Earthquake Safety Tips
A Comprehensive Resource

Earthquakes account for half of the worlds top 10 most dangerous natural disasters. Prepare your self, your home, and your family with these earthquake safety tips.

Statistical Importance: high

57.2% of earthquakes in the U.S occur in Alaska, followed by California with 23.2% and Hawaii with 7.3%.(3)

Before the Quake: How to Prepare

Construct or buy a solid home, especially in an earthquake-prone area.


Create an emergency plan in case of an earthquake, and ensure your family understands it.

  • Stash supplies to use in an emergency
    1. Water and non-perishable food that can last for at least 3 days
    2. A first-aid kit
    3. Any necessary medication
    4. Dust masks and goggles
    5. An operating battery-run radio
    6. Flashlights
    7. A whistle
    8. Tools that can help you turn off gas, electric, and water and heat utilities.
  • Practice earthquake drills. In a commercial area, invest on an emergency response training for your employees to minimize the risks and costs of damages.

Know where and how to turn off your utilities.

Make your home a sturdier place.

  • Bolt bookcases, latch cabinets or cupboards, nail down shifting furniture, and anchor heavy appliances.
  • Construct extra support for your windows and doors.
  • Store heavier objects close to or on the ground.
  • Support the overall framework of your house.
  • Store flammable liquids away from flame-inducing objects (stoves, furnaces).
  • Fasten mirrors and heavy paintings (or whatever you have tacked up or supported on the walls) away from beds, couches, or wherever people are typically situated.
  • Do it yourself or enlist the help of a professional: check for vulnerable foundations, cracked pipes, faulty or cracked walls, inadequate masonry, etc.

Imagine where you’d go.

  • Envision "safe spots" in every room. If an earthquake strikes, could you dart under that table, or that desk, or that doorway?

Never block exits.

Statistical Importance: high

California has a 99% chance of experiencing a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years.(1)

Is It Possible to Predict an Earthquake?

Earthquakes are hard to predict. Even the sharpest of experts can’t reliably predict major earthquakes.They can, however, calculate probabilities passed on past patterns and science.

  • Common precursors:
    1. Increased water levels
    2. Unusual behavior by animals
    3. Unusual weather patterns, especially concerning temperature.
    4. Static electricity fluctuations
  • When the quake strikes:
    1. A roaring noise
    2. The obvious shaking
Largest ever Earthquake scored a magnitude of 9.2In the United States, the largest recorded earthquake took place on Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 28, 1964 with a magnitude of 9.2.(4) More than 70 percent of California’s population resides within earthquake danger zones.(5) Tsunamis have caused Half a Billion Dollars in Property Damage Since 1646, six tsunamis have killed more than 350 people and damaged a half billion dollars of property in Hawaii, Alaska and the West Coast.(6)
  • Ensure your home is as stable and secure as possible.
  • Stabilize or isolate the heavy or hazardous materials in your home or workspace.
  • Plan for an earthquake emergency with kits and drills.
  • When an earthquake strikes: drop, seek cover, and hold on.
  • After an earthquake, assess your situation and don’t make sudden moves.
  • If you become trapped by an earthquake, stay where you are and try to alert others so that they can reach you instead.

Statistical Importance: high

The January 12, 2010 earthquake caused widespread damage in the Port-au-Prince, Haiti causing approximately 223,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries.(2)

Staying Safe When the Earth Starts Dancing

Know where to go.

  • If you’re in a car, slow down and pull over at a clear place, far from buildings, trees, and power cords.
    1. Move far from bridges and elevated highways, as these may give way.
  • If you’re outdoors, drop to the ground at a similarly clear place.
  • If you’re in bed, and relatively safe from flying or falling objects, stay put and guard your head and body with your pillow and blankets.
  • In a high-rise building, stay away from windows.
  • Never use the elevator.

Know how to ride it out.

  • "Drop, cover, and hold on tight."
  • Take cover beneath something sturdy that will protect you from flying, shattering objects.
    1. Crouch beneath a heavy table or desk. If it moves and you can’t keep it in place, go with it.
    2. Stay away from bookcases, wobbling furniture, glass, and exterior walls and doors.
  • If possible, take cover within a doorframe, which is more stable and provides more support than any other place in the house.
    1. Only use a doorway which you know is load-bearing and strongly supported.
  • If there’s nothing to protect you, crouch against an interior wall and cover your head with your arms.

Know when not to run.

  • Don’t be alarmed; fire alarms and water sprinklers will probably go off during an earthquake.
  • Don’t exit a building during an earthquake.
    1. You’re most vulnerable right outside of a building—you could easily be hit by debris that is plummeting from collapsing exterior walls.
    2. Know that most injuries occur when people attempt to run inside a building.

Statistical Importance: high

On April 1, 1946 an earthquake triggered a tsunami near the Aleutian Islands of Alaska with a magnitude of 7.8. It had killed 165 people and caused over $26 million in damage. (6)

Safety Precautions After the Quake

If you’re trapped, follow these earthquake safety tips:

  • Never light a  match
  • Don’t move.  At best, you’ll kick up dust (bad for your limited air supply); at worst, you might cause a further collapse.
  • Cover your nose and mouth lightly with cloth.
  • Alert others of your location:
    1. Tap on a pipe or wall
    2. Use a whistle
    3. Shout—as a last resort. It’s dangerous, because you’ll inhale too much dust.

Assess the situation; make sure it’s safe to move before you move. If possible, exit the building as soon as possible.

Check for injuries (personal and those of the people around you).

Keep clear of damaged areas.

If you’re home, tread carefully: inspect utilities, open cabinets carefully, clean up spills, and wear protective clothes so you won’t hurt yourself amongst the debris.

If there’s a power outage, unplug appliances.

If you smell or have any indication of a gas leak, evacuate immediately; open doors and windows on your way out.

If water lines or sewage lines seem to be damaged, call a plumber before using the water and toilet utilities.

  • Meanwhile plug the bathroom and sink drains

Look for fire, a typical hazard after an earthquake.

Turn off the electricity if you discern frayed wires, sparks, or the scent of overheated insulation. 

Tune in to your radio or TV for information: another earthquake might be forecasted, or resources and guidelines may be broadcasted.

Be prepared for aftershocks.

Be alert for tsunami warnings if you’re near a coastline.

---- Earthquake Safety Tips: Sources ----