Earthquake safety

Young woman hiding under dining table during earthquake at home (Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — If you were anywhere near New York on Friday, April 5, 2024, there’s a good chance you went through about 10 seconds of terror and now have a story to tell your friends for years. The U.S. Geological Survey quickly confirmed that the New York-New Jersey area was at the center of a magnitude 4.8 earthquake that rattled nerves from Brooklyn to The Bronx and everywhere in between.

Big earthquakes are not something people in New York City see often — if ever. While an earthquake might be a common occurrence in some areas, like California, there are millions of people who likely have no clue what to do when disaster strikes. So, what should you do when an earthquake hits your home?

What Did The New York Earthquake Feel Like?

I’ve lived in the state of New York all of my life. I can only remember one other significant earthquake that felt anywhere close to the April 2024 quake — and that was roughly 20 years ago.

At StudyFinds, we often break down the latest earthquake research and talk about “seismic waves.” That’s exactly how it felt Friday morning. There was no warning. All of a sudden, I started to feel a rumbling through the neighborhood, as if a giant truck might be rolling by. It quickly turned into a steady shaking that I could feel all around me — under my feet, in my walls, and even in the air. It’s truly like a giant wave was passing through my home, shaking and potentially knocking over anything it touched.

Luckily, the event passed like an ocean wave within seconds, maybe 10 seconds at most, and when it was over, there was more confusion than actual damage or trauma. After listening to the radio for alerts and calling relatives to check if they felt the earthquake too, it was clear that most New Yorkers had the same exact experience.

Officially, the earthquake originated near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey — roughly 50 miles west of New York City. Thankfully, the USGS considers a magnitude 4.8 earthquake relatively light and the risk of damage is very low.

4 Steps To Prepare For An Earthquake

Like other natural disasters, earthquakes are fairly unpredictable. Despite that, the USGS notes there are four great ways to prepare for one.

  • Secure your space: Identify any hazards in your home and secure objects that can move or fall down during an earthquake.
  • Create a disaster plan: Figure out how you will contact loved ones and communicate with others during an emergency.
  • Have an emergency kit: Just like a “go bag,” make sure you have emergency supplies in an easily accessible place in the home.
  • Minimize financial disaster: If your home is damaged or destroyed, make sure you have all your vital documents organized to help when it’s time to work with insurance companies and rebuild.

3 Things To Do During An Earthquake

According to the USGS, wherever you are, if you’re indoors — stay there! Moreover, the best thing to do when you feel the shaking start is to get under a desk or table and hang onto it. You can also move into a hallway or brace against an inside wall of the building.

If you’re caught outdoors during an earthquake, try to quickly make your way to an open area. This would mean getting completely clear of buildings, power lines, or any other tall structures that could potentially fall down during a quake. A good example of this would be an open park.

If you’re driving and feel an earthquake, try to find a place to safely pull over and stop your car as soon as possible. However, avoid stopping on a bridge or under overpasses, light poles, or power lines. These structures could collapse during seismic activity and cause catastrophic damage.

4 Things To Avoid Doing During An Earthquake

Remember, you’re not the only one who just felt that earthquake! It’s very possible the emergency is much larger in another area that was hit harder by the quake.

  • If you use gas for cooking or heating, do not turn the gas on if the earthquake shut it off. Let your gas company do it and check for damage.
  • Don’t use matches or other lighters until you’re sure there is no damage to a gas line in your building.
  • Keep phone use to a minimum unless it’s a medical or fire emergency. Everyone trying to use their phones at once could possibly disrupt communication with first responders.
  • Prepare as if help won’t arrive! In a major emergency, it’s possible that first responders won’t be able to reach you quickly or respond to your call immediately.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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