Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Earthquake Awareness

Preparation - Before the Quake

Prepare Your Family

  • Discuss how you and your family will respond to a possible emergency. Know how to contact all family members at all times. Think 24/7 and 365.
  • Draw a floor plan of your home. If possible, mark two escape routes from each room.
  • Select two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when most adults are at work and children are at school).
  • Identify an out-of-town friend or relative as your emergency family check-in contact for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Make sure all family members have that number. It is often easier to call of-of-town during an emergency than within the affected area.
  • Post emergency contact numbers near all telephones. Include local police, fire and health departments, poison control, your children's schools, doctors, child/senior care providers and insurance agents.
  • Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services phone number.
  • Know your local radio and television stations that can provide you with up-to-date information during an emergency. Make sure you know which of your stations are part of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). These EAS stations are the primary outlets for official information on protective actions.
  • Install safety features in your home such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
  • Have your family learn basic safety and first aid measures.
  • Keep family records in a water- and fireproof safe.
  • Have emergency supplies on hand.
  • Know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at main switches. If for any reason you do turn off natural gas service to your home, call your natural gas utility to restore service. DO NOT attempt to restore gas service yourself.
  • Earthquakes are not covered under standard home-owners insurance policies. Consider purchasing earthquake insurance.

Check For Hazards in the Home

  • Fasten shelves, bookcases, and other tall furniture securely to wall studs.
  • Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects.
  • Secure items such as televisions and computers.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinet doors to prevent contents from flying out during a quake.
  • Move large or heavy objects and fragile items to lower shelves where they are less likely to fall or break.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Secure water heaters and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting them to the floor.
  • Install flexible pipe-fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.
  • Check to see if your house is bolted to its foundation.
  • Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer who can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage.

Identify Safe Places

  • Indoors: Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table; against an inside wall; and away from where glass could shatter or where book-cases or other heavy furniture could fall over.
  • Outdoors: Away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.

During the Quake


  • Practice Duck, Cover and Hold:
    1. Duck or drop down to the floor
    2. Take Cover under a desk, table, or other sturdy furniture, or seek Cover against an interior wall and protect your head with your arms.
    3. If you are taking cover beneath sturdy furniture, Hold onto it until the ground stops shaking.
  • Stay away from windows, mirrors, skylights, and furniture that could fall on you.
  • Stay inside. The most dangerous thing to do during the shaking of an earthquake is to try to leave the building because objects such as bricks, glass and other building materials are likely to be falling from the sides of a building.
  • If you are in a crowded building, do not rush for the exit - others may have the same idea. Seek shelter beneath a stable piece of furniture instead.
  • If you are in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outside walls. Remain on the same floor. DO NOT use elevators.


  • Move into the open, away from buildings, trees, signs, street lights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

In a Moving Vehicle

  • Stop quickly and stay in the vehicle.
  • Move to a clear area away from buildings, trees, overpasses, or utility wires.
  • Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution.
  • Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.

After the Quake

  • Expect aftershocks. They often follow earthquakes and may even be as strong as, or stronger than, the initial quake.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency instructions and warnings.
  • Check on and help your neighbors. Help injured or trapped persons without putting yourself at risk.
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance: those with infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • STAY OUT of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Beware of gas leaks, downed electrical lines and water and/or sewer main breaks. Report these to authorities as soon as possible.
  • Wearing heavy-soled shoes, check for fire hazards as well as spilled chemicals, medicines, flammable liquids, etc.
  • After searching for hazards, open windows to vent potentially dangerous fumes.
  • If electrical system damage is suspected (frayed wires, sparks, or smell of hot insulation), turn off the system at the main circuit breaker or fuse box. Have it inspected by a professional.
  • If water leaks are suspected, turn off water at the main valve.
  • Tape broken windows to prevent glass shards from falling during aftershocks.