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Earthquake Preparedness

Survival isn't based on luck. You can survive an earthquake and minimize its damage simply by becoming aware of potential hazards and taking some basic earthquake preparedness measures.

Earthquakes strike without warning. The experts say future earthquakes are a certainty, but they cannot predict when they will occur. Every person should take the time to plan what to do (and what not to do) before, during and after an earthquake.

The following checklists and guidelines provide the basic rules for surviving this type of natural disaster.

Before the Quake

Develop a family earthquake plan. Prepare yourself, your family and your home by completing the activities on this checklist.

  • Decide how and where your family will reunite if separated.
  • Choose an out-of-state friend or relative that separated family members can call after the quake to report their whereabouts and condition.
  • Know the safe spots in each room: under sturdy tables, desks, or against inside walls.
  • Know the danger spots: windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces and tall, unsecured furniture.
  • Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself in safe locations.
  • Learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) from your local Red Cross chapter or other community organization.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Learn how to shut off gas, water and electricity in case the lines are damaged. (Safety note: Do not attempt to relight gas pilot. Call the utility company.)
  • Check chimneys, roofs, walls and foundations for stability. Make sure your house is bolted to its foundation.
  • Secure water heater and appliances that could move enough to rupture utility lines.
  • Keep breakables and heavy objects on bottom shelves.
  • Secure heavy tall furniture that can topple, such as bookcases, china cabinets or wall units.
  • Secure hanging plants and heavy picture frames or mirrors (especially over beds).
  • Put latches on cabinet doors to keep them closed during shaking.
  • Keep flammable or hazardous liquids such as paints, pest sprays or cleaning products in cabinets or secured on lower shelves.
  • Maintain emergency food, water and other supplies, including a flashlight, a portable battery-operated radio, extra batteries, medicines, first aid kit and clothing.

During the Quake

If indoors, stay there. Get under a desk or table or stand in a corner.

If outdoors, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls, and power lines.

If in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outside walls. Get under a table. Do not use elevators.

If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside until the shaking is over.

If in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doors. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall.

After the Quake

Check for injuries. Apply first aid. Do not move seriously injured individuals unless they are in immediate danger.

Do not use the telephone immediately unless there is a serious injury or fire. Hunt for hazards:

  • Check for gas and water leaks, broken electrical wiring or sewage lines. If there is damage, turn utility off at the source.
  • Check building for cracks and damage, including roof, chimneys and foundation.
  • Check food and water supplies. Emergency water may be obtained from water heaters, melted ice cubes, toilet tanks and canned vegetables.
  • Turn on your portable radio for instructions and news reports. Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless there is an emergency. Keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Stay calm and lend a hand to others.


Information provided by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the American Red Cross.

For more information, contact:

Disaster Relief 866 438-4636

Or find your local chapter:


Disaster Information Helpline
Call 800 621-3362
TTY 800 462-7585


Find your state's office:


Seismic Meter

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