Like putting butter on a burn or sucking on a snake bite, some myths persist no matter how many times they’re proved wrong.When it comes to reacting during a disaster like an earthquake, tornado or wildfire, a little bit of misinformation can do a whole lot of damage.
Here are some common misconceptions about disaster preparedness and what you really need to do to stay safe.
Years ago, when homes and buildings weren't built according to today's improved engineering standards, people recommended standing inside a reinforced doorway for protection during an earthquake. But these days, 'that is definitely a myth that could get you into trouble,' warns Peter Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. 'Scientists have proven that the best thing to do is drop, cover and hold on.'
By dropping to your knees, covering your head and hiding beneath a heavy table or another piece of furniture, Moraga says you stand a much better chance of avoiding falling objects during an earthquake. Also, you're more likely to get injured while dashing for a doorway than simply staying put.
The American Red Cross offers more tips for staying safe when the earth shakes.
This is a terrible idea for a couple of reasons, explains Julie Rochman, president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. 'A, it doesn't work. And B, it's a really bad idea to stand in front of a window when a tornado is flinging debris all over the place. Plus, if there's an opening in the window, you could be sucked out.'
Rochman recommends that people 'leave their windows alone and instead go to a windowless area, like a shelter, your basement or a windowless room.'
In addition, after some public pressure, the CDC has acknowledged that it might be a good idea to wear a helmet during a tornado, but only if you don't spend time looking for one.
If you're caught in a tornado, your first plan of action should be to find shelter, says Judge. But if that's not possible, diving into a ditch could be dangerous.
It's true that a ditch can offer a temporary escape from flying debris. However, if you seek shelter in a car, put on your seat belt, crouch below window level and turn on the ignition so that air bags will deploy if an object hits the vehicle. 'That, to me, is the better way than to jump down into a ditch,' says Judge.
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