Earthquake Safety and Preparedness

A big crack in the road caused by an earthquakeA big crack in the road caused by an earthquake

Earthquakes are caused by a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust, resulting in seismic waves. Earthquakes can happen almost anywhere, at any time, and can cause personal injury and/or property damage. Although California comes to mind when we think of earthquakes, other areas may also be at risk.

What Can I Do to Prepare for an Earthquake?

Earthquakes are not seasonal and they often occur without warning. However, the following are some general tips to help you prepare for an earthquake:

  • Locate safe spots in each room of your home — for example, under a sturdy table or against an inside wall — and hold earthquake drills with your family members.
  • Plan your evacuation route, designate a place for all family members to meet and decide how they will communicate if separated.
  • Create a survival kit.
  • Keep an updated inventory of your personal property and other important documents in a fire-proof safe.
  • Natural gas lines should have an automatic seismic safety shutoff valve at the building entry point.
  • Use flexible connection pipes to supply gas for propane appliances and equipment lines to help prevent leaks due to broken gas or propane lines.
  • Water heaters should be strapped to wall studs to help prevent toppling and resulting gas leaks, fire or water damage.
  • Secure all heavy or large objects that could fall during an earthquake.
    • Store fragile items in closed cabinets.
    • Ensure shelves and mirrors are securely fastened to walls.
    • Keep heavy objects on lower shelves or on the ground.
    • Anchor bookcases and cabinets to wall studs and use flexible straps that allow them to sway.
    • Secure electronics with nylon straps.
  • Get a professional assessment of your building’s structure.

What Should I Do During an Earthquake?

Most importantly, do not panic. Only move if you need to get away from the danger of falling objects.¹

  • If you are inside when an earthquake occurs, stay there.
    • Follow the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” technique: drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture, and hold on until the shaking stops.
    • Stay away from windows and glass.
    • Do not use the elevators.
    • If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
    • Once the shaking stops, evacuate the building and be aware of hazardous conditions.
  • If you are outside, get away from buildings, trees and power lines and drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to the side of the road. Do not stop on an overpass, under a bridge, under streetlights or near trees or power lines.
  • If you become trapped under debris, do not move or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a piece of clothing and shout only as a last resort, as it may cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. Make noise, such as tapping on a pipe or hard object, so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available.

The Earthquake Is Over — Now What?

Proceed with caution. Expect aftershocks, which are sometimes large enough to cause more damage. If you are inside, evacuate the building and be aware of hazardous conditions.

  • If you live in a coastal area, be aware of the possibility of a tsunami and stay away from the beach. Walk to higher ground or inland.
  • Listen to the radio for information about the earthquake and recovery efforts.
  • Contact a professional to assess your home’s stability if you see cracks and damage to the roof and foundation.
  • Be careful when opening cabinets and closets, as items may fall.
  • Inspect your utilities. Call the authorities if you smell gas or to report any damage to the:
    • Electrical system.
    • Sewage and water lines.
    • Gas pipelines.
  • Be careful around broken glass or debris. Wear sturdy shoes to help avoid cutting your feet.

Once danger has passed, learn steps to take to help you recover.