Prepare For an Earthquake
In the event of an earthquake:
Learn What to Do During an Earthquake. Hold periodic family drills to practice what you have learned. Through practice, you can condition yourselves to react spontaneously and safely when the first jolt or shaking is felt.
In each room of your home, identify the safest places to "drop, cover, and hold on" during an earthquake. Practice going to these safe spots during family drills to ensure that everyone learns where they are.
Survive on Your Own
Assemble and maintain a household emergency supply kit, and be sure that all family members know where it is stored. The kit should consist of one or two portable containers (e.g., plastic tubs, backpacks, duffel bags) holding the supplies that your family would need to survive without outside assistance for at least 3 days following an earthquake or other disaster. Make additional, smaller kits to keep in your car(s) and at your place(s) of work.
Stay in Contact
List addresses, telephone numbers, and evacuation sites for all places frequented by family members (e.g., home, workplaces, schools). Include the phone number of an out-of-state contact. Ensure that family members carry a copy of this list, and include copies in your emergency supply kits.
Care for People, Pets, and Property
Get training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) through your local chapter of the American Red Cross. Find out where you could shelter your pet should it become necessary to evacuate your home. Ensure that family members know how and when to call 9-1-1, how to use your home fire extinguisher, and how, where, and when to shut off your home's utilities (water, natural gas, and electricity). Ask your state insurance commissioner about the availability of earthquake insurance in your state.
Earthquake Preparedness Checklist
- Build a disaster supply kit and make a family plan
- Fasten shelves securely to walls
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches
- Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects
- Know what natural gas smells like, so you can avoid leaks should an earthquake occur
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects
- Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on
During An Earthquake
If you are...
- DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
- Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
- DO NOT use the elevators.
- Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
- Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
In a moving car
- Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
Trapped under debris
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
After An Earthquake
After the earthquake is over, you should expect aftershocks. If you are indoors, make sure it is save before you head outside. Attempt to extinguish small fires, and check on your utilities: turn off the gas at the main, and be aware of gas leaks. Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly, and people with access and functional needs. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help, but know that phone lines could be unavailable. In these cases, text your messages to your loved ones. It's also advised to keep the FEMA text number saved for shelter locations. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
Prepare For the Extreme
By the time severe weather hits, it's already too late. Disaster preparedness is about having an established safety plan. Whether it's preparedness for floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or fires, the key to survival in disasters is planning. Use our preparedness section to stay informed, make a plan, and most importantly—remain safe in an emergency.
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- Tornado FAQ
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- Radar FAQ
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- Hurricane and Typhoon Preparedness
- Storm Surge Basics
- Storm Surge Survival Myths
- Storm Surge: Know Your Elevation
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