Earthquake Survival

Earthquake Preparedness

Earthquake Survival is about advance planning. Preparing for an earthquake can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss and increase your changes of survival.


Earthquake Preparedness starts with these three easy steps:

Checking for Hazards in the Home

  1. Fasten shelves securely to walls and place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  2. Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets which securely latch.
  3. Place pictures and mirrors so that they are not close to beds, couches, or where people sit.
  4. Reinforce light fixtures with a cable bolted to the ceiling joist.
  5. Perform home repairs on a consistent basis so you aren't prone to leaks or wiring problems.
  6. Secure your hot water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
  7. If you have any chemmicals in your home, store them in a secure area on a lower shelf, where the cabinet can be locked.
  8. Gas appliances should have flexible hoses.
  9. Use flexible fasteners to secure the tops of tall objects such as bookcases to wall studs.
  10. Cover windows with safety film so they do not break.

Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors

    • Next to sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
    • Against an inside wall.
    • Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over.
    • In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.

Earthquake Survival Dos and Don'ts


Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might still be on the way.

Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place. If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure that you can safely exit.

Earthquake Survival if indoors

  • Old model / DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops.

  • New mode / Triangle of Life as seen in the video above.

Regardless of which model you use - you should cover your face and head with your arms to shield it from flying debris.

  • Stay away from glass and windows.

  • Unless you know a doorway is a load-bearing doorway and is strongly supported, do not use it for a shelter area.

  • If you are in bed when an earthquake starts, stay there until the shaing stops. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow. If you happen to be under a heavy light fixture that could fall, move to the nearest safe place.

  • If you have a desk or table, take shelter there and hold on, otherwise, select an interior corner.

  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. You will be more likely to risk injury trying to go outside than by staying put.

  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on. .

DO NOT use elevators.

Earthquake Survival if Outdoors

  • 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, due to falling debris.
  • Ground movement during a quake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury.

Earthquake Survival if in a Moving Vehicle

  • If you feel an earthquake start, stop your vehicle as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. If at all possible, do not stop your car or truck anywhere close to a tree, building, overpass or utility wires. You don't want any of these falling down on top of your or near you.
  • Once the shaking as stopped, you can start moving again, but be cautious because there could be damage to roads or bridges. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you see anyone who needs help, lend a hand.

Earthquake Survival if Trapped Under Debris

  • Never light a match because there is always a possibility of a natural gas line having been broken.
  • Stay still so that you do not move any dust around.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or a piece of clothing, preferably a dense cotton weave.
  • 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. If you have a flashlight, you can use that as well.

What to Do After a Quake

  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the earthquake.

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio, preferably a NOAA radio for the latest emergency information.

  • Do not use your phone unless it is for an emergency. Everyone is going to be wanting to use the phone and it is going to clog up the phone lines. Do not be one of those people. Unless you need the fire department or smell gas, leave the phone alone.

  • Just like you hear the airline attendants say on the plane - things may have shifted in overhead bins. The same holds true for all of your cabinets. Be careful when you open anything with a handle. Something might just want to fall out.

  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.

  • If you live near the coast, there is the possibility of a tsunami. These are also known as seismic waves. Pay attention to local authorities if they issue a tsunami warning and assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Move to higher ground.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings. If you hear anyone calling for help or you see an injured or trapped person, attend to their needs. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly, and anyone who has disabilities. Give first aid where appropriate - as long as it is not beyond your capabilities. Do not move seriously injured folks unless they are in immediate danger of further injury, such as electrocution or risk of danger if another earthquake strikes. Get someone to help you who is trained.

  • If you notice that any hazardous materials have spilled in your home, clean them up or remove them as quickly as possible. If you happen to smell gas or any other kinds of fumes, do not stay around to figure out what the smell is. Leave right away. Chemical smells are dangerous.

  • Inspect the entire length of your chimney for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.

Inspect Utilities

  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes or using a water filter.

Risk by State and Region

These links will take to you web sites that have maps indicating resent and forecasted activity.