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Earthquake experts have long said that the "big one" along the Wasatch Front is inevitable.

Many consider Salt Lake City the nation's third most dangerous seismic area, behind only Los Angeles and San Francisco. But if residents take steps to prepare for an earthquake, many disasters can be prevented.Emergency officials almost always mention the water heater, for example, when first asked about what steps residents can take. Taking time to secure the water heaters in homes can prevent the heaters from tipping over and rupturing gas lines, which could start a fire. The water in the heater could also be used as the family's drinking supply, if needed.

72-hour home emergency kits are also a good idea to have in every home. Such kits are commercially available or can be easily organized and stored.

What you do during and immediately after an earthquake may make life-and-death differences. These tips from the Salt Lake County Emergency Services could help you survive.

During the shaking

1. Don't panic. The motion is frightening, but unless it shakes something down on top of you, it is harmless. The earth does not open up, swallow a neighborhood and then shut. Keep calm and ride it out.

2. If the quake catches you indoors, stay indoors. Take cover under a desk, table, bench or in doorways, halls and against inside walls. Stay away from glass.

3. If an earthquake catches you outside, move away from buildings and utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

4. Don't use candles, matches or other open flames during or after the tremor. Douse all fires.

5. Don't run through or near buildings. The greatest danger from falling debris is just outside, close to outer walls.

6. If you are in a moving car, stop as quickly as safety permits, but stay in the vehicle. A car is an excellent seismometer and will jiggle fearsomely on its springs during the earthquake, but it is a good place to stay until the shaking stops.

After the shaking

1. Check your utilities, but do not turn them on. Earth movement may have cracked water, gas and electrical conduits.

2. If you smell gas, open windows and shut off the main valve. Then leave the building and report gas leakage to authorities. Don't re-enter the house until utility officials say it is safe.

3. If water pipes are damaged, shut off the supply at the main valve.

4. If electrical wiring is shorting out, shut off current at the main meter.

5. Turn on your radio and television (if conditions permit) to get the latest emergency news.

6. Stay off the telephone except to report an emergency.

7. Don't go sightseeing.

8. Stay out of severely damaged buildings. Aftershocks can shake them down.