Facts, Myths and Advice: Earthquakes, Yards, and Swimming Pools

Know What to Do and What Not to Do After an Earthquake

banana tree near pool
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Whether you live in earthquake-prone California or a region that rarely experiences any seismic activity, like the East Coast, nerves get rattled and you may have a few questions post-quake.

While a few of these tips may seem obvious, when some people anxious, common sense is often forgotten. Post this list on the refrigerator, by the pool, or someplace (like your phone) it can easily be found during a time when power may be out and disorder is on "high."

Better yet, email it to friends and family. Good luck and stay cool, calm, and collected.

  • 01 of 08

    Seiche: What Happens to Pool Water During and After Quakes

    A crack in the concrete near a pool Lisa H. Taylor

    Many Californians unofficially measure the intensity of an earthquake by how much water sloshing occurs in their swimming pools during and after a temblor.

    It has an official name: a seiche (pronounced SAYSH) is what happens in the swimming pools during and after an earthquake. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a seiche is "an internal wave oscillating in a body of water". In other words, it is the sloshing of the water in a pool, or any body of water, caused by the ground shaking in an earthquake. Seiches may continue for a few moments or hours, long after the generating force (earthquake) is gone. A seiche can also be caused by wind or tides.

  • 02 of 08

    After the Quake: Check for Hazards

    Although it may seem longer, most of the shaking is over in less than a minute. There will be aftershocks. Keep a pair of sturdy shoes (not canvas or sandals) in a place they can be easily located (like a closet) to avoid stepping on broken glass or any fallen objects. Hazards in the yard to inspect:

    Also buy an earthquake kit and keep it in an accessible place.

  • 03 of 08

    Use BBQ Outdoors for Emergency Cooking

    If gas and/or electrical power has been shut off after an earthquake and it's been determined that you can safely return home, you'll want to cook meals and get back into a normal routine. Use your barbecue, grill or charcoal bbq—outdoors, of course. Any food that has been unrefrigerated will need to be discarded after a day or so. Use common sense.

  • 04 of 08

    Don't Drink Pool Water

    If you don't have any bottled water or beverages, use what's left in the water heater before drinking pool or spa water. Why? You do not want to drink chemically treated pool water.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Post This List: Helpful Websites

    Making sure your property is structurally secure before an earthquake or other natural disaster is imperative. Post this list on your fridge or bulletin board and email it to a friend or family member:

  • 06 of 08

    Check for Leaks in Your Swimming Pool or Spa

    If damage has occurred to your swimming pool or hot tub, most likely it would not be immediately obvious. In other words, no gushing. You might notice the waterline dropping, cracks in the tile or soggy soil near the pool, spa, pumps, or pool plumbing equipment. Later, when it is safe, check for leaks.

  • 07 of 08

    No Such Thing as 'Earthquake Weather'

    Californians and those who live in earthquake-prone regions sometimes talk about "earthquake weather" as if there is such an actual phenomenon. It's probably more in the categories of urban legends, folklore or misinformation.

    Sorry, but there's no such thing as earthquake weather, according to the USGS. Statistics prove an equal distribution of earthquakes occur in warm weather, scorching ​hot weather, cold spells, rain or thunderstorms, snow, etc. The forces that cause earthquakes are several miles beneath the earth's surface, so there is no physical way that the weather could affect what's going on down below.

  • 08 of 08

    Arizona Seiche Occurs From Quake 2,000 Miles Away

    Just how far-reaching can seismic activity be felt or observed? The USGS reports that the swimming pool at the University of Arizona in Tucson lost water from sloshing (seiche) caused by the 1985 M8.1 Michoacan, Mexico earthquake some 2,000 km (1,240 miles) away.