Are You Prepared for the Next Time the Earth Shakes?

A community intensity map of the 5.8 earthquake in VirginiaThe earthquake that East Coasters felt on Aug. 23, 2011, was centered in Mineral, Va. Image: USGS

Like everyone else, we were stunned by the 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered in Mineral, Va., today at around 2 p.m., and felt throughout the East Coast.

Like everyone else, we were stunned by the 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered in Mineral, Va., today at around 2 p.m., and felt throughout the East Coast.

Several HouseLogic bloggers live in the Washington, D.C., area, about 100 miles away from the quake’s epicenter: I’m in McLean, Va., and felt my car shaking in my driveway; Dona DeZube in Clarksville, Md., thought a gas line exploded when she felt the earth tremble; and Lara Edge, who lives in D.C., watched her neighbors run out of their homes (never leave your home!) but didn’t feel much on the street.

Rather than running into the street, the best plan is to be prepared, like by putting together an emergency kit. Also read up on whether earthquake insurance is worth it.

And follow FEMA’s advice:

During the quake

  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, and walls.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • If trapped under debris, don’t light a match or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe to alert rescuers.

After the quake

  • Open cabinets cautiously.
  • Immediately clean up spilled medicines, bleach, gasoline, or other flammable liquids. Leave if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Inspect your chimneys for damage.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell or hear leaking gas, turn off the gas at the outside main valve, or call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.
  • Look for electrical damage — sparks, broken or frayed wires. If you suspect damage, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
  • Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect damage, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber.

Where were you when today’s earthquake hit? What did you do to stay safe?