1. Before
  2. During
  3. After

Before an Earthquake

Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. Repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations, anchoring overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling, and following local seismic building standards will help reduce the impact of earthquakes.

Six Ways to Plan Ahead

1 - Check for Hazards in the Home

  • 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.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
  • Secure water heaters by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting them to the floor.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.

2 - Identify Safe Places Indoors & Outdoors

  • Under sturdy furniture, such as heavy desks or tables
  • Against inside walls
  • Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors or pictures and where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall
  • In the open, away from:
    • Buildings
    • Electrical lines
    • Elevated expressways
    • Overpasses
    • Telephone lines
    • Trees

3 - Educate Yourself & Family Members

  • Practice "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" drills
  • Teach children how and when to dial 911, police or fire departments and which radio stations broadcast emergency information
  • Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water

4 - Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

  • Cash and credit cards
  • Emergency food and water
  • Essential medicines
  • First-aid kit and manual
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Sturdy shoes

5 - Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

  • In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long-distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

6 - Help Your Community Get Ready

  • Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and hospitals.
  • Conduct a week-long series on locating hazards in the home.
  • Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials to prepare special reports for people with functional needs on what to do during an earthquake.
  • Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
  • Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about shutting off utilities.
  • Work together in your community to apply your knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programs, hazard hunts, and neighborhood and family emergency plans.