How To Be Prepared For An Earthquake

Be Aware of the Signs of an Earthquake

A roaring sound or rumbling sound may be heard during an earthquake. These sounds can get louder over time. A rolling sensation may be felt that begins slowly and then becomes violent within seconds or so.


A violent jolt may cause you to be shaken at first. A second or so later, you might feel shaken and have trouble standing or moving around in the room.

Once any family member hears or feels these types of signs, they should begin to enact the emergency earthquake plan.

Create an Evacuation Plan

You and your family may have to evacuate an area damaged by an earthquake. You will be more prepared to respond to warning signs or follow directions from civil authorities if you plan and practice evacuation.

  • Talk to your family about a home evacuation plan. Draw a floor plan for your home and walk through every room. Discuss evacuation details. Know flood-zone information if you live downstream of a dam.
  • If possible, plan a second exit route from each room. You will need to mark the location of any special equipment such as a rope ladder.
  • You should mark the location of your emergency supplies kit, which includes food, water, and fire extinguishers. You should have three days worth of food and water for each person in your family. 
  • If possible, locate the location of utility switches and valves so they can be shut off.
  • Please indicate the location of an emergency meeting place for your family outdoors.

Practice What to do in the Event of an Earthquake

You and your family can practice what to do in the event of an earthquake.

  • If you have children, get the whole family involved in an earthquake drill. Participating in an earthquake drill can help you and your family members understand what to do if you aren't there during an earthquake.
  • You and your children should be familiar with the school's emergency procedures in case of disaster. This will allow you to coordinate when, where, and how you can reunite your children after an earthquake.


  • Drop down on your hands and knees. This will protect you from losing your balance and falling, but you can still move around if you need to.
  • Cover your head, neck, and entire body underneath a sturdy desk or table. If you don't have shelter, find a nearby wall or near low-lying furniture so that your head and neck are covered. Avoid windows and glass that might shatter or be under any objects that could fall on your head.
  • Hold on to the back of your next with both hands until the shaking stops.

Find the Safe Places

Most deaths and injuries from earthquakes are caused by collapsed building materials and heavy falling objects such as bookshelves, cabinets, and heating units.

  • Identify the safest spots in every room of your house. A safe spot could be under a table or sturdy desk far from the walls.

Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

Secure items in your home. 

Attach a metal or wooden guardrail to every shelf to prevent items from falling off of open shelves. Fishing line is another option.

Also, you should ensure that heavy or large items are placed on lower shelves. You can secure certain items to shelves using velcro.

You should inspect your home and surroundings for potential hazards, and make sure you secure them if possible. Remember that anything can fall, move or break in an earthquake or its aftermath shocks.

  • Identify any potential hazards in the room. This includes windows, glass objects, unanchored bookcases and furniture that can tip over, items on shelves, and items that might be blocked by fallen debris. These can be secured with eyebolts, corner brackets, or "L" brackets.
  • Install sliding bolts and childproof latches to secure cabinet doors.
  • You can secure large appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, and water heaters with flexible cable, braided or metal strapping. 
  • Moving heavy mirrors and photos hanging above your beds, chairs, or other areas where you sleep, is a good idea. These items can be secured with wire using eye screws that are bolted to the wall. You can also place screws on the top and bottom of the frame and screw them into the studs.
  • Lightweight plastic or wicker baskets can replace heavy ceramic or glass hanging planters.
  • You should identify any poisons, solvents, or toxic substances in broken containers. Then, move them to a well-ventilated, safe storage area. Keep them out of your water storage area and out of the reach of pets and children.

Secure your home's structure.

Check the structural safety of your home.

  • Use "T" and “L” straps, lap screws, joist hangers, and twin post caps to strengthen the connections between beams, posts, and joists. Particular attention should be paid to exposed framing in garages, basements, and porches.
  • Examine your roof and chimney for any loose tiles or bricks that might fall during an earthquake. As needed, repair any damaged tiles or bricks.
  • You can protect yourself against falling chimney bricks, which could penetrate the roof. Reinforce the ceiling immediately around the chimney with 3/4-inch plywood, nailed to ceiling beams.

Contact your local government office for community development and building code enforcement to find out more about structural safety standards in your area. Many hardware and home-improvement shops will provide information and instruction if you are interested in doing the work yourself.

Turn off all utilities.

  • Learn where located and how you can shut off utilities such as gas, electricity, and water at main switches or valves. For more information, contact your local utility company.
  • All family members should be taught how to turn off utilities.
  • Visit Safety Skills.

Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit on Hand

Make sure you have emergency supplies ready to use in the event of an earthquake. You should have a first aid kit, as well as emergency supplies for your home and vehicle. Additionally, your supply list should include emergency water and food, shelter and warmth, etc. You should have enough supplies for each family member to last for a minimum of three days. Assembling your own kit may be confusing, time consuming, and costly. For this reason, we’ve created various earthquake kits containing all of the essentials at affordable prices. 

Also, make a list with important information such as telephone numbers for emergency contacts, information about insurance, important medical information, etc (more on this below). These items should be stored in a safe place such as a fireproof document carrier.

Additional items

Purchasing a survival kit is a great starting point. Here are a few additional items that we’d recommend adding to your kit. 

  • Identification
    • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
    • Adoption and custody decrees
    • Citizenship papers
    • Military papers
    • Passports, visas
    • Social security card (or card numbers)
    • Employment records
  • Medical
    • Family health and medical records
    • Employee benefits information
    • Name, address, phone number of attorney, financial advisor and insurance agents
    • Photocopies of documents
  • Personal
    • Family photos, videotapes, etc.
    • Important books
    • Personal family history
    • Family genealogy records
  • Insurance
    • Duplicates of insurance policies (life, health, auto, home, hazard, etc.)
    • Mortgage documents
    • Real estate deeds
    • Title papers
    • Motor vehicle titles and bill of sale, serial or VIN numbers
    • Wills and trusts
    • Safe deposit box: location, number, inventory of contents, location of key, authorized persons to access box
    • Investment portfolio
    • Stocks, bonds and other securities
    • Bank, checking, savings account numbers or certificates
    • Credit card accounts (company and account numbers
  • Extra shoes and warm clothing 
  • An ax
  • A shovel
  • A strong rope to be used for rescue or towing
  • Multipurpose fire extinguisher, dry chemical type

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