William Lowden • Lic. No. 0603748 • (909) 714-5516

Earthquake Escape Plan: What Will You Do When the Big One Hits?

Making an escape plan with your family and pets for earthquake preparedness is a lot like making an escape plan if your home catches fire. Each situation is clearly an emergency, and many of the basic principles of escape planning apply to both scenarios.

Don't Delay, Prepare Today: Create a Family Escape Plan

Picture of escape plan

Seven Steps to Creating an Earthquake Escape Plan

Download this PDF and use it to draw a map of your home. Make sure you identify TWO WAYS OUT on your map.

Step 1: Plan Your Escape Route

Using your new escape plan template, draw a map of your home, and plan your escape route out of the structure you live in. Learn how to open windows (especially ones with bars on them). Make sure everyone in your family knows each escape route.
Most high-rise or multi-story apartment complexes post fire and emergency escape plans for all residents to see and follow. However, these plans seldom include escape routes for each apartment. Family members must develop and practice an evacuation plan for their individual apartment.

Step 2: Find Two Ways Out

Everyone in your house should visit each room and figure out two escape routes:

  1. The normal exit
  2. The other exit through a door or even a window

Step 3: Choose a Safe Meeting Place

A special meeting place should be established a safe distance from your home. It needs to be outside and stationary. It could be a mailbox, the neighbor's driveway, a street sign on the corner, or a building across the street. This is where everyone meets in the event of a fire or other emergency like an earthquake. It also prevents family members from wandering around the neighborhood looking for one another, or worse, being tempted to re-enter a burning or unsafe house looking for someone thought to be trapped inside.

Choose your safe meeting place today. Make sure everyone in your home knows it.

Step 4: Practice Your Family Escape Plan

Once your plan is made, it's time to practice. Do this often. At different times during the day, especially at night, when house fires are far more likely.
Position each family member in his or her bed, turn all the lights off, and activate the smoke detector or let everyone know that your “practice earthquake” has begun. Each family member should help “awaken” the others by yelling the alert. Family members should exit their rooms according to the plan and meet in the designated safe meeting place outside the home.

Step 5: Include Pets in Your Plan

Pets are a part of your family, so make sure you include them in your plan and in your practice sessions!

Step 6: Never Go Back Inside

Once outside at the safe meeting place, it's time to call 9-1-1. When you speak with the emergency dispatcher, the most important information you can give them is where you are. If anyone is missing, give that information to the fire department immediately and tell them where the probable location of the missing person could be. Under no circumstances should anyone re-enter the building.

Step 7: How to Exit Safely From a Structure


Jumping from upper floors of a building should be your last alternative. However, it is possible to hang from a second story window and drop feet first to the ground without significant injury. A sprained ankle or broken leg is better than staying in a burning or collapsing building.


Home owners can purchase fire ladders for second-floor bedrooms. If you don't have a fire ladder, use an adjacent porch or garage roof to await rescue by the fire department.

No Elevators

When exiting a multi-story structure, never use the elevator unless you've been instructed that's it safe by a fire official. Elevators often stop working in the event of a fire or earthquake, trapping people inside. The result can be deadly. A power failure may cause them to stop in between floors as well. Use the fire escape or an enclosed fire resistant stairwell to exit a high-rise building.


As a family, explore the building you live in, so that every exit is familiar, including those from storage, laundry and recreation rooms. If the hallways become smoke-filled as the result of a fire, memory can help in finding the exits. Practicing emergency escape plans is crucial to helping you and your family remain calm and confident during an actual emergency.

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Creating a family plan is one of the most important things you can do. Spend a few minutes with our team and discover how easy it is to prepare before an emergency.

Planning Tip: Build a Survival Kit.