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Be Safe in an Earthquake

road buckled by earthquake

Before the ground shakes, minimize hazards, organize supplies and develop a plan.

Contrary to popular belief, earthquakes aren't limited to the West Coast. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), all 50 states have some risk for earthquakes.

Earthquakes can happen any time of year and there's no way to predict when or where one will strike or how severe it will be. During an earthquake, everything is subject to damage or destruction including homes, office buildings, roads, bridges and infrastructure.

Here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family during an earthquake.

Before an earthquake

  • Make an emergency kit with a three-day supply of food and water for each member of your family. Include a battery operated radio, flashlights, first aid kit and blankets.
  • Identify a place in each room of your house you can go to in an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you.
  • Anchor appliances and heavy furniture to wall studs.
  • Install strong latches on cupboards to prevent them from opening. If the doors open in an earthquake, the contents could fall on people causing injuries.
  • Move heavier objects to lower shelves.
  • Know how to turn off your gas and water mains.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings (less likely to break) to avoid gas or water leaks.

During an earthquake

  • Drop to your hands and knees, cover your head and neck (your entire body if possible), and take cover under a heavy piece of furniture.
  • If there is no furniture nearby, get down next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms (exterior walls have windows, facades and architectural elements likely to collapse and cause injuries).
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and it's safe to exit.
  • Stay away from bookcases or other furniture that can fall.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • If you’re outdoors, stay away from buildings, trees and power lines.
  • If you’re in a car, avoid stopping under power lines, trees and large signs. Also avoid stopping on or under bridges. Stay in your car until the shaking stops.
  • Don’t go outside or to other rooms during shaking.

After an earthquake

  • If your building is damaged, get out and stay out until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
  • Attend to any injuries. Don't move seriously injured people unless they’re in immediate danger of further injury. Help your neighbors and those who may need special assistance.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors cautiously. Contents may have shifted and could fall.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines.
  • If you smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open windows and doors. If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter. Report the leak to the gas company and fire department. Do not use any electrical appliances since a spark could ignite the gas.
  • If you see sparks, or broken or frayed wires, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker if you can get to it safely. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe drinking water by melting ice cubes.

Although not an everyday occurrence, earthquakes can be devastating and deadly. The more information you have, the better you can protect your family and your possessions. If you’re not sure if your homeowners, renters or condo owners insurance covers property losses due to an earthquake, contact your local American Family Insurance agent for more information.

Additional earthquake survival resources

For more information about being prepared for an earthquake, visit these sites:

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