East Coasters Unprepared For Earthquake Tuesday's earthquake demonstrated East Coast residents were not prepared. When the ground started shaking, many evacuated buildings. But in California, where quakes are common, disaster preparedness officials say that's just about the worst thing you can do.

East Coasters Unprepared For Earthquake

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NPR's Jeff Brady reports that authorities could look west for guidance on how to prepare people for the next quake.

JEFF BRADY: When the ground started shaking, a lot of people did what probate judge John Martinelli did at the City Hall in Providence, Rhode Island.

JOHN MARTINELLI: Desks were moving and the building was visibly moving, so we all got out of there.

BRADY: If a building seems like it might be unsafe, evacuating is a natural reaction, but Kelly Huston says, in an earthquake, that's the wrong reaction. He's an assistant secretary with the California Emergency Management Agency.

KELLY HUSTON: So think about it. If the building's starting to shake and you go running out the front door, that big, brick façade is throwing bricks off the building. You're going to get hit by one of those bricks or, even worse, you may get hit by a huge shard of glass from a plate glass window that's ruptured. So evacuating is actually one of the most unsafe things you can do in an earthquake.

BRADY: Huston says his office has echoed one message over and over to residents in California where earthquakes are common. Drop, cover and hold on.

HUSTON: When you feel the ground shaking, the first thing you should do is drop to the ground, cover your head or go under something sturdy and hold on there until the shaking stops.

BRADY: Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate says this was a problem for his family Tuesday.

CRAIG FUGATE: My wife and mother-in-law were here in the District. They were at a tourist attraction.

BRADY: Like most everyone else, Fugate's wife couldn't call to say she was OK, so she sent him a text message.

FUGATE: Then I turned around and put an update on our Facebook page to let our family know across the area that she and my mother-in-law were OK.

BRADY: Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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