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Northern CA’s Earthquake and Strategies for Driving During an Earthquake

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Residents in the San Francisco Bay area of California experienced a 4.4-magnitude earthquake in the wee hours of morning today. Berkeley was the location of the epicenter, which isn’t surprising considering its prime location along the Hayward Fault which spans the length of Fremont to San Pablo Bay.

The extent of the damage left behind has yet to be determined, although an earthquake of 4.4-magnitude is considered light-to-moderate in severity. And thankfully, as USGS geophysicist Robert Sanders articulated , there have been no reported fatalities or injuries from those in the area.

While some people might be familiar with earthquake safety practices if you’re in a building when the event happens (e.g. the “drop, cover, and hold on” mantra), you might be unsure of what to do if you’re behind the wheel during an earthquake.

Whether you live near a fault line or plan on driving through an earthquake-prone region anytime soon, apply these precautionary steps to help keep you and your passengers safe.

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What to do

As Dough Dahl with the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission advises, driving during an earthquake can “feel like your tires all went flat and your steering is not working anymore.” He advises that you pull off to the side of the road as soon as you safely can.

Stay buckled up in your car until the shaking subsides. Then, turn on your car’s radio to tune in to any safety-related news broadcasts about traffic conditions and roads to avoid.

At this point, it’s safe to send a brief text to a couple of friends and/or family members to let them know that you’re safe. Dahl recommends texting rather than calling, since this uses less bandwidth.

What NOT to do

Avoid pulling off on the side of a road near a tall building or other large object (like a tree), in case the shifting ground causes these structures to fall. You also want to avoid parking under an overpass in case it collapses from the waves of the earthquake.

Watch the following video for more tips on staying safe during an earthquake when it happens while you’re driving.


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News Sources: The Washington Post, News 1130American Red Cross