How to Stay Safe When Driving in an Earthquake

It's unnerving to think that the Philippines sits on a very active, 1,200-km-long Philippine fault zone (PFZ) that runs across northwestern Luzon to southeastern Mindanao. But what's more nerve-wracking is that this fault has been the cause of most of our high-magnitude earthquakes in recent years.

Yes, earthquakes are inevitable, but you have control over how you handle them -- even when you're on the road. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to drive during an earthquake? This is how it looks like:

It doesn't look like that in the video all the time, though. Truth is, many tremors are so faint that you might be experiencing one right now without even knowing it.

However, experiencing a stronger one (such as those that fall under intensity 5 or more) is almost like your steering wheel is not operating and all your tires are flat and wobbling. If you're still not sure, then the best way to know is to look around you and observe. Are people running or crouching somewhere? Do they look anxious and scared? Can you see falling concrete or debris everywhere?

Other  things to look for are shaking or swaying road signs and telephone posts. If many of these signs are present, then chances are you're experiencing a real earthquake on the road.


What to do during an earthquake

Here's what you should you do in case you encounter an earthquake while inside your car:

1. Stay calm

Of course, it's not easy to remain calm when you're already anxious inside. But do your best to keep yourself from panicking, like this Japanese driver who sat through one of the largest recorded earthquakes in history:

2. Slow down and stop

Look for an open space, possibly on the side of the road without trees or telephone posts. Turn off your car and use your handbrakes. Don't stop under a bridge, an overpass, or a Skyway. Their heavy concrete can easily crush you and your car in seconds. Also avoid parking near trees or telephone poles.

By the way if you're driving near coastal waters, make sure to go to higher ground first.

3. Stay in your car

Your car can act as your protective shield, so it's better to remain inside. If you're driving on a bridge that might possibly collapse, fasten your seat belt and roll your windows completely down. Staying fastened on your seat will prevent you from getting thrown out of the car, while car doors without windows will prevent the glass from shattering and hurling straight toward you. What's more, it will allow you to safely go out of your car even when the fall's impact jams up your door locks.

If you're under an overpass or a Skyway, remain inside until the shaking stops.

Another option when there's a huge concrete above you is to get out of the car, lay flat and parallel beside and as close to your car's door as possible, and wait it out. So if the bridge collapses, your vehicle will take the impact, and protect you from the falling bridge. What's more, it can even leave a small space for you to crawl out. Never go under the car's body, since it may be difficult for you to get out once your vehicle gets crushed by falling concrete.


What to Do After an Earthquake

1. Listen to your radio

Turn on your radio and listen for updates and warnings regarding the earthquake.

2. Go to a more secure place (if possible)

Once things have subsided, you can start your car and drive slowly to a more secure place, such as inside a sturdy building.

A road devastated by an earthquake

Check out for road cracks and avoid driving on them. Don't drive under bridges and underpasses. Also avoid driving through flood waters, since you're not sure if there are open electric wires scattered near them.

If your car isn't working, head to an open space free from huge trees and telephone poles. Open parking lots are good, and so are open public parks that don't have big trees in them. These places are the best options if you can't find a secure and safe place to go to.

By the way, if the road looks chaotic even after the tremors subside, then it's best to remain inside your car. Wait for things to settle down first, and--

3. Be prepared for after shocks

This is the reason why it's better to wait it out for a while. After shocks are normal during an earthquake, and it's still possible for them to cause damages in the form of fallen power lines, broken trees or telephone poles.


What to do in case of a possible Tsunami

1. Abandon your car asap

Try to look for buildings and go to the higher floors.

2. Point your car's nose into the direction of the flood

This will allow your car to float, instead of getting trampled over sideways when the waters rush down.

3. Open your windows

If there's no time, completely roll your windows down. This will allow you to escape underwater.


Other Safety Tips While Driving During an Earthquake

 What if you your car is under a pile of debris?

Car with debris from earthquake

Use your phone and call for help. If you don't have a phone, wait till the shaking stops, and honk your horn till someone comes to your aid. If you're horn's not working, use your keys and jam them on the metal part of your car to attract attention.

What happens if you get stuck inside your car?

Use your phone to call for help, or if that's not possible, wait till the tremors subside, break your window, and then climb out.

You don't know when the next earthquake will occur, but you can prepare for them by knowing what to do in case they happen. In the end, what you know and how you apply that knowledge will determine how well you survive any calamity that comes your way.

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