This guide is designed to familiarize University employees and students with appropriate procedures before, during, and after an earthquake.
This guide is intended to help University departments, employees, and students prepare for and respond to earthquakes, and should be used in conjunction with the Emergency Evacuation Guide.
Earthquakes cannot be predicted; therefore, it is best to be prepared at all times. The Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend the following actions to prepare for an earthquake:
- Create a family plan that identifies alternate meeting locations in the event that you or your family are unable to return home. Include emergency contact numbers and supplies such as bottled water, nonperishable food, and medications. For additional information and a family plan template, please visit: https://www.ready.gov/plan
Look around places where you spend most of your time. Identify places that may offer protection from falling items, such as:
- Under a sturdy piece of furniture.
- Against an interior wall that has no surface exposed to the exterior.
- Identify your primary and alternate assembly areas. An assembly area is a zone that is a safe distance away from the occupied building where occupants can congregate in the event of a building emergency.
- Store heavy or breakable objects in closed cabinets, as low to the ground as possible.
- Secure refrigerators, bookshelves, appliances, and other heavy items to prevent them from falling during an earthquake.
- Evaluate where hanging objects are located. Mirrors, pictures or other objects hanging near seating or sleeping areas could fall and cause injury. Arrange these items so they do not pose a hazard to those below.
Response – During Earthquake
If you are indoors: Remain indoors and seek protection until the earthquake subsides. Stay calm and take precautions to protect yourself from potential debris:
- Drop to the floor, and get under or adjacent to a sturdy table, desk, or permanent fixture
- Cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
- Hold on to the table or desk you are under. Objects may shift during the earthquake
- If you are not near a sturdy table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
- Stay away from windows, overhead fixtures, objects on walls, tall furniture, large appliances, and cabinets filled with objects that may fall during an earthquake.
- If you are in an elevator, you have a reasonable amount of protection and should remain in place. If you are trapped, notify emergency response personnel by using the elevator phone, help button, or cellphone.
- If you are in bed, remain in bed and cover your head with a pillow.
If you are outdoors: Move away from buildings, overhangs, trees, and power lines to a clear area, such as a large open public area or field. If you are driving, pull over and stop in an area with no overhead hazards.
If getting safely to the floor to take cover is not possible: Identify an inside corner of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you. The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility device, lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
Response – After Earthquake
After the earthquake: Once the earthquake has stopped, do the following:
- Move carefully as there may be “aftershocks”- smaller earthquakes after the main earthquake.
- Exit the building when safety permits, and move to the designated assembly area.
- Use emergency exit route information posted throughout University buildings to determine the quickest route out of the building. Elevators should not be used.
- If the building loses power during the earthquake and you are unable to safely navigate exiting the building due to low visibility, remain in place and notify University Police of your location.
- Once in the designated assembly area, take account of your co-workers, students, or peers. Report missing persons to emergency response personnel and University Police.
- Do not re-enter any building until it is cleared by University Police, Facilities Management, emergency response personnel, Safety and Emergency Management, or other University officials.
The University will assess buildings for damages, chemical and physical hazards, and utility failures prior to authorizing re-occupancy of buildings. If you witness trapped or injured people, contact 911 or University Police at (540) 654-4444. Never re-enter a building that appears to have structural damage.
Consider the following after an earthquake:
- Limit cellphone usage to text messaging, as this will help allow emergency response communications to function properly.
- If you are unable to re-enter your work area or classroom for an extended time, consider alternate work arrangements, and discuss them with your supervisor or instructor.
- Monitor UMW Alert notifications via email, text message, and the University webpage for information updates.
- Limit travel as major roadways may be congested due to regional evacuations.
- Remain aware of the potential for aftershocks in the days or weeks following the initial earthquake. Aftershocks are typically less severe than the initial earthquake, but they can still result in significant damage.
- Buildings, parking structures, and roadways may remain closed while damage assessments and repairs are conducted.
Be aware that gas, power, and water lines may be damaged; if you are aware of a gas leak, power outage, utility failure, or other building damage, report the issue to Facilities Services by calling (540) 654-1047 or placing a work order at https://adminfinance.umw.edu/facilities/work-management/.