Earthquake!

Outside's guide to surviving everything

San Francisco Quake

Loma Prieta earthquake, Marina district of San Francisco, 1989     Photo: California Watch/Flickr

Survival Myth

Survey Says: The popular "Triangle of Life" e-mail advises people at risk of being crushed in a building collapse to curl up in the fetal position next to the largest object in the room. If the building buckles, the object and the collapsed roof will supposedly create a triangle-shaped safety pocket.

Science Says: You should not follow this advice. Take shelter under a table or desk.

 

The Forecast: An 8.8 in Chile, an 8.0 in Sichaun, China, 7.0 in Haiti, 9.0 in Japan—if the past three years are any indication, it certainly appears as though quakes are on the rise. But according to the U.S. Geological Survey, it’s just that we’ve had more activity in unprepared or ­heavily ­populated areas. Where next? ­Domestic sites considered overdue for a shaker include St. Louis, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest.

Stats: 5,800—the number of fatalities that could occur, according to the USGS, if a 7.9 quake were to hit the San Andreas Fault, two miles from San Francisco.

Worst-case scenario: Trapped in debris. The natural reaction is to scream for help and struggle to escape—don’t. Shouting could cause you to inhale toxins; sudden movement might displace large objects onto you. Cover your mouth with clothing to block dust and knock on something to alert rescuers.

Smart Play: Before you travel to an earthquake-prone region, register with the government’s Smart ­Traveler Enrollment Program (travelregistration.state.gov) so Uncle Sam knows your whereabouts. If you’re in an urban area when a quake hits, get inside a building—but avoid unreinforced-concrete structures.

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