Was evacuating the right call during the earthquake?

August 24, 2011 2:21:08 PM PDT
When the earth shook thousands of people just did not know where they'd be safe.

In Lower Manhattan, many followed their instinct and evacuated.

With the 10-year mark of the September 11th attacks approaching, many people's thoughts instantly turned to terrorism when the quake hit, so they got out of the building.

Thousands of workers poured into the street when the earthquake hit at 1:51 p.m. Tuesday. There was no official order to evacuate the Empire State Building, but many visitors and workers took their own initiative and fled when they felt the 102-story building sway.

"We actually ran down 60 flights of stairs, because we were afraid we'd get stuck in the elevator," one worker said.

On Long Island, the sudden rolling of the earth sent workers running for the exits at an office building in Garden City.

We asked an expert where exactly you'll be safest: Inside a skyscrapers or outside in the canyon?

"It depends on the building. Listen to the safety coordinator on the loudspeaker and follow directions," professor Contreras said.

And what if no one comes on the loudspeaker? Use your instinct

FEMA advises:

- Stay inside
- Take cover under a piece of heavy furniture or an inside wall and hold on.
- Standing inside a doorway is no longer recommended.

For New Yorkers, if you do go outside, professor Contreras says try to get to an open space.

The check for any damage continued Wednesday. Engineers worked overnight to check structures across New York area for damage, including all bridges and tunnels. MTA crews spent the night underground, searching the subway tunnels for any signs of cracks.

There have been no problems reported, and the commute is expected to be normal. But nervous were still rattled.

A housing project in Red Hook took the most building damage, when a chimney partially collapsed.

The shaking interrupted the work of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who had just started an internationally televised press conference after dismissing sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (CLICK HERE to see raw video from the press conference).

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who evacuated City Hall along with his staff, says all the city agencies worked well together in response to the quake, and they're already preparing for the next big challenge.

"Things happen in the city," he said. "And quite honestly, I'm more concerned about our preparations for a hurricane that's approaching."

The Holland Tunnel was shut down for a half hour after the quake, and the airports were temporarily shut down after the air traffic control towers were evacuated.

New York City is known for its buildings and skyscrapers, but certainly not for earthquakes. So could buildings here withstand a significant quake?

Architect and City College professor Lance Jay Brown thinks most could. The city actually has an earthquake code builders must follow, and even before the code, many buildings were well-engineered.

Others, however, aren't so sure.

"We have to prepare our building codes for the once-in-the-century earthquake," ABC News consultant Michio Kaku said. "We are not prepared at all. Our buildings don't sway like those in California and Japan. Our buildings would collapse if we had a major earthquake in Manhattan. And realize that Indian Point can only withstand a 6.0 earthquake, and that's a nuclear power plant north of New York City."

No problems were reported at Indian Point in Westchester County or at the four nuclear power plants in New Jersey.


LINK TO USGS MAP: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsus/Maps/US10/32.42.-85.-75.php