University Police

Emergency Procedures

Earthquake

While Billings is not considered to be a ‘high-risk’ area for earthquake activity, the possibility of tremors reaching us from active areas is possible.  Montana has been known to experience earthquakes.  While California has been the state most prone to serious earthquakes in recent years, there are many other fault zones in other areas of the United States. Many researchers believe there to be a high probability of an earth quake in the Yellowstone National Park area.  With the geographic location of MSU Billings, such an event would have an effect on the university.

During a major earthquake, you may hear a roaring or rumbling sound that gradually grows louder. You may feel a rolling sensation that starts out gently and, within a second or two grows violent.  You may first be jarred by a violent jolt.  A second or two later, you may feel shaking and find it difficult to stand up or move from one room to another.  The real key to surviving an earthquake and reducing your risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you and your family will do if it happens.  By planning and practicing what to do if an earthquake strikes, you and your family can learn to react correctly and automatically when the shaking begins. During an earthquake, most deaths and injuries are caused by collapsing building materials and heavy falling objects, such as bookcases, cabinets, and heating units.

The Building Manager plans will encompass necessary actions to be taken in the event of an earthquake. If an earthquake occurs, you may need to evacuate a damaged area afterward.  Follow the information provided in the Evacuation Plan of the Building Managers Guide.

During an Earthquake:

Indoor safety:  There are actions you can take, even while an earthquake is happening, that will reduce your chances of being hurt. Lights may be out, and hallways, stairs, and room exits may be blocked by fallen furniture, ceiling tiles, and other debris. Planning for these situations will help you to take action quickly.

  • If an earthquake strikes, you may be able to take cover under a heavy desk or table. It can provide you with air space if the building collapses. If you get under a table and it moves, try to move with it.
  • Inner walls or door frames are the least likely to collapse and may also shield against falling objects.  If other cover is not available, go to an inner corner or doorway, away from windows or glass panels.
  • Stay away from glass and hanging objects, and bookcases, china cabinets, or other large furniture that could fall. Watch for falling objects, such as bricks from fireplaces and chimneys, light fixtures, wall hangings, high shelves, and cabinets with doors that could swing open.
  • Grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and broken glass.
  • If the lights go out, use a battery-operated flashlight. Do not use candles, matches, or lighters during or after the earthquake. If there is a gas leak, an explosion could result.
  • If you are in the kitchen, quickly turn off the stove and take cover at the first sign of shaking.

High rise buildings: Get under a desk and stay away from windows and outside walls. Stay in the building. The electricity may go out, and the sprinkler systems may come on. DO NOT use the elevators.

If you are in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doorways as others will have the same idea. Move away from display shelves containing objects that may fall. If you can, take cover and grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and glass.

If outdoors, move away from buildings and utility wires. The greatest danger from falling debris is just outside doorways and close to outer walls. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving automobile, stop as quickly and safely as possible and move over to the shoulder or curb, away from utility poles, overhead wires, and under- or overpasses. Stay in the vehicle, set the parking brake, and turn on the radio for emergency broadcast information. A car may jiggle violently on its springs, but it is a good place to stay until the shaking stops. If you are in a life-threatening situation, you may be able to reach someone with either a cellular or an emergency roadside assistance phone.

When you drive on, watch for hazards created by the earthquake, such as breaks in the pavement, downed utility poles and wires, a fallen overpasses and bridges. 

After an earthquake:  Be prepared for additional earth movements called "aftershocks." Although most of these are smaller than the main earthquake, some may be large enough to cause additional damage or bring down weakened structures.

Because other aftereffects can include fires, chemical spills, landslides, dam breaks, and tidal waves, be sure to monitor your battery-operated radio or TV for additional emergency information.

Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move injured or unconscious people unless they are in immediate danger from live electrical wires, flooding, or other hazards. Internal injuries may not be evident, but may be serious or life-threatening. If someone has stopped breathing, call for medical or first aid assistance immediately and begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.

Along with the annual safety inspections, MSU Billings Facility Services and the University Police will conduct inspections following an event that will identify damages and necessary repairs following an event of this nature.   An earthquake may break gas, electrical, and water lines. If you smell gas: (1) open windows; (2) shut off the main gas valve; (3) do not turn any electrical appliances or lights on or off; (4) go outside; (5) report the leak to authorities; and (6) do not reenter the building until a utility official says it is safe to do so.

  • If electric wiring is shorting out, shut off the electric current at the main box.
  • If water pipes are damaged, shut off the supply at the main valve.

Other precautions:

  • Check to see if sewage lines are intact before using bathrooms or plumbing.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines.  Report electrical hazards to the authorities.
  • Immediately clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids, and other potentially hazardous materials.
  • Stay off all telephones except to report an emergency.  Replace telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the earthquake.
  • Stay away from damaged areas.  Your presence could hamper relief efforts, and you could endanger yourself.
  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials.  Respond to requests for volunteer assistance from police, fire fighters, emergency management officials, and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested.

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