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BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE STRIKES
Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family
Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Develop
If you are at risk from earthquakes:
Pick "safe places" in each room of your home. A safe
place could be under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall away
from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. The
shorter the distance to move to safety, the less likely you will be injured.
Injury statistics show that people moving as little as 10 feet during an
earthquake's shaking are most likely to be injured. Also pick safe places,
in your office, school and other buildings you are frequently in.
Practice drop, cover, and hold-on in each safe place. Drop under a
sturdy desk or table and hold on to one leg of the table or desk. Protect
your eyes by keeping your head down. Practice these actions so that they
become an automatic response. When an earthquake or other disaster occurs,
many people hesitate, trying to remember what they are supposed to do.
Responding quickly and automatically may help protect you from injury.
Practice drop, cover, and hold-on at least twice a year. Frequent
practice will help reinforce safe behavior.
Wait in your safe place until the shaking stops, then check to see if
you are hurt. You will be better able to help others if you take care of
yourself first, then check the people around you. Move carefully and watch
out for things that have fallen or broken, creating hazards. Be ready for
additional earthquakes called "aftershocks."
Be on the lookout for fires. Fire is the most common
earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines
or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released.
If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use the stairs,
not the elevator. Earthquakes can cause fire alarms and fire sprinklers
to go off. You will not be certain whether there is a real threat of fire.
As a precaution, use the stairs.
If you're outside in an earthquake, stay outside. Move away from
buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Crouch down and cover your
head. Many injuries occur within 10 feet of the entrance to buildings.
Bricks, roofing, and other materials can fall from buildings, injuring
persons nearby. Trees, streetlights, and power lines may also fall, causing
damage or injury.
Inform guests, babysitters, and caregivers of your plan. Everyone
in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs. Assure yourself
that others will respond properly even if you are not at home during the
Get training. Take a first aid class from your local Red Cross
chapter. Get training on how to use a fire extinguisher from your local fire
department. Keep your training current. Training will help you to keep calm
and know what to do when an earthquake occurs.
Discuss earthquakes with your family. Everyone should know what to
do in case all family members are not together. Discussing earthquakes ahead
of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
Talk with your insurance agent. Different areas have different
requirements for earthquake protection. Study locations of active faults,
and if you are at risk, consider purchasing earthquake insurance.
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Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Please see the "Disaster
Supplies Kit" section for general supplies kit information.
Earthquake-specific supplies should include the following:
- A flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person's bedside.
- Disaster Supplies Kit basics
- Evacuation Supply Kit.
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PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY
Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall
studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake,
these items can fall over, causing damage or injury. For more information, click
Secure items that might fall (televisions, books, computers, etc.).
Falling items can cause damage or injury. For more information, click
Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. The contents of
cabinets can shift during the shaking of an earthquake. Latches will prevent
cabinets from flying open and contents from falling out. For more
Move large or heavy objects and fragile items (glass or china) to
lower shelves. There will be less damage and less chance of injury if
these items are on lower shelves.
Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low,
closed cabinets with latches. Latches will help keep contents of
cabinets inside. For more information, click
Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in
closed cabinets with latches, on bottom shelves. Chemical products will
be less likely to create hazardous situations from lower, confined
Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds,
couches, and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes can knock things off
walls, causing damage or injury. For more information, click
Brace overhead light fixtures. During earthquakes, overhead light
fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or injury.
Strap the water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your
best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from
damage and leaks.
Bolt down any gas appliances. After an earthquake, broken gas
lines frequently create fire hazards. For more information, click
Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.
Flexible fittings will be less likely to break. For more information, click
Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice
if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes can turn cracks
into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger.
Check to see if your house is bolted to its foundation. Homes
bolted to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during
earthquakes. Homes that are not bolted have been known to slide off their
foundations, and many have been destroyed because they are uninhabitable.
For more information, click
Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural
design engineer. Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for
exterior features, such as porches, front and back decks, sliding glass
doors, canopies, carports, and garage doors. Learn about additional ways you
can protect your home. A professional can give you advice on how to reduce
Follow local seismic building standards and safe land use codes that
regulate land use along fault lines. Some municipalities, counties, and
states have enacted codes and standards to protect property and occupants.
Learn about your area's codes before construction.
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Media and Community Education Ideas
Ask your community to develop stronger building codes. Building codes are
the public's first line of defense against earthquakes. The codes specify
the levels of earthquake forces that structures must be designed to
withstand. As ground lessons have been learned about how buildings are
damaged in earthquakes, the minimum earthquake requirements specified in
building codes have been improved.
Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency
information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone
numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and
Conduct a week-long newspaper series on locating hazards in the home and
how to fix them.
Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials to
prepare appropriate information for people with mobility impairments about
what to do during an earthquake.
Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about
shutting off utilities.
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DURING AN EARTHQUAKE
Drop, cover, and hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe
place. It is very dangerous to try to leave a building during an earthquake
because objects can fall on you. Many fatalities occur when people run
outside of buildings, only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing
walls. In U.S. buildings, you are safer to stay where you are.
If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a
pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken
glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor
or tried to get to doorways.
If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees,
streetlights, and power lines. Drop to the ground and stay there until the
shaking stops. Injuries can occur from falling trees, street-lights and
power lines, or building debris.
If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay
there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking has stopped. Trees,
power lines, poles, street signs, and other overhead items may fall during
earthquakes. Stopping will help reduce your risk, and a hard-topped vehicle
will help protect you from flying or falling objects. Once the shaking has
stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been
damaged by the quake.
Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to
exit. More injuries happen when people move during the shaking of an
earthquake. After the shaking has stopped, if you go outside, move quickly
away from the building to prevent injury from falling debris.
Stay away from windows. Windows can shatter with such force that
you can be injured several feet away.
In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go
off during a quake. Earthquakes frequently cause fire alarm and fire
sprinkler systems to go off even if there is no fire. Check for and
extinguish small fires, and, if exiting, use the stairs.
If you are in a coastal area, move to higher ground. Tsunamis are
often created by earthquakes. (See the "Tsunami"
section for more information).
If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be
alert for falling rocks and other debris that could be loosened by the
earthquake. Landslides commonly happen after earthquakes. (See the "Landslide"
section for more information.)
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AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
Check yourself for injuries. Often people tend to others without
checking their own injuries. You will be better able to care for others if
you are not injured or if you have received first aid for your injuries.
Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a
long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves. This will protect
your from further injury by broken objects.
After you have taken care of yourself, help injured or trapped
persons. If you have it in your area, call 9-1-1, then give first aid
when appropriate. Don't try to move seriously injured people unless they are
in immediate danger of further injury.
Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards.
Putting out small fires quickly, using available resources, will prevent
them from spreading. Fire is the most common hazard following earthquakes.
Fires followed the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 for three days, creating
more damage than the earthquake.
Leave the gas on at the main valve, unless you smell gas or think it's
leaking. It may be weeks or months before professionals can turn gas
back on using the correct procedures. Explosions have caused injury and
death when homeowners have improperly turned their gas back on by
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable
liquids immediately and carefully. Avoid the hazard of a chemical
Open closet and cabinet doors cautiously. Contents may have
shifted during the shaking of an earthquake and could fall, creating further
damage or injury.
Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
Aftershocks following earthquakes can cause further damage to unstable
buildings. If your home has experienced damage, get out before aftershocks
Help neighbors who may require special assistance. Elderly people
and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who
care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in
Listen to a portable, battery-operated radio (or television) for
updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is
out, this may be your main source of information. Local radio and local
officials provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation.
Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, drop, cover, and hold
on! Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks, and even months
following an earthquake.
Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines, and stay out of
damaged areas. Hazards caused by earthquakes are often difficult to see,
and you could be easily injured.
Stay out of damaged buildings. If you are away from home, return
only when authorities say it is safe. Damaged buildings may be destroyed by
aftershocks following the main quake.
Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to inspect your home.
Kerosene lanterns, torches, candles, and matches may tip over or ignite
Inspect the entire length of chimneys carefully for damage.
Unnoticed damage could lead to fire or injury from falling debris during an
aftershock. Cracks in chimneys can be the cause of a fire years later.
Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents, for
Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can
When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may
have occurred where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you
Examine walls, floor, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure
that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or
hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off
the gas, using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas
company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason,
it must be turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken
or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the
electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step
in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician
first for advice.
Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage
lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water
pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from
the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by
melting ice cubes.
Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need
to be clear for emergency calls to get through.
Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard.
The behavior of pets may change dramatically after an earthquake. Normally
quiet and friendly cats and dogs may become aggressive or defensive.
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