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Safety & Prevention

Earthquake Disaster Fact Sheet

What are Earthquakes?

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth’s surface. Ground shaking from earthquakes can collapse buildings and bridges; disrupt gas, electric, and phone service; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and huge, destructive ocean waves (tsunamis). Learn whether earthquakes are a risk in your area by contacting your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter.

Why Talk about Earthquakes?

For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth’s surface move slowly over, under, and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. Where earthquakes have occurred in the past, they will happen again.

What can I do to Prepare for an Earthquake?

In addition to completing the 4 Steps to Safety, do the following:

  • Pick “safe places” in each room of your homea 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.
  • Practice drop, cover, and hold-on in each safe placedrop under a sturdy desk or table, hold on, and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm.
  • Get trainingtake a first aid class from your local
    Red Cross chapter.
  • Discuss earthquakes with your familyeveryone 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.

What to do During an Earthquake

  • Drop, cover, and hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
  • If you are in a coastal area, move to higher ground.
  • 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.

What to do After an Earthquake

  • Check yourself for injuries.
  • Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
  • Continue listening to local radio for information.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them to the power company, police or fire department.
  • Use flashlights to examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows.
  • Inspect foundations for cracks and make sure the building is not in danger of collapsing.
    Inspect your home for damage.
  • Check for gas leaks. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance.
    Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Use the telephone for emergency calls only.

Additional Resources:

Last Updated
Family Readiness Kit: Preparing to Handle Disasters, 2nd Edition
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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