What You Should Do if an Earthquake Happens

What to Do in the Case of an Earthquake

Prepare Before the Earthquake Occurs

You should have flexible fittings for utilities such as hot water heaters, natural gas lines, and propane tanks to lessen the risk of line breakage. Make sure family members all know how to turn off utilities such as water, electricity, and gas. Keep a wrench near your gas shut-off valve so others can shut off your gas if necessary. Secure heavy items such as bookcases and hanging pictures. Move heavy items from top shelves to lower shelves.

Also, strap in your hot water heater; if it remains upright following an earthquake you can use it as an emergency source of water if water lines are broken or contaminated. See how to secure a water heater (JPG).

Hot Water Heater

if Inside, Stay Inside. If Outside, Stay Outside

Generally, it is safer to remain where you are than to try and move any significant distance during an earthquake. Many people are killed by falling bricks and debris just outside of buildings.

Drop, Cover, and Hold on.Drop, Cover, & Hold on

If inside, drop to the ground. Next take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. Lastly, hold on to the sturdy object you covered under and be prepared to move with it. If unable to get to a piece of furniture, crouch in an inside corner of the building and cover your head and face, or stand in a doorway and hold on. Avoid outside walls and stairways, as these are unstable and unsafe areas during an earthquake.

See how to drop, cover and hold.

Stay Away From Certain Areas & Items

Falling objects, or simply the shifting of the building, can cause glass to shatter and form dangerous shrapnel. You should also stay away from heavy standing objects such as bookcases, refrigerators, filing cabinets, or entertainment centers. These items can easily cause serious harm to you if they fall.

Don't Try to Keep Large Items From Falling Over

During an earthquake, your primary concern should be to duck, cover, and hold. If you are trying to prevent something from falling over, you are exposing yourself to danger. Also, your chances of keeping your balance and preventing a heavy object from falling are almost impossible.

If Outside, Stay Away From Buildings, Chimneys, Fences, Trees, & Power Lines.Down Power Lines

All of these objects present a falling debris hazard that can seriously injure or kill you.

If You Are in Your Vehicle, Stay Inside of it

Pull over and stop, away from high structures, power lines, overpasses, trees, etc. and wait for the shaking to stop.

After the Earthquake, Expect Aftershocks

Although aftershocks are usually less intense than the actual earthquake, weakened structures and loose debris can be more susceptible to shaking so caution must be used. React to the aftershocks just as you do to the main earthquake.

After the Quake, Check for Broken Gas, Water, & Electric Lines

Turn  off utilities that have broken lines, especially gas. Never turn gas  back on. If you need to turn gas back on, contact your utility company  for they will need to send out a technician. Visit the following links  for contact information on local utility companies:

See how to shut off a gas meter.

Do Not Use Elevators Following an Earthquake

Not only could the elevator have been damaged during the quake, there is an increased probability of more earthquakes in the form of aftershocks following the mainshock (earthquake).

Stay Tuned to Eas Broadcasts for Instruction Before, During, & Following the Disaster

Listen to your NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio or another Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcaster for instructions from emergency services before, during, and following a disaster.

Learn More Information

To learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake, check out FEMA's Earthquake page.