When the 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit the East Coast this afternoon the initial reaction of those feeling the tremor was to evacuate their bulidings, piling out onto the city streets. At least that's what happened here at The Watergate, and the shake had people running out of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn hearings as you can see in this video. This particular quake caused minimal damage, in which case, this panicky practice was fine. But generally, standing underneath a big glass monolith as it shakes and potentially shatters isn't the way to go--at least that's not what FEMA recommends.
"People that try to run out of the building have a lot of falling objects," Dan O’Brien, FEMA's New York program manager told The Atlantic Wire. "Your biggest risk is falling objects." He does not advise that people head outside and gawk. Instead FEMA recommends duck, cover, and hold: "Your best bet is to basically get under a table and between a door jam and cover your head," continues O'Brien. Even for those in big, tall, office buildings.
FEMA's site offers a comprehensive guide on their site of what to do during a quake, like the one we had today. It suggests victims stay inside and take cover away from glass (ie. big skyscraper windows), or anything that could potentially fall. "Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings." For those already outside--not the ideal location if you live in a dense city--FEMA recommends people, "Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires." Again, this proves difficult for city dwellers, who should revert back to rule numero uno: duck, cover, and hold.
So next time we feel another one, North Easterners, you'll know: Grab a cozy spot under your desk and chill.