How to Prepare for an Earthquake
Before the ground shakes, minimize hazards, organize supplies and develop a plan.
Many people outside of California think – it can’t happen here. But earthquakes can happen in all 50 states, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Many quakes are too small to be felt, but the violent shaking associated with a large earthquake can quickly lead to physical harm and significant damage to large areas.
Before an earthquake
To help keep your family safe and your property protected, have an earthquake plan in place. Here are some components you’ll want to include.
- Develop a communication plan in case you and your family are at separate locations during a quake.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. Make sure everyone knows the person’s name, address, phone number and email address.
- Make a list of family and friends you will notify if you are evacuated so they know where you’re going and how to contact you.
- Pack a disaster supply kit.
- Place important papers in a re-closable food storage bag inside your disaster supply kit.
- Know how to shut off electricity, gas and water to your home.
- Establish a plan for your pets.
Identify home hazards
You can help reduce the chance of damage to your home by identifying all unsecured objects that might fall during an earthquake.
- Use metal straps and lag screws to fasten your water heater to wall studs or masonry. For water heaters, stoves, dryers and other gas appliances, have a plumber replace rigid gas connections with a flexible gas supply line. This will help reduce the risk of water damage or a spark-ignited fire.
- Move heavy furniture such as bookcases and entertainment centers away from sofas, beds and other places you and your family sit or sleep. Secure both top corners of tall furniture into a wall studs, not just the drywall. This helps keep furniture from tipping over and spilling their contents, which could block exits to your home.
- Secure flat panel televisions to the wall. (This applies to televisions weighing less than 110 pounds with a 60-inch diagonal screen or smaller.)
- Place only soft art, such as unframed posters or rugs and tapestries, above beds or sofas. Mirrors, pictures and other objects with sharp corners should be hung with closed hooks to help prevent them from falling and injuring people.
- Install two plastic sleeves over straight tube fluorescent lights. This will help keep them from spreading glass shards on the floor if they fall.
During an earthquake
Maximize your safety by seeking safe places.
Good indoor locations include:
- Underneath sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
- Against an inside wall.
- Away from windows, mirrors, pictures and other places where glass could shatter, or anywhere heavy furniture or appliances could fall over.
If outdoors, move into the open, away from buildings, trees and utility lines.
When near a building, duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling materials, window glass and other debris.
If you’re driving, pull over and stay in your vehicle. Don’t stop on overpasses, bridges or under power lines.
Following an earthquake
- Check for gas or water leaks and electrical shorts and turn off damaged utilities.
- Instruct the fire department or gas and electric companies to turn the utilities back on when the area is secure.
- Obey evacuation orders from authorities.
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
Additional earthquake survival resources
For more information about being prepared for an earthquake, visit these sites:
- United States Geological Survey – What to do before, during and after an earthquake.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Tools to help you make a plan and build an emergency supply kit.