On Aug 23, 2011, Virginia experienced an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter Scale – the largest quake to have occurred in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains in more than 100 years. 

Though the epicenter was 40 miles northwest of Richmond, the earthquake was felt in Blacksburg and other Virginia Tech campuses. The incident served as a reminder of the importance of earthquake preparedness.

“Knowing what to do before an earthquake occurs will minimize injuries and mitigate damages when it happens," said Michael Mulhare, director of emergency management at Virginia Tech. "The Great SouthEast ShakeOut is an ideal opportunity to start the conversation, identify the changes in your environment that could reduce tremor-related damage, and to practice the necessary steps to protect yourself.”

On Thursday, Oct. 17, Virginia Tech will participate in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut, an extension of the Great ShakeOut movement that started in California and has grown to incorporate other areas including British Columbia, New Zealand, and Japan. 

At 10:17 a.m., participants are encouraged to practice the necessary steps that will help ensure safety if an earthquake were to occur.

Inspect your surroundings before an earthquake occurs

How would your office, classroom, or living space hold up if an earthquake were to occur? 

Depending on the severity of the earthquake, potential damage can be mitigated by considering the soundness of rooms and buildings beforehand. Securely fasten shelves, picture frames, and light fixtures. Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves and if possible, store breakable items behind lower latched cabinets. 

Additionally, make building repairs on a regular basis: patch cracks in walls, ceilings, and foundations. Report any necessary repairs of Virginia Tech buildings to Facilities Services at 540-231-4300.

Earthquake safety if inside a building or structure

If you feel ground tremors or see buildings shaking, drop to the ground and take cover. Seek shelter under a sturdy table, between rows in lecture halls, or against corridor walls. Drop and cover your head for protection from falling debris. Hold on and do not try to evacuate the building until the tremors have stopped; most fatalities and injuries are from moving around during an earthquake. 

Even after the shaking has stopped, remain cautious of aftershocks. Calmly evacuate the building. Avoid elevators and do not pull fire alarms. Once outside, stay away from buildings, poles, and other structures that could overturn. If others are not able to evacuate the area, take note of their location and report it to emergency personnel immediately. 

Seek additional information from VT Alerts, emergency personnel, and local broadcast news.

Earthquake safety if outside

If you are already outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires – anything that could fall on you during the tremors. Do not try to access any buildings until safety officials have determined it safe to do so. Seek additional information from VT Alerts, emergency personnel, and local broadcast news. Remain calm, be patient, and try to help others while also looking out for your own safety.

To learn more about earthquake preparedness and other emergency responses at Virginia Tech, visit the Emergency Management website or contact the university's Office of Emergency Management at 540-231-2438 or via email.

Written by Kendall Woodard.

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