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Earthquake Preparation Planning
Advance earthquake preparation can save lives. One of the most
frightening and destructive natural disasters is a severe earthquake.
Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently, and without warning at any
time of the day or night. If an earthquake occurs in a populated area,
it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.
Although there are no guarantees of safety during an earthquake,
identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance earthquake
preparedness can save lives and significantly reduce injuries and
STEP 1: WHAT TO DO BEFORE
- Because you don’t know where you will be when an earthquake occurs, prepare Earthquake Survival Kits for your home, workplace, and car.
- Keep an Emergency Weather Radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports.
- If you don't have earthquake insurance, get a free quote, (it may not be as expensive as you think) purchase coverage to reduce the hardship of loosing your property.
PREPARE WATER -
Make sure you have water stored, at least 1 gallon of water per person per day (don't forget your pets) and be prepared for a minimum 72-hour period.
PREPARE FOOD -
Keep at least a 72 hour supply of non-perishable food
per person, on hand that can be rotated into your diet and replenished
on a regular basis. Have a sufficient supply of canned foods, freeze-dried foods, dehydrated foods, powdered milk, and canned juices.
HOME EARTHQUAKE PREPARATION -
In the event of an earthquake, you may be
instructed to shut off the utility services at your home. Teach
responsible members of your family how to turn off the gas, electricity,
and water at valves and main switches. Consult your local utilities if
you need more information.
*NOTE: Do not shut off gas unless an emergency exists. If
gas does have to be turned off, a professional must restore your service.
EARTHQUAKE PREPARATION HAZARD HUNT -
You can identify potential dangers in your home by conducting an
earthquake hazard hunt. Foresight and common sense are all that is
needed as you go from room to room and imagine what would happen in an
Some possible hazards are:
- Tall, heavy furniture that could topple, such as bookcases, china cabinets, or modular wall units.
- Water heaters that could be pulled away from pipes and rupture.
- Appliances that could move enough to rupture gas or electrical lines.
- Hanging plants in heavy pots that could swing free of hooks.
- Heavy picture frames or mirrors over a bed.
- Latches on kitchen or other cabinets that will not hold the door closed during shaking.
- Breakables or heavy objects that are kept on high or open shelves.
- A masonry chimney that could crumble and fall through an unsupported roof.
- Flammable liquids, like painting or cleaning products, that would be safer in a garage or outside shed.
Take earthquake preparation steps to correct these hazards — secure or relocate heavy items as appropriate.
STEP 2: WHAT TO DO DURING Go to Top ^
If you are indoors:
- Drop, Cover, and Hold — Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or
bench, or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there is no desk or
table near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an
inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures and furniture.
- If you are in bed when the earthquake strikes, stay there. Hold
on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy
light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go
outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by
falling objects while entering or leaving buildings.
- Be aware that electricity may go out or that sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- Do not use elevators.
Earthquake Preparation If You Are Outdoors:
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and utility wires.
If you are in a moving car:
- Stop as quickly as safety permits, pull to the side of the road, and stay in the car.
- Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
- Do not attempt to drive across bridges or overpasses that have been damaged.
- Proceed cautiously after the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.
If you are trapped under debris:
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can find you. Use a
whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort — shouting can
cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
STEP 3: WHAT TO DO AFTER Go to Top ^
When the Ground Stops Shaking -
Earthquake Preparation includes being prepared for aftershocks.
These secondary earthquakes are usually less violent than the main
quake, but they can be strong enough to cause additional damage and
weaken buildings. Stay away from damage areas unless your assistance has
been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in a coastal area.
Tsunamis are also known as seismic sea waves. When local authorities
issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on
the way. Move inland to higher ground as quickly as possible.
Earthquake Survival - If anyone has stopped breathing, give
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Stop any bleeding injury by applying
direct pressure to the wound. Do not move seriously injured people
unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Cover injured
persons with blankets to keep them warm.
*Consider taking a First Aid Course to aid yourself and others in Earthquake Preparedness.
- If possible, put out small fires. If not, leave your home
immediately, notify the fire department if possible, and alert your
- Use a battery-powered flashlight to inspect your home. Turn the
flashlight on outside, before entering, because the battery may produce
a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
- Check gas, electrical, and water lines, and check appliances
for damage. If you smell gas or see a broken line, shut off the main
valve from the outside. Do not switch on the electricity again until the
power company has first checked your home. Remember, if gas is turned
off, a professional must restore service. Do not search for gas leaks
with a lighted match.
*Caution: Do not use electrical switches or appliances if gas leaks are suspected, because sparks can ignite gas from broken lines.
- Switch off electrical power if there is damage to
your house electrical wiring. If the situation is unsafe, leave your
home and seek help.
- Check the building for cracks and damage, particularly around
chimneys and masonry walls. Leave immediately if it looks like the
building might collapse. Use fireplaces only if the chimney has no
damage and no cracks.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, and gasoline and other flammable liquids.
- Check to see that water and sewage lines are intact before
using the toilet. Plug bathtub and sink drains to prevent sewage backup.
Earthquake Preparation - If You Have To Evacuate
Post a message in clear view that states where you can be found.
Take your earthquake survival kit, and your emergency radio. List
reunion points in case of separation. Such points may be the homes of
neighbors, friends, or relatives; schools; or community centers.
Need Even More Information?
Earthquake Preparation Information and Guides:
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Photo Credit: Andrea Booher/FEMA News Photo