What to Know About Earthquake Safety

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 20, 2022
4 min read

An earthquake can create disastrous consequences, which is why knowing what to do in the aftermath of an earthquake is important. During an earthquake, you may initially experience mild shaking that becomes more pronounced over time. 

Aftershocks, which are much smaller than the initial earthquake, can go on for several hours, days, or even months. They often strike without warning and can cause power outages, landslides, fires, avalanches, or even tsunamis in some parts of the world. 

If you live in the vicinity of a faultline, being prepared for an earthquake strike may be crucial to your safety and the safety of your family. The first step you should take to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake is organizing disaster supplies and fortifying your home against earthquake damage. 

Identifying other hazards in your home could lower your risk of being injured during an earthquake, and documenting and keeping records of your personal property is a great way to ensure that you are compensated for any losses if you carry earthquake insurance coverage. 

Read on to discover tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe during an earthquake.

Predicting when or where an earthquake will happen is nearly impossible, which is why it is essential to understand and follow these earthquake preparation tips. Here are some tips to prepare for an earthquake and keep yourself and your family safer: 

  • Identify and secure any potential hazards in your house. 
  • Locate your gas, water, and electricity switches and valves. Be sure you know where they're located and how to turn them off.
  • Create a disaster plan. Outline how you and your family will communicate or where you can meet if you're suddenly separated. 
  • Practice "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" with family, friends, or coworkers.
  •  Assemble a disaster supplies kit that includes a flashlight, fire extinguisher, a whistle, ample food, and water. Be sure to keep the kit in a location that is easy to access.
  • Taking photos or videos of your personal property will allow you to keep a record of everything you own. Organizing important documents can minimize financial hardship in the aftermath of an earthquake 
  • Make improvements to your home, if possible, by fixing structural issues. Having an earthquake insurance policy can help you avoid financial hardship after a natural disaster. 

Having an earthquake preparedness plan in place is the best way to keep yourself and your family safe in an emergency. In most situations, you can protect yourself by dropping to your knees, covering your head and neck, and holding on to whatever is sheltering you. 

Take the following steps to reduce your chances of being hurt during an earthquake.

If you are inside: 

  • Stay where you are; running outside or to another room can lead to an injury.
  •  Avoid standing under a doorway. Instead drop, cover, and hold on.
  • Take cover by crawling under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put your arms over your head and neck to protect them from falling debris. 
  •  To avoid falling debris, find a safe location that is away from glass, windows, or outside doors and walls.
  • Once you've found a suitable place to take cover, hold on to something sturdy and wait for the shaking to stop. 

If you are outdoors:

  • Stay outside and make your way to an open space. 
  • Keep away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Drop to the ground and wait for the shaking to subside as soon as you've located a safe area.
  • If you are trapped under debris and can't move, remain calm and try covering your mouth to avoid inhaling potential airborne debris or toxins.

Move to the side of the road if you're driving in your vehicle when an earthquake strikes. Stay in the car until the shaking stops and avoid stopping under an overpass or powerline or near a utility pole. Turn on your radio and tune your station to an emergency broadcast channel that can provide you with information and help you determine when it is safe to begin driving again.

As you're driving, be aware of hazards on the road like broken pavement or downed utility poles.  If you are in a wheelchair, remove any loose or dangling items and lock your wheels in place. The goal of staying safe during an earthquake is to avoid any falling objects that might put you in harm's way and cause an injury.

Once the shaking stops and it is safe to move around, the first thing you should do is check on everyone in your household. Ensure that nobody requires immediate medical attention and begin administering first aid for any minor injuries if necessary. 

Bear in mind that aftershocks are normal after an earthquake, so you should be prepared to protect yourself by dropping, covering, and holding on. Pay attention to local news reports and monitor media for important emergency information and instructions. 

Damage to the building where you're located could create a serious hazard which is why you should quickly move away from the building when it's safe to do so and go outside. If you believe there is a gas leak, turn off any electrical switches and appliances and head outdoors immediately. Check your home for damage by examining electrical wires or seeing if sewage lines are intact and operational. When cleaning up, wear protective gloves or clothing and do not attempt to lift or remove heavy debris on your own. 

While cleaning mold or other debris, you should wear an appropriate face mask and keep children away from disaster cleanup work. Take videos or photos of your property if anything was damaged and contact your insurance company if you have a residential earthquake policy in place. 

Contact your healthcare provider if you are sick or injured after an earthquake. If you're experiencing a medical emergency, have someone in your house call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance.