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An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates vibrations or seismic waves that radiate up to the surface, causing the ground to shake.  Earthquakes may last only a few seconds or may continue for up to several minutes. They can occur at any time of the day or night and at any time of the year. 

Important Definitions

Aftershock: An earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake.

Earthquake: A sudden slipping or movement of a portion of the earth’s crust, accompanied and followed by a series of vibrations.

Epicenter: The place on the earth’s surface directly above the point on the fault where the earthquake ruptures began. Once fault slippage begins, it expands along the fault during the earthquake and can extend hundreds of miles before stopping.

Fault: The fracture across which displacement has occurred during an earthquake. The slippage may range from less than an inch to more than 10 yards in a severe earthquake.

Magnitude: The amount of energy released during an earthquake, which is computed from the amplitude of the seismic waves. A magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale indicates an extremely strong earthquake. Each whole number on the scale represents an increase of about 30 times more energy released than the previous whole number represents. Therefore, an earthquake measuring 6.0 is about 30 times more powerful than one measuring 5.0.

Seismic Waves: Vibrations that travel outward from the earthquake fault at speeds of several miles per second. Although fault slippage directly under a structure can cause considerable damage, the vibrations of seismic waves cause most of the destruction during earthquakes.

During an Earthquake

As earthquakes are highly unusual for our region, many members of our University community may not be familiar with the most appropriate steps to take during and immediately following an earthquake. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends the following:

Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If you are Indoors:

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • If a system is available, sound the fire alarm to alert those who may be sleeping.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.
If Outdoors:
  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls.
  • Do not return inside until an “all-clear” has been given.
If in a moving vehicle:
  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
  • Please direct any questions or concerns about this information or any emergency to Loyola’s office of public safety at ext. 5010.

After the quake

Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.

  • Check for injuries. Do not move seriously injured individuals unless they are in immediate danger. Help people who are trapped by furniture or other items that do not require heavy tools to move. Rescue and emergency medical crews may not be readily available. Contact Campus Police 410-617-5911.
  • Do not use the telephone immediately unless there is a serious injury, fire or gas leak.
  • Always wear boots or heavy-duty shoes when venturing out after an earthquake.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or damaged building equipment.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless there is an emergency. Keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Turn on a battery powered radio for damage reports and information. Check your email and text messages for campus information.
  • Never use candles or lighters if lights go out. There is the possibility for a gas leak.