcasting website details risks specific to Portland and the Beaver State.

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