What to Do In an Earthquake - The Complete Guide

Tuesday, March 5, 2024
When an earthquake hits, knowing what to do can save lives. This article cuts straight to the chase, offering essential safety procedures and preparedness tips without any fluff. From immediate actions to long-term safety strategies, find out “what to do in an earthquake” and how to protect yourself and your loved ones during and after seismic events.

Key Takeaways

  • The Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique is crucial for immediate response during an earthquake, with specific actions adapted for different locations such as indoors, outdoors, and inside vehicles.
  • Preparedness involves assembling an emergency supply kit with essentials, establishing a detailed family communication plan, and implementing safety measures to earthquake-proof homes.
  • After an earthquake, prioritize mitigating hazards, assessing injuries and home damage, and being prepared for aftershocks; recovery includes understanding insurance options and accessing available resources.

Immediate Actions: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

When the earth starts to shake, it’s imperative to respond immediately. The recommended method to protect oneself is the Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique. Getting to the ground swiftly helps you avoid being knocked over. Find cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall to shield from falling or flying objects. Holding on prevents you from being thrown about during the intense shaking. This technique should be adapted to various scenarios such as in bed, in a theater, or if you are unable to drop to the floor. Regular practice of this technique can contribute to a quicker and safer response during actual earthquakes.
The specifics of the Drop, Cover, and Hold On method will be explored in various scenarios including indoors, outdoors and in vehicles in this section. Each subsection provides preparedness tips for the respective situations, ensuring you have the knowledge to handle a true emergency.

Staying Safe Indoors

Staying inside a building is the safest option during an earthquake. Moving to a different location can be dangerous due to potential falling debris. If indoors, follow these steps to protect yourself:
  1. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
  2. If possible, take cover under a sturdy table or desk.
  3. Hold on to your cover until the shaking stops to prevent injuries from being thrown about.
  4. Avoid glass, windows, outside doors, walls, and any other hazards that can cause injury.

If no sturdy furniture is available for cover, use your arms to shield your head and neck and position yourself in an interior corner of the building. Remain indoors until the tremors cease and exiting is deemed secure. Studies indicate that attempting to move during an earthquake, whether to a different spot within the building or outside, significantly increases the risk of injury.

Staying Safe Outdoors

If you’re outdoors when an earthquake strikes, taking immediate action is vital for your safety. Here are the steps to follow:
  1. Move away from signs, buildings, streetlights, and utility wires to avoid potential hazards such as falling objects.
  2. Once you are in an open space, drop to the ground.
  3. Cover your head and neck and hold on.
  4. Stay away from trees to avoid the danger of falling branches.
Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake related casualties result from falling debris, collapsing walls, and flying glass. After the shaking stops, proceed with caution. Some areas may have incurred damage from the earthquake, making them unsafe. By following these preparedness tips, you can mitigate the risks presented when caught outdoors during an earthquake.

Staying Safe in Vehicles

Experiencing an earthquake while in a vehicle brings about distinctive challenges. If you find yourself in this situation, pull over to the side of the road and set the parking brake. Avoid stopping under or near overpasses, power lines, and other hazards.
Once the shaking subsides, cautiously resume driving. Be mindful of potential damage to the infrastructure such as bridges or ramps. The key is to stay calm and alert, ensuring you make the safest decisions for your circumstances.

Earthquake Preparedness: What to Do Before an Earthquake

Being prepared is fundamental for earthquake safety. This encompasses assembling emergency supply kits, creating a family communication plan, and implementing home safety measures. An emergency supply kit should include necessities such as water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and vital documents in a waterproof container. In addition, prepare a separate kit for your pets including an emergency supply of food, water, essential items, and medications. Regularly replacing expired items and matching the kit contents to current family needs can ensure its effectiveness.

Establishing a detailed family communication plan is another vital aspect of preparedness. This includes:
  • Important contacts
  • An out-of-state contact person
  • A predetermined meeting place outside of the home
  • Memorized maps of evacuation routes and their alternatives
These topics will be covered in detail in the subsequent subsections, offering a thorough guide to earthquake preparedness.

Emergency Supply Kit

Having an emergency supply kit on hand can greatly influence the outcome when disaster strikes. Your earthquake survival supplies should be stored in locations you most frequent such as your home, vehicle, and office. This kit should include both disaster supplies and emergency supplies such as:
  • Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • A flashlight
  • A first aid kit
Personal hygiene items like soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes are crucial to maintain health and sanitation.
For additional comfort and survival in an extended emergency, consider including a sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person and a complete change of clothing suitable for the climate. Entertainment items such as books, games, and puzzles can help address mental well-being during stressful times, especially if children are present.

Save Time With Preassembled Kits

When preparing, you can either assemble your own kit or purchase a kit designed by Quake Kare's emergency preparedness experts. Assembling a survival kit can be daunting, especially when preparing a family for an extended shelter in place situation.
Quake Kare has simplified the process by packing the essential items into an easy-to-store 5 gallon bucket. Our 4 Person Deluxe Family Survival Kit has all the emergency supplies a family of four would need to survive for 72 hours. All you need to do is find an easily accessible storage location and note the kit's expiration dates.
With a well-prepared emergency kit you can face any disaster confidently.

Family Communication Plan

Maintaining communication is paramount amidst the chaos of a disaster. A designated out-of-state contact person can help keep track of each member’s whereabouts. Text messaging is a reliable communication method during emergencies, as texts can often get through when calls cannot.
All family members should know how to:
  • Receive emergency information using the National Emergency Alert System and local alert systems
  • Use social media networks as a backup communication method for reuniting separated family members after a disaster
  • Include pets in the family communication plan, detailing care and evacuation procedures for them.

Home Safety Measures

There are several fundamental steps to safeguard your home against earthquakes:
  • Fasten heavy items like shelves and dressers to walls
  • Strap water heaters to wall studs to prevent them from falling over during an earthquake
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches
  • Flammable liquids should be stored securely away from the house.
Identifying and repairing any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations is essential, as is evaluating the home for weak structural areas to guide retrofitting efforts. By taking these home safety measures, you can ensure your home is as earthquake-proof as possible.

Post-Earthquake Safety Tips

Surviving an earthquake is just one part of the challenge. To ensure post-earthquake safety, it is important to:
  • Mitigate immediate hazards
  • Ensure safety from injuries
  • Stay updated on emergency information
  • Be aware of post-earthquake hazards

After an earthquake, here are some important steps to take:

  1. Extinguish any small fires.
  2. Shut off gas valves if you suspect leaks from broken pipes or smell gas.
  3. Shut off electricity at the control box to prevent potential electrical fires from damaged wiring.
  4. Wear sturdy shoes to protect against broken glass.
  5. Consume safe water and uncontaminated food to prevent health risks.
  6. Stay updated with local news reports for emergency instructions and vital information after the quake.
The subsequent subsections will offer a detailed guide on injury assessment, home damage evaluation, and how to manage aftershocks.

Checking for Injuries

Checking for injuries is of utmost importance after an earthquake. Here are some steps to follow:
  1. Apply direct pressure to wounds with clean gauze or cloth if available.
  2. Administer CPR if someone is not breathing.
  3. Take care of wounds or injuries promptly to prevent infection.
Remember, do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger, as it is important to protect vital organs. Instead, seek medical help for serious injuries and have them remain seated if possible. By taking these steps and ensuring they wear protective clothing, you can ensure the health and safety of everyone around you.

Assessing Home Damage

It is imperative to evaluate home damage after an earthquake. Here are some steps to follow:
  1. Inspect your home for structural damage, checking for cracks in the foundation, walls, floors, ceilings, exterior house coverings, and the roof.
  2. In the attic, inspect for cracks or separation of roof trusses and sheathing.
  3. Ensure cabinets have not shifted or separated from walls.
Check gas, electrical, and water lines for damage; if gas leaks are detected by smell or sight, shut off the main valve from the outside. If you hear shifting or unusual noises that suggest it might collapse, leave your home to ensure your safety.

Handling Aftershocks

Aftershocks frequently occur after an earthquake, so it’s important to expect aftershocks. They can occur minutes, days, weeks, or even months after the initial quake. Protect yourself from falling debris by using the ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ method during aftershocks.
Leave your home or building immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that indicate potential collapse, and use flashlights instead of candles to prevent fire in case of a power outage. By staying informed and prepared, you can handle aftershocks safely and effectively.

Earthquake Insurance and Recovery

The process of recovery post-earthquake can be lengthy and arduous. Understanding the need for earthquake insurance, learning how to file a claim, and exploring available recovery resources can make this process smoother. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies typically do not cover earthquake damage, underscoring the need for earthquake insurance, especially in places like California where earthquakes are more common.
This section will explore the specifics of earthquake insurance, claims filing process, and recovery resources. Each subsection will provide comprehensive information on these topics, guiding you through the recovery process.

Understanding Earthquake Insurance

Homeowners with a mortgage are obliged to have homeowners insurance, but it’s worth noting that standard policies do not cover earthquake damage. This leaves a gap in protection against earthquake damage, emphasizing the need for separate earthquake insurance coverage.
In California, although homeowners with a mortgage are required to have homeowners insurance, earthquake insurance remains optional, and insurance companies must offer it every other year. By understanding the limitations of your current insurance coverage, you can make informed decisions about additional protections.

Filing a Claim

Promptly reporting damage to the insurance company is critical after experiencing an earthquake. This is because there is a one-year deadline for claim reporting, which, if missed, may lead to claim denial. Homeowners must insist on a claims adjuster being assigned to assess the earthquake damage after they report it to their insurance company.
The assessment by the claim adjuster is critical for identifying both visible and potential hidden damage to ensure that all damages are included in the claim. Keeping a detailed record of all communications with your insurance company, including names, dates, and contact information, can help streamline the claims process.

Recovery Resources

Though recovery after an earthquake can be an overwhelming task, there are several resources available to assist individuals and families. These include:
  • Government assistance programs
  • Non-profit help
  • Legal services
  • Financial support
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers low-interest Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Loans for businesses and residents to repair or replace property, machinery, and equipment, with special loans up to $200,000 for real estate and $40,000 for personal property for homeowners. By utilizing these resources, you can navigate the recovery process more efficiently.


This blog post has provided a comprehensive guide on earthquake safety and preparedness, immediate actions, post-earthquake safety tips, and earthquake insurance and recovery. By taking these steps, you can ensure your safety and the safety of those around you during an earthquake. Remember, preparedness is key. Make sure you have an emergency plan in place, an emergency supply kit ready, and the knowledge to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the safest place to be during an earthquake?

The safest place to be during an earthquake is under a sturdy table or desk, away from windows, heavy furniture, and outer walls. Seek shelter indoors until the shaking stops, and if you're outside, find an open spot away from buildings and structures.

What are 4 tips to survive an earthquake?

In order to survive an earthquake, it's important to create a safety plan, practice DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON, avoid relying on doorways for protection, and identify safe places in each room of your home. Remember to DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON when an earthquake occurs and take immediate protective actions based on your location, such as pulling over and stopping if you're in a car, turning face down and covering your head and neck with a pillow if you're in bed, staying outdoors away from buildings if you're outdoors, and staying inside and avoiding doorways if you're indoors.

What 3 things should you do in an earthquake?

During an earthquake, the three things you should do are: drop to the floor, take cover under a desk or table, and hold on to it. Avoid running and stay clear of windows, fireplaces, and heavy furniture or appliances. Moving into a hallway or against an inside wall can also help protect you.

What are the 5 steps during an earthquake?

During an earthquake, follow these 5 steps: drop, cover, and hold on in a high-rise building, move away from windows and outside walls, stay inside, do not use elevators, and stay calm if trapped. Remember these steps to ensure safety during an earthquake.

What is the Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique?

The Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique is the recommended method to protect oneself during an earthquake by dropping to the ground, finding cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall, and holding on until the shaking stops. Stay safe.