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Check Your Shelf! A Quick Guide to Earthquake Safety

The recent earthquake swarm that led up to the eruption left many people in Iceland shook. Even after the eruption, the capital area felt a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. Most of the locals are used to these tremors and find them to be more of a nuisance. But for those of you who grew up away from fault lines or feel concerned during these unsettling times, we’ve put together a helpful guide for how to handle Iceland’s quakes.

Sound Structure

According to the Housing and Construction Authority in Iceland, all of the country’s structures are built with earthquakes in mind. Whether made of concrete, steel, or timber, the buildings in Reykjavík and around the island are made to withstand strong tremors. A massive earthquake might cause some damage, but since 1900, Iceland has experienced only 11 earthquakes that registered 6.0 or above in magnitude.  Some of the stronger quakes have damaged a few buildings, but no building has collapsed in that time. In short, you are in good hands inside Iceland’s buildings.

Check Your Shelf!

While the construction workers and building planners keep earthquakes in mind, the interior designers and home owners may not. The building itself is safe, but the objects inside them could pose a danger. During these earthquake swarms, check for loose items on shelves that could fall. Picture frames, vases, and houseplants have the potential to rudely awaken you at night. Check loose items on shelves, especially above the bed or sofa, and make sure the cabinet doors are securely closed.

Worst Case Scenario

If we get an unprecedented earthquake that registers above what we normally expect, or if the tremors have you on edge, here are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, if you are inside, don’t run outside. It is best to take cover where you are. Look for a table or desk to crawl under and wait until the shaking stops. Doorways are no longer the safest place in a house. You are safer under a table. If you are outside, try to get to an open area away from buildings. Stay low and wait for the shaking to stop. When out hiking, particularly in South West Iceland where the swarms are felt the most, it is best to steer clear of sea cliffs or steep slopes.  

These measures ought to be unnecessary here in Iceland, but they are good tips to keep in mind when another 4am earthquake shakes you awake!

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