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How to Stay Safe during a Major Earthquake

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You're sitting at your desk, or in your kitchen, and all of a sudden the building begins to wobble.

To some people, the 5.8-magnitude earthquake in central Virginia Tuesday felt like a gentle rolling.  To others, closer to the epicenter, it was more violent.

And then it was over.  People from New England to the Carolinas to Canada were left asking, "What was that?"

If you live in California or southern Alaska, you probably know what to do in an earthquake.  But Easterners don't often feel tremors, and may not know how to react in a major emergency.  So how can you stay safe?

Here are some pointers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if you are caught in a major earthquake:

If You're Indoors:

-- Drop to the ground and take cover.  Get under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture, and hold on   until the shaking stops.
-- If you can't get under something, cover your face and head with your hands and crouch in an inside corner.
-- If you're in bed, stay there.  Cover your head with a pillow.
-- Doorways are not great places for shelter, even though emergency managers used to recommend them.
-- Stay put until the shaking stops.  FEMA says most injuries occur when people try to move to another place.
-- Don't use elevators if you've been in a major quake.  And don't be surprised if power goes out or sprinklers are activated.

If You're Outdoors:

-- Stay there.  Stay away from buildings, power lines, streetlights and other things that could fall on you.
-- People are rarely injured by the actual shaking of an earthquake.  Instead, falling debris is the greater danger.
-- If you're in a car, try to ease to a stop, preferably in an open area away from buildings, trees or overpasses.

Most people who felt Tuesday's earthquake did not need such advice as the quake was not violent enough.  But brick and masonry buildings did sustain damage -- more than one would see in California with its stricter building codes. And the quake was a reminder than even in the East, even between fault lines, there can be risks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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