Earthquakes are sudden rolling or shaking events caused by movement under the earth’s surface. Earthquakes happen along cracks in the earth's surface, called fault lines, and can be felt over large areas, although they usually last less than one minute. Earthquakes cannot be predicted — although scientists are working on it!
All 50 states and 5 U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year, and without warning!
During an Earthquake
Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing. Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!) Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table. If there is low furniture or an interior wall or corner nearby, and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture. Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops. Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Identify an inside corner of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you.
The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available. If you are in bed: Stay there and Cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.
If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once you’re out in the open, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” Stay there until the shaking stops. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.
If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible 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 the earthquake may have damaged.
Before the Earthquake: Prepare
Look around places where you spend time. Identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office or school so that when the shaking starts, you Drop to the ground, Cover your head and neck with your arms, and if a safer place is nearby, crawl to it and Hold On.
Practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!”
To react quickly you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.
Before an earthquake occurs, secure items that could fall and cause injuries (e.g., bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures).
Store critical supplies (e.g., water, medication and documents). Plan how you will communicate with family members, including multiple methods by making a family emergency communication plan.
When choosing your home or business, check if the building is earthquake resistant per local building codes.
After the Earthquake: Recover
When the shaking stops; look around. If there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas. If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you. Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks. Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
Emergency Kits and Disaster Plans are Important:
Earthquakes are not a frequent occurrence. However, they can be very disruptive because they occur suddenly and tend to affect large areas. Earthquakes can be a one-time event of a few seconds shaking or a series of events of varying duration.
Because earthquakes happen without warning, being prepared in advance is critical to minimize damages and loss. Consider these earthquake safety tips: Know your risk. Research the area and find out if you live near an active fault line and whether or not the ground around you is more susceptible to the effects of an earthquake.
Retrofit and reinforce your house. If you're in a high risk area, take steps to reinforce your house. Bolt your house to the foundation and reinforce support beams as needed. Secure any furniture such as bookshelves and cabinets to the walls to minimize risk of falling over during a quake. Secure cabinet doors to help keep dishes and other contents from falling out.
Create a disaster plan to protect yourself and your family. Earthquake preparedness can help reduce anxiety and minimize injury. Know where to take cover in your house and how to communicate with other family members after the earthquake if you're not together. Designate a safe place to meet outside of the house after the shaking stops.
Put together an emergency kit. Your kit should include non-perishable food, water, first aid supplies, flashlights, camping supplies (stove, battery-powered lantern, etc.), extra batteries, blankets and any personal items you may need (medications, toiletries, clothing). If you have pets, make sure they also have adequate supplies. Plan for, a week's worth of supplies for each person. You'll need at least four gallons of drinking water per person for a week.
Stay away from windows and furniture that could potentially fall over. One of the biggest hazards during an earthquake is falling debris and furniture. Avoid areas in your house where you might be exposed to these hazards. Take cover in a safe place in your house. Get under a sturdy table or desk to avoid being hit by anything. If you can't take safe cover, protect your head and neck with your arms.
Do not try and go outside until after the shaking stops. If you are already indoors, you are safer taking cover inside than attempting to leave your house during an earthquake you could be hit by falling debris as you're trying to get out. Be prepared for aftershocks. Earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks additional quakes that follow the main event. These can last for days or even weeks after a major earthquake.
Check your gas lines and make sure there are no leaks. If you smell gas leaking, turn off the gas if possible and call the gas company. Do not use an open flame in your house until you are sure it is safe. Wait for the gas company to turn the gas back on. Check for damaged electrical wiring. Shut off the power if you see damaged wiring in your house.
Keep your shoes on. You may have broken glass or spilled chemicals on the floor of your house as a result of the earthquake. Don't walk around barefoot until you're sure the floor is clean and safe.
Document the damage. If your insurance policy covers earthquake damage, make sure you take photos or video of the damage to use in the claim process.