Staying Safe When the Ground Shakes

Posted by Safeco April 13, 2015

Earthquake Preparedness Tips

Take Cover During an Earthquake

The scary thing about earthquakes (one of them anyway)? They’re so unexpected.

Earthquakes aren’t limited to any one time of the year, and you certainly don’t see them coming. They simply hit, and sometimes they turn our world upside down.

The best way to minimize the anxiety? Be prepared.

In remembrance of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, California recognizes April as Earthquake Preparedness Month. So here’s a little help to get your family ready for when the ground’s unsteady.

Prepare for an Earthquake

Whether you live in an area where earthquakes are a rare occurrence or a common one, these household precautions can help you and your family stay safe during a quake.

  • Consider what large items in your household would pose a danger if they tipped over and secure them. For example, anchor televisions, bookshelves, filing cabinets, water heaters and other large appliances to the wall.
  • Identify the safest spot in each room of your home where you can take shelter. Likewise, identify the most dangerous spots to avoid. The Red Cross provides more tips on where to seek shelter during a quake.
  • Practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On” with everyone in your family. Drop as soon as you feel a tremor and crawl under a sturdy desk or table. Cover your head with one arm. Hold on with the other arm to one of the desk or table legs. Also practice other scenarios, such as crawling away from exterior walls to an interior wall and crouching down with your arms over your neck and head. Finally, practice knocking on a hard surface three times in a row repeatedly. This is a good way to alert emergency personnel of your location in the event you become trapped during a quake. Shouting can cause you to lose your voice, as well as breathe in dust and other toxins.
  • Keep your emergency household supplies and emergency preparedness kit stocked and current. Include copies of your insurance documents in your kit.
  • Make a plan of how the family will reconnect and locate one another if an earthquake occurs while family members are at school and/or work. Remember, mobile phone and landline service might be unavailable so make a plan that takes that into account.
  • Ensure all capable adults and older children in your household know how to turn off gas, water and electricity and how to use a fire extinguisher and portable radio.

Take Cover During an Earthquake

When a quake hits, put what you’ve practiced into action. Whether you’re at your home, in a crowd or in a high-rise building, stay there. Move away from windows and objects that are likely to fall and take cover. Do not use elevators, and do not be surprised if sprinklers or fire alarms go off. If you’re outside, move to an open area, avoiding trees, power lines, signs and buildings. If you’re driving, pull to the side of the road and stop in an open area away from overpasses, power lines and falling objects.

Keep Calm After an Earthquake

In addition to moving about carefully and staying on alert for aftershocks, be mindful of the following once the shaking has stopped.

  • Check for injuries and administer first aid, as needed. Remember to check on pets and other animals.
  • Inspect your home for damage, particularly to gas and water lines, electrical wiring, sewer lines, foundation, roof and chimney. Do not remain in a seriously damaged structure. Carefully make your way out of the building being mindful of debris, falling objects and aftershocks.
  • Text rather than call friends and loved ones to let them know you’re okay after a quake to keep phone lines free for emergencies.
  • Follow emergency broadcast instructions, especially if you live in a tsunami zone.
  • Do not use candles, matches, fireplaces or other open flames in case of a gas leak.

Additional Earthquake Tips

In addition to the above, doing the following can also help you prepare for surviving a quake:

  • Download the Red Cross earthquake app.
  • Learn CPR and first aid.
  • Organize a neighborhood team to check on the people and homes on your block following a disaster.

Earthquakes, even when they’re minor, give us all an unwelcome jolt. By reviewing the above and other preparedness and safety measures in advance of a quake, you’ll be better equipped to handle the next one that occurs.

For even more tips on what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit

Topics: Safety Tips

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