Safety Policy & Procedure Manual
Section 200: Workplace Safety
Revised: 05/27/2004


To provide emergency guidance to the University community prior to, during and after an earthquake.

Background Information

An earthquake is one of the few disasters where assistance from cities, such as Salem or Eugene, and the American Red Cross may not be immediately available.  If a major earthquake hits the area, OSU must be prepared to provide its own resources for an unlimited period of time.  Evacuation from the campus is not recommended, unless in the aftermath of an earthquake there is the additional threat of fire or other serious hazard.


Before an Earthquake
University departments are encouraged to reduce or eliminate seismic hazards related to building contents because non-structural items (such as unsecured building contents) usually cause problems during earthquakes.

Manager Responsibilities:

  • Ensure that employees know emergency procedures and the location of emergency exits, fire alarms and fire extinguishers.
  • Hold staff meetings periodically to discuss emergency procedures and the course of action to be taken during emergencies.
  • Establish an emergency plan for the departmental area.
  • Encourage employees to take the following actions listed below, on the job and at home, to reduce potential earthquake hazards.

Office Buildings and Libraries

  1. Heavy overhead objects that could fall and cause injury during an earthquake should be secured or moved lower.
  2. Secure heavy or tall objects that can potentially block exits. Examples are computer terminals, tall bookcases, file cabinets, and lockers.
  3. Equipment on low standing furniture (desktop computers, terminals, printers, typewriters, etc.) should be secured in place with velcro-to-velcro patches.  Use theft-resistant locks whenever possible.
  4. Take special precautions to secure computer equipment, as many activities and operations are dependent on computer systems. Consider the need for an emergency power supply.
  5. Be ready to move away from windows and glass partitions.  They can break during an earthquake.
  6. Cross-brace and secure all bookshelves. Rear canted shelves are also advantageous.

Laboratories and Shops

  1. Secure items that could present a hazard during an earthquake, such as heavy equipment, furnishings, chemicals, gas cylinders, and experimental apparatus.
  2. Properly store all chemicals on shelves equipped with seismic restraining strips or with cabinets closed with positive latching doors. “Bungee” cords stretched across the front of chemical shelves are an inexpensive yet effective means of restraining chemical bottles from flipping over.
  3. Move all heavy overhead storage to floor level.
  4. Brace and secure specialized heavy and expensive analytical instruments and computers.
  5. Anchor heavy and large laboratory or shop equipment to the floor.

At Home

  1. Bolt down or otherwise secure fixtures and appliances, particularly water heaters and other gas-fired appliances.
  2. Use flexible connections wherever possible. Fasten shelves to walls.
  3. Brace or anchor high-standing or top-heavy objects.
  4. Know how to turn off gas, water, and electricity.  Contact local utilities companies with any questions.
  5. When constructing or remodeling a home, observe building codes that are designed to minimize earthquake hazards.
  6. Plan emergency procedures.  Keep basic emergency supplies on hand.  Conduct drills, particularly with children.

Emergency Supplies

  • Basic first-aid kit and Red Cross first aid handbook. (Take training now in first aid and CPR.)
  • Flashlight and portable battery operated radio; check batteries frequently.
  • Extra batteries
  • Emergency items can be kept in the trunk of a car as well as at home and office (extra clothing, comfortable shoes, water container, freeze-dried foods, blanket, first-aid kit, flashlight, etc.).

During an Earthquake
What occurs in high-rise buildings varies from building to building and from floor to floor.  Lower floors will shake rapidly, much like smaller buildings.  Unsecured books, plants, chemical bottles, etc., will fall from shelves.  Top-heavy furnishings will fall over. Unsecured light fixtures and ceiling panels may fall.  On upper floors, movement will be slower, but the building will move farther from side to side.  Unsecured furniture will slide across the floor.  Objects will topple from shelves.  Windows will break.  Whether you are at home, in a low building, or a high-rise building, there are steps you can take to lessen the threat of a major earthquake.

  1. You will experience momentary panic when your plane of reference begins to dance.  This should pass in a few moments.  If the shaking is severe—enough to cause damage—you will find it difficult to walk.
  2. Do not rush outdoors, since most injuries occur from falling glass, fixtures, plaster, bricks, debris, and electrical lines as people are leaving buildings.  STAY PUT!
  3. Sit or stand against an inside wall or doorway or take cover under a desk, table, or bench (in case a wall, ceiling, or furnishings should fall).  In high-rise buildings, doorways may not necessarily be the safest place to stand; taking cover under a heavy desk or table is preferred.
  4. Stay away from all glass surfaces (windows, mirrors, etc.)
  5. Do not attempt to restrain falling objects unless they endanger your life.
  6. If you are outdoors, remain there.  Move into the open.  Do not stand under overhangs on the outside of buildings.  Move away from power lines, and stay in the open areas away from all structures.
  7. If on or near the beach, leave immediately and get to high ground. A seismic sea wave (tsunami) could occur.

After an Earthquake

  1. Aftershocks may occur at any moment with nearly the same force as the original quake. BE PREPARED.
  2. Move cautiously and observe your surroundings for hazardous situations.
  3. Check for injuries and provide first aid and CPR where necessary.
  4. Seek help by phone, if necessary, for emergency aid.  Do not tie up phone lines with unnecessary calls to home, relatives, or friends.
  5. If you detect gas or any foreign odors, do not use any matches or candles.  Open windows, shut off power, leave the building immediately, and report the problem to authorities.
  6. Do not touch downed power lines or objects touched by downed lines.
  7. If your building has obviously suffered damage, wait until the initial shake is over and then evacuate the building using proper evacuation procedures.  DO NOT USE ELEVATORS!  Go immediately to open areas, such as parking lots.  Wait until authorities announce that it is safe to enter the building.
  8. Do not spread rumors.  They often do great harm following disasters.
  9. Tune in to local radio stations for information and damage reports.
  10. Above all—remain calm! Think before you act and resist the urge to panic!