When Safe, Continue To Follow Your Earthquake Plan

Once you have met your and your family's immediate needs after an earthquake, continue to follow the plan you prepared in advance. Aftershocks can continue to happen for several weeks following a major earthquake. Some may be large enough to cause additional damage. Always be ready to drop, cover, and hold on.

Your recovery period can take several weeks to months or even longer. Take the actions listed below to be safe and to minimize the long-term effects of the earthquake on your life.


Use the information you put together in your disaster plan and the supplies you organized in your disaster kits. Until you are sure there are no gas leaks, do not use open flames (lighters, matches, candles, or grills) or operate any electrical or mechanical device that can create a spark (light switches, generators, motor vehicles, etc.). Never use the following indoors: camp stoves, gas lanterns or heaters, gas or charcoal grills, or gas generators. These can release deadly carbon monoxide or pose a fire hazard in aftershocks.

Be in communication...

  • Turn on your portable or car radio for information and safety advisories.
  • Place all phones back on their cradles.
  • Call your out-of-area contact, tell them your status, then stay off the phone. Emergency responders need to use the phone lines for lifesaving communications.
  • Check on the condition of your neighbors.

Food and water...

  • Identify the resources you have for immediate food and water in your survival kit - you should have a 3-day supply per person to get you to the nearest shelter. 
  • Seek out assistance at an emergency shelter - use your portable radio to discover the closest shelter.


This is a time of transition. Although aftershocks may continue, you will now work toward getting your life, your home, your family and your routines back in order. Emotional care and recovery are just as important as healing physical injuries and rebuilding a home. Make sure your home is safe to occupy and not in danger of collapse in aftershocks. If you were able to remain in your home or return to it after a few days, you will have a variety of tasks to accomplish:
  • If your gas was turned off, you will need to arrange for the gas company to turn it back on.
  • If the electricity went off and then came back on, check your appliances and electronic equipment for damage.
  • If water lines broke, look for water damage.
  • Locate and/or replace critical documents that may have been misplaced, damaged, or destroyed.
  • Contact your insurance agent or company right away to begin your claims process.
  • Contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to find out about financial assistance by visiting


If your home is structurally unsafe or threatened by a fire or other hazard, you need to evacuate. Shelters may be overcrowded and initially lack basic services, so do not leave home just because utilities are out of service or your home and its contents have suffered moderate damage.

If you evacuate, tell a neighbor and your out-of-area contact where you are going. As soon as possible, set up an alternative mailing address with the post office. Take the following, if possible, when you evacuate:
  • Personal disaster supplies kits
  • Medications and eyewear
  • Supply of water, food, and snacks
  • Blanket/pillow/air mattress or sleeping pad
  • Change of clothing and a jacket
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Diapers, food, and other supplies for infants
  • A few family pictures or other comfort items
  • Personal identification and copies of household and health insurance information