Oct 06 2012

Shake, Rattle, and Roll? Then Drop, Cover, and Hold

On September 5th, the morning started like any other. Paul was in town at the University of Costa Rica gym for an exercise class and I was at home alone in our kitchen, just me and the kitties. Then at about 8:40am, everything started to move. At first, I didn’t know what was happening. I heard a rumbling that sounded like a big truck was coming down our lane, but when I looked out the window, nothing was there. Then I realized that the whole cabina was shaking. I watched the refrigerator sway from side to side, and wall hangings swing. Earthquake! It was like being on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at the amusement park. I clutched on to the kitchen counter and ducked down until I was at level with the counter top, trying to remember what I had read years ago about how to protect yourself in an earthquake.  It seemed to go on and on, though it actually lasted only 30 seconds or so.

Paul returned home shortly after from his exercise class. As the quake hit, one woman in the class saw the large lights on the gym ceiling start to sway back and forth and she yelled “Temblor!!” (earthquake!) , Pandemonium broke loose as the 20 seniors in the exercise class started to run outside.  Paul was at the parking lot and in his car within minutes and headed directly home.

We were lucky. We had zero damage, not even a broken glass, and even our kitties seemed unaffected. While others weren’t so lucky, Costa Rica, as a whole, was extremely lucky that the damage wasn’t greater. The 7.6 magnitude quake occurred 25 miles below the surface and that, combined with Costa Rica’s strict building codes, kept the overall damage and loss of life low. Here’s a video of the quake and the analysis by CNN:

So, how DO you protect yourself in an earthquake? The experts say you should drop, cover, and hold on:

  1. DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  2. COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  3. HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.


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