I have been in Chile for one week, and I think there has been an earthquake every day. Most of them are small, barely noticeable. The locals always recognize the foreigners by our dramatic reactions to even the tiniest tremor. However, on Monday there was a fairly sizable quake that measured a 7.1 on the Richter Scale.
I was at the Costanera Center (a large mall) when it happened. I had just exited the Jumbo, a massive supermarket, and I was lost in my own thoughts about the extensive selection of quality wine that was available there. Without warning, the ground began to vibrate. I did not panic because this wasn’t the first time I’d felt something like this. However, it quickly got stronger, to the point that I felt quite unbalanced. I stayed still, unsure what to do. People started screaming and running out of the shops. An alarm was going off, shops were shutting their doors, and a slight panic ensued. Then, just as suddenly as it started, it ended. As far as 7.1 earthquakes go, this one didn’t seem too bad. It originated off the coast of Valparaiso, and we felt it here in Santiago for about 20 or 30 seconds. To my knowledge, there were no injuries and there wasn’t a significant amount of damage. Costanera Center is full of tourists who are not used to earthquakes, so I assume that is why there was so much screaming.
After the incident, I decided I needed to be a little more knowledgeable in case it happens again. After all, Chile has had some bad ones, like the 8.8 quake in 2010. Chile also had *possibly* the strongest quake ever recorded, which occurred in Valdivia in 1960 and measured around 9.5 on the Richter Scale.
So here’s what you need to know if you ever find yourself in an earthquake:
*If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, make your home more secure by bolting furniture to the walls/floor.
*If the ground starts shaking, the best thing to do is drop to the ground, get underneath a secure piece of furniture, and hang on to something.
*Some people say that standing in a door frame is also safe, but that has been debated. I suppose it depends on how well your house has been constructed.
*Stay away from glass or anything that could fall, like light fixtures, furniture, etc.
*If you’re in bed, stay there. Cover your head with a pillow.
*If you’re outside, move away from anything above you that could fall, such as power lines or trees.
*After the earthquake is over, be aware that there could be aftershocks, damage and debris that could be hazardous, and your cell service may be knocked out for a while.