Essential Earthquake Safety Information: How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Tuesday, March 5, 2024
When the ground shakes, your safety hinges on being prepared. Are you ready to protect yourself during an earthquake? Our comprehensive guide provides essential earthquake safety information, equipping you with the knowledge to prepare your home, respond promptly when tremors strike, and take the right actions in their aftermath. Discover key measures to minimize risks and safeguard you and your loved ones through seismic events.

Key Takeaways

  • Earthquakes occur without warning and may be violent, so it’s crucial to protect oneself by dropping to the ground, covering with protection, and holding on to mitigate risk of injury.
  • Preparation for an earthquake involves creating a comprehensive emergency plan, organizing necessary supplies, and securing and retrofitting one’s home to withstand seismic activity.
  • After an earthquake, assess damages, aid the injured, prepare for aftershocks, and utilize resources from organizations like the Earthquake Country Alliance, Red Cross, and for guidance and assistance.

Understanding Earthquake Safety

Earthquake safety is not an option; it’s a necessity. This is especially true for those living in high-risk areas such as Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington, and the Mississippi River Valley. When an earthquake strikes, it is vital to stay put and protect oneself by dropping, covering, and holding on since earthquakes can occur without warning and may be too violent to allow movement.

We will further explore the scientific principles that cause earthquakes and the various forms of damage they can inflict in the following sections. This knowledge will not only give us a better understanding of why earthquakes happen but also help us develop a comprehensive emergency plan.

The Science Behind Earthquakes

An earthquake occurs when there is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground. This shaking is caused by the shifting of rocks deep beneath the earth’s surface. This shifting and breaking of rocks create seismic waves that result in the ground shaking. These seismic waves are categorized into body waves and surface waves, which travel through and along the earth’s surface, respectively.

P waves, or compressional waves, are the first to arrive and cause initial vibrations in buildings. On the other hand, S waves create more damaging side-to-side movements. Then come surface waves, such as Rayleigh and Love waves, which cause low-frequency vibrations that mainly impact tall buildings, especially those far from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Another phenomenon to be aware of is liquefaction, where the shaking can cause the ground to behave like a liquid. This can result in severe structural damage, especially to buildings and bridges.

Types of Earthquake Damage

Earthquakes can cause a wide range of damage, including:

  • Collapse of buildings and roads
  • Disruption of utilities
  • Triggering of natural disasters
  • Surface rupture, which can severely damage structures and disrupt roadways and railways
  • Liquefaction, which undermines the foundations of buildings and bridges and damages roads.

Another aspect of earthquake damage is:

  • The disruption of utility services, leading to potential blackouts
  • Accidental activation of emergency systems like fire alarms and sprinklers
  • Triggering various natural disasters such as landslides, tsunamis, and mobilizing debris in mountainous regions.
Secondary effects of major earthquake incidents include fires, which may start from displaced electrical and gas lines, potentially leading to devastating firestorms.

Preparing for an Earthquake

Preparation is key when it comes to safeguarding against earthquakes. Did you know that most homes are within 30 miles of an active fault? This fact underscores the urgency for earthquake preparedness. So, how do you prepare for an earthquake? It involves creating a comprehensive plan, organizing necessary supplies, and securing your home against potential damage.

We will examine each of these aspects in greater detail in the coming sections.

Creating a Disaster Plan

A comprehensive family communications plan is a cornerstone of earthquake preparedness. Such a plan ensures that all members can stay in touch if separated during an earthquake. Furthermore, it should identify and communicate the safe places in each room, such as under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall, where family members can take cover during an earthquake.

Regular home drills are also beneficial for practicing earthquake safety preparedness. These drills should include identifying safe spots and rehearsing communication plans. Remember, the more prepared you are, the less scary and dangerous an earthquake will be.

Organizing Disaster Supplies

A well-stocked earthquake kit should include:

  • A first aid kit
  • A flashlight
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Personal documents
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Extra cash
  • An emergency blanket
  • Extra batteries
Having a fire extinguisher and these essential supplies can be a lifesaver during and after an earthquake, ensuring you can access emergency services when needed.

When it comes to food and water, it’s recommended to maintain the following supplies:

  • At least one gallon of water per person per day. You should have a supply that lasts three days for evacuation and two weeks for staying at home.
  • A three-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food for evacuation.
  • A two-week supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food for home use.
Don’t forget to include essential items like sanitation and personal hygiene products to maintain health and cleanliness after an earthquake.

Securing Your Home

Securing your home is another important aspect of earthquake preparedness. Older homes built before modern seismic building codes may require a seismic retrofit to enhance their ability to withstand earth shaking. This might mean strengthening the home’s foundation by repairing cracks in ceilings or foundations and consulting an expert for structural defects.

Moreover, to prepare for earthquakes, you should:

  • Secure heavy items like water heaters, bookcases, and refrigerators to walls using anchor kits and straps. This will prevent them from tipping and causing damage or injury during earthquakes.
  • Use latches on cabinets to keep them closed.
  • Strap down electronics.
  • Store flammable liquids securely away from the home to prevent hazards when shaking occurs.

Lastly, know how to manually turn off gas lines or install an automatic shut-off valve that activates with strong vibrations to mitigate the risk of leaks and fires in the aftermath of an earthquake.

What to Do During an Earthquake

When an earthquake strikes, knowing what to do can be the difference between life and death. The key actions to take include dropping to the ground, taking cover under sturdy furniture, and holding on until the shaking stops. If you’re in a vehicle, pull over to a safe place, stop, and stay inside your vehicle with your seatbelt on until the shaking ends.
We will further explore these actions and discuss strategies to ensure safety indoors and outdoors during an earthquake.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On

The ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ response is essential during an earthquake. This is because the majority of injuries are caused by falling heavy furniture, appliances, and shattered glass. To protect yourself from falling or being knocked down, drop to your hands and knees and cover your head and neck with one arm and hand.

If there is a sturdy table or desk nearby, you should crawl underneath it for shelter. This will provide protection from falling debris during an earthquake or other emergency situation. If not, stay low next to an interior wall, protecting your head and neck with your arms. For those with difficulty getting onto the ground, such as individuals using a cane or wheelchair, it is advised to remain seated and cover one’s head and neck with both hands.

Staying Safe Indoors

If you are inside when an earthquake hits, follow these steps to stay safe:

  1. Do not run outside or to other rooms. Stay where you are to avoid injury.
  2. Swiftly position yourself away from windows, overhead items, and substantial furniture like bookcases that may collapse, to sidestep potential impacts when the tremors commence.
  3. Use nearby objects to shield your head and face from falling debris and broken glass.
If in bed, stay there and protect your head with a pillow, to prevent injury from broken glass on the floor. Avoid standing in doorways; they do not offer protection from falling or flying objects during an earthquake. In high-rise buildings, move away from windows and outside walls, and do not use elevators due to the risks of falling glass and power outages.

Staying Safe Outdoors

If you are outdoors during an earthquake, your safety protocol changes slightly. You should locate safe places outdoors away from:

  • buildings
  • trees
  • downed power lines
  • power lines
  • utility wires
  • sinkholes
  • fuel and gas lines
If caught outside during the shaking, move to an identified safe area, drop to the ground, cover your head and neck, and hold on until the shaking stops.

If you’re in a vehicle when an earthquake hits, follow these steps to stay safe:

  1. Stop the car as safely as possible.
  2. Avoid overpasses, bridges, and power lines.
  3. Stay in the car.
  4. Listen to emergency broadcasts on the radio.
These actions can help keep you safe until the shaking stops.

Post-Earthquake Safety Measures

Once the shaking has stopped, it’s important to take certain safety measures to ensure your wellbeing and that of those around you. This includes assessing damage, aiding injured individuals, and preparing for aftershocks.
We will further explore each of these measures for a more detailed understanding.

Assessing Damage and Hazards

After an earthquake, it’s crucial to assess the situation for any potential hazards. Start by inspecting your building for outward signs of damage, such as a crooked appearance or foundational displacement. Also, examine walls for structural deformities like cracks, bulges, and ‘crushing’ damage.

Inside, check for:

  • Deep cracks in ceilings or foundations
  • Damaged support structures like stairs and banisters
  • Proper attachment of decks or porches
  • Shifts in the ground that may have occurred, signifying underlying issues
  • Cracks and unusual warping in basement floors and exterior walls.

If you suspect extensive damage, consider hiring a Professional Structural Engineer for a comprehensive assessment.

Aiding Injured Individuals

In the aftermath of an earthquake, it’s also important to aid injured individuals. For minor injuries, clean wounds with clean water to prevent infection and apply bandages where necessary. In cases of bleeding, applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth can help control blood loss until further medical help is available.

For individuals who have stopped breathing, CPR should be performed, but only by someone who is properly trained in this emergency procedure. It’s also important to keep injured individuals warm using blankets to prevent shock, particularly after traumatic incidents. Always seek professional medical assistance for serious injuries to ensure proper care and to avoid complications.

Preparing for Aftershocks

Aftershocks are a common occurrence following an earthquake. These smaller tremors can cause additional damage to structures weakened during the initial earthquake. It’s therefore important to be ready for aftershocks after an earthquake.

To prepare for an earthquake, follow these steps:

  1. Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bedside to help navigate through potential debris during aftershocks.
  2. Inspect utilities and appliances for damage after the main quake to prevent fires, leaks, or electrical shorts during aftershocks.
  3. If you are near the shore and there was severe shaking that lasted 20 seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground due to potential tsunami risk.

Earthquake Safety Resources

Being well-prepared and informed about earthquakes doesn’t have to be a daunting task. There are plenty of resources available that provide comprehensive information on earthquake safety.
We will examine a selection of these resources.

Earthquake Country Alliance

The Earthquake Country Alliance is a public-private partnership of organizations and individuals who work together to improve earthquake and tsunami resilience. The Alliance has plenty of resources, including the ‘Staying Safe Where the Earth Shakes’ booklets. These booklets are available in multiple languages and regional versions tailored for California.
The Alliance also provides information on earthquake insurance. Key factors determining earthquake insurance rates include:

  • Home age
  • Proximity to fault lines
  • Foundation type
  • Construction materials
  • Roof type

Earthquake insurance policies can be acquired by contacting a home insurance agent to add a specific earthquake policy to existing home or renter’s insurance plans.

Red Cross

The Red Cross is a well-known organization that is actively involved in disaster relief. They place a strong emphasis on educating the community about earthquake preparedness. The Red Cross conducts community-based disaster education programs to help individuals understand the necessary steps to take before, during, and after an earthquake.
The ‘Emergency’ mobile app by the Red Cross is a valuable tool in earthquake preparedness. The app provides users with real-time alerts, safety tips, and detailed preparedness information for various emergencies, including earthquakes. is another valuable resource for earthquake preparedness. Recognized by the U.S. government, delivers comprehensive information, including how to effectively secure one’s home against the impacts of an earthquake.

The website hosts a variety of educational materials such as instructional videos and tip sheets to inform the public on earthquake safety measures. A key component of earthquake safety on is the instruction for the ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ technique, which is crucial during an earthquake.


In conclusion, understanding the science behind earthquakes, the types of damage they can cause, and how to prepare for them is crucial in safeguarding ourselves and our loved ones. By creating a disaster plan, organizing supplies, securing our homes, and knowing what to do during an earthquake, we can greatly reduce the risk of injury and damage. Remember, the time to prepare is now. Don’t wait until an earthquake strikes. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 7 steps to earthquake safety?

Secure heavy items, create a disaster plan, organize emergency supplies, practice drills, identify safe spots, communicate with family, and minimize hazards. These steps will help keep you and your loved ones safe during an earthquake.

What are the safety instructions for earthquakes?

During an earthquake, remember to drop, cover, and hold on to protect yourself. If possible, seek shelter under sturdy furniture or in an open area away from buildings, power lines, and trees. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, and walls. Once in a safe place, stay low until the shaking stops.

What are the 5 things not to do during an earthquake?

During an earthquake, do not stand near outer walls, windows, fireplaces, or heavy objects. If you can't move, protect yourself with blankets and pillows. Avoid the kitchen and rushing outside during the shaking. Remember to stay away from trees, telephone poles, and buildings if you are outside (based on the information provided).

What are 10 ways to survive in an earthquake?

In an earthquake, protect yourself immediately. Train your family on earthquake safety, pack a bug-out bag, and be aware of danger spots. Remember to follow the golden rule: Drop, Cover, and Hold. Plan an escape route.

Why is earthquake safety important?

Earthquake safety is important because it can significantly reduce the risk of injury and damage during an earthquake. Preparedness measures such as creating a disaster plan and securing our homes play a crucial role in minimizing risk.