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

What to do in an Earthquake

The Problem: The probability for an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater in the central U.S. is fairly significant in the near future, with a 25-40% chance of occuring in any 50 year time period. A quake with a magnitude equal to that of the 1811- 1812 quakes could result in great loss of life and property damage in the billions of dollars.

Scientists believe we could be overdue for a large earthquake and through research and public awareness may be able to prevent such losses. By learning about the potential earthquake hazards in your area and by taking certain preparedness measures now, you can increase your chances of surviving an earthquake and minimize its dangerous and damaging impact.

The Danger: The actual movement of the ground in an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most casualties result from falling objects and debris which is a result of the earthquake shaking. The duration and amount of shaking associated with an earthquake as well as the age and construction type of a structure greatly determines the amount of damage that may result. Older structures built with little or no seismic design will be the first structures to be tested by an earthquake.

Earthquakes can also cause secondary effects such as fires, liquefaction and landslides.

What can you do? There are many actions you can take to prepare and reduce the danger from earthquakes to yourself, your family, and others. Use the links below to find out more about what you can do before, during, and after an earthquake.

Before an Earthquake

As a homeowner or tenant:

As a parent or head of family:

During an Earthquake: Drop, Cover, & Hold

Whether you are in your home, a classroom, or a tall building, know how to protect yourself during an earthquake. Teach yourself and family members to react automatically when the shaking starts.

The Drop, Cover, & Hold method has been proven throughout the United States to reduce earthquake related injuries and death. 

CUSEC, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, endorses the Drop, Cover, & Hold method for personal safety during earthquake shaking.

When an Earthquake Strikes:

  1. DROP: Drop down to the floor.
  2. COVER: Take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture. If that is not possible, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors, or tall furniture.

  3. HOLD: If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.

Tips to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake:

Be prepared for aftershocks, and plan where you will take cover when they occur. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. Be prepared to Drop, Cover, & Hold again.

After an Earthquake

Here are some general guidelines on what to do after an earthquake. Remember, aftershocks may occur, so be prepared to Drop, Cover, & Hold. After an earthquake, be prepared to:

  1. Check for injuries to your family and your surrounding neighbors. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in danger of further injury.
  2. Check for fires or fire hazards.
  3. If indoors, check the structural aspects of the building, if any part of the structure appears to be unsafe, evacuate the building until a more detailed inspection can be made. Buildings that are damaged by the main shock could receive additional damage from aftershocks.
  4. Wear shoes in all areas near debris or broken glass.
  5. Do not touch downed power lines or objects touched by the downed wires.
  6. Immediately clean up spilled medicines, drugs, and other potentially harmful materials. Use extreme caution when cleaning up spilt chemicals, they may have mixed with other chemicals during shaking and could cause harmful effects. Open windows to provide ventilation. If you begin to feel any effects from the material that you are handling, stop what your doing and seek medical help.
  7. Check for damaged utilities. Inspect for leaking gas lines by smell only; do not use candles, matches, or other open flames. If you smell gas, open all windows and doors so gas can escape. Shut off the main valve at your gas meter, leave the house immediately, and notify authorities of the leak. Do not re-enter the house until repairs have been made and the dwelling has been declared safe. If water pipes are broken, shut off the main valve which brings water into the house. If the house is properly wired, internal trouble with the electricity is very unlikely. If there is a short circuit, turn off the electricity at the meter box.
  8. If water is off, emergency water may be obtained from melted ice cubes, from canned vegetables, from toilet tanks (if no blueing or sanitizing chemicals have been added), from swimming pools and spas, and from water heaters (strain this water through a clean handkerchief first).
  9. Check to see that sewage lines are intact before permitting continued flushing of toilets.
  10. Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass. Liquids can be strained through a clean handkerchief or cloth if the danger of glass contamination exists.
  11. If power is off, check your freezer and plan meals to use up foods which will spoil quickly.
  12. Use outdoor charcoal or propane broilers for emergency cooking. Do not bring these items indoors. The accumulation of fumes from their use can be deadly.
  13. Do not use your telephone except for genuine emergency calls.
  14. If you have a chimney check its entire length for cracks and damage, particularly in the attic and at the roof line. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire or collapse in aftershocks. The initial check should be made from a distance. Approach chimneys with caution.
  15. Check closets and storage shelf areas. Open closet and cupboard doors carefully and watch for objects falling from shelves.
  16. Do not spread rumors. They often do great harm following disasters.
  17. Tune-in to local radio stations for information and danger reports.
  18. Do not go sightseeing. Do not use your vehicle unless there is a genuine emergency. Keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  19. Be prepared for additional aftershocks. Although most of these are smaller than the main shock, some may be strong enough to cause additional damage.
  20. Respond to requests for help from police, fire fighting, civil defense, and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless your help has been requested. Cooperate fully with public-safety officials. In some areas, you may be arrested for getting in the way of disaster operations.
  21. Information concerning the welfare of separated family members will be handled by the American Red Cross. Do not call or go to the police or fire department for this information. If you have an emergency communications plan in place, use it instead.