Be Prepared for an Earthquake

Protect Yourself

If you are at risk from earthquakes, you should:

  • Discuss with members of your household the possibility of earthquakes and what to do to stay safe if one occurs. Knowing how to respond will help reduce fear.
  • Pick "safe places" in each room of your home and your office or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture, such as a sturdy table or desk, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance to your safe place, the less likely it is that you will be injured by furnishings that become flying debris during the shaking. Injury statistics show that persons moving more than five feet (1.5 meters) during an earthquake's shaking are the most likely to experience injury.
  • Practice drop, cover, and hold on in each safe place. Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on to a leg of the furniture. If suitable furniture is not nearby, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. Responding quickly in an earthquake may help protect you from injury. Practice drop, cover, and hold on at least twice a year.
  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.
  • Talk with your insurance agent about earthquake protection. Different areas have different requirements for earthquake protection. Study the locations of active faults, and, if you are at risk, consider purchasing earthquake insurance.
  • Inform guests, babysitters, and caregivers of earthquake plans. Everyone in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs, even if you are not there at the time.

Protect Your Property

If you are at risk from earthquakes, you should:

  • Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation. Depending on the type of construction and the materials used in building your home, you may need to have it bolted or secured in another way to its foundation. If you are not sure that your home is securely anchored, contact a professional contractor. Homes securely attached to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during earthquakes, while homes that are not are frequently ripped from their foundations and become uninhabitable.
  • Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs. If the water heater tips over, the gas line could break, causing a fire hazard, and the water line could rupture. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Consider having a licensed professional install flexible fittings for gas and water pipes.
  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these items can fall over, causing damage or injury.
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sleep or sit. Earthquakes can knock things off walls, causing damage or injury.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures. During earthquakes, overhead light fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or injury.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. The contents of cabinets can shift during the shaking of an earthquake. Latches will prevent cabinets from opening and spilling out the contents. Place large or heavy objects on shelves near the floor.
  • Secure large items that might fall and break (televisions, computers, etc.).
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed, latched metal cabinets.
  • Evaluate animal facilities and places your pets like to hide in, to ensure that any hazardous substances or structures are dealt with.
  • Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer. Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, front and back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports, and garage doors. This is particularly important if there are signs of structural defects, such as foundation cracks. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger. A professional can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage.
  • Follow local seismic building standards and land use codes that regulate land use along fault lines, in areas of steep topography, and along shorelines. Some municipalities, counties, and states have enacted codes and standards to protect property and occupants in case of an earthquake. Learn about your area's codes before you begin construction.