Before, During, and After an Earthquake

There are many things you can do to help yourself in the event of an earthquake. Generally, an earthquake is divided into three stages: before, during, and after. Know what to do in each stage.


  • Develop a family earthquake plan. Prepare yourself and your home by completing the activities on this checklist.
  • Decide how and where your family will reunite if separated.
  • Choose an out-of-area friend or relative who separated family members can call after the quake to report their whereabouts and condition.
  • Know the safe spots in each room: under sturdy tables, desks, or against inside walls.
  • Know the danger spots: windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces and tall, unsecured furniture.
  • Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself in safe locations.
  • Learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) from your local American Red Cross chapter or other community organization.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Learn how to shut off gas, water and electricity in case the lines are damaged. (Safety note: Do not attempt to relight a gas pilot).
  • Secure water heaters and appliances that could move enough to rupture lines.
  • Secure heavy furniture, hanging plants, heavy pictures or mirrors.
  • Keep flammable or hazardous liquids in cabinets or on lower shelves.
  • Maintain emergency food, water and other supplies, including a flashlight, a portable battery-operated radio, extra batteries, medicines, first aid kit and clothing.
  • If indoors, stay there and take cover under a table, desk, or other sturdy furniture.
  • Face away from windows and glass doors.
  • A doorway without a door is an acceptable location in which to stand.
  • Lie, kneel or sit near a structurally sound interior wall or corner away from windows, brick fireplaces, glass walls, etc.
  • Protect your head and body from falling or flying objects.
  • Remain where you are until shaking stops. Think out your plan of action first, then move.
  • Know exit routes if in a commercial building. Take cover and don't move until the shaking stops.
  • If outside, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls and power lines.
  • Lie down or crouch low to maintain balance.
  • Get to the best available shelter if there is no open area available.
  • If driving, stop safely as soon as possible. Stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops.
  • Do not stop your vehicle under overpasses or bridges.
  • Stay below window level in your vehicle.
  • Turn off the engine and turn on the radio. Follow emergency instructions.
  • Stay in the vehicle if downed power lines have fallen across it. Do not touch metal. Wait for help. You might be able to back away from lines.
  • If you have to leave your vehicle, move to an open area quickly.
  • Check for injuries. Render first aid. Do not move seriously injured victims unless they are in immediate danger. Do not use the telephone immediately unless there is a serious injury, fire or other emergency. Hunt for hazards.
  • Check for other hazards and control them (fire, chemical spills, toxic fumes and possible collapse).
  • Check utilities (water, gas, electric). If there is damage, turn the utility off at the source.
  • Check for other hazards and control them (fire, chemical spills, toxic fumes and possible collapse).
  • Check building for cracks and damage, including roof, chimneys, and foundation.
  • Check food and water supplies.
  • Emergency water can be obtained from water heaters, melted ice cubes, canned vegetables, and toilet tanks.
  • Never use matches, lighters or candles inside.
  • Turn on the radio and listen for emergency broadcasts/announcements, news reports, and instructions. Cooperate with public safety officials.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless there is an emergency. Keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • If buildings are suspect, set up your shelter area away from damage.
  • Work with your neighbors for a quicker recovery. Stay calm and lend a hand to others.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Plan for evacuation in case events make this necessary. Leave written messages for other family members or searchers.
  • Use gloves, wear heavy shoes, and have adequate and appropriate clothing available.