Earthquake Safety Tips and Precautions

Updated December 23, 2019
Earthquake in home

Earthquakes can be devastating disasters, but everyone who takes appropriate earthquake safety precautions can minimize damages, injuries, and other potential quake concerns. It can help to have valuable tips on ways to keep your family safe before, during and after a quake.

Taking Earthquake Precautions Before an Earthquake

There is no effective warning system for earthquakes, which makes preliminary precautions even more critical. There are many things families and individuals can do to prepare for an earthquake. Taking earthquake precautions ensures that you, your family, and your pets can all remain as safe as possible in the event of an earthquake.

Prepare Your Home

Getting your house ready for an earthquake can save you from dealing with a lot of damage should a large earthquake hit. To do so:

  • Install latches on cupboard doors to prevent them from opening during a quake.
  • Use non-skid shelf liners for kitchen and bathroom cupboards, medicine cabinets, and closet shelves.
  • Store heavy items or glassware in lower cabinets so they do not become dangerous projectiles.
  • Update home insurance policies to adequately cover building costs, possession replacement, and injury deductibles.
  • Secure large appliances such as refrigerators, water heaters, air conditioners, and other bulky items with straps, bolts, and other stabilizing methods.
  • Be sure both old and new buildings meet earthquake construction requirements.
  • Do not put heavy artwork, mirrors, or shelves over beds.
  • Firmly secure bookcases, artwork, mounted televisions and other objects to withstand as much shaking as possible.
  • Take clear photos of valuables as a record for insurance purposes.
living room earthquake

Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe

Preparing for an earthquake ahead of time can be tricky if you have several family members to keep track of when it happens. To stay organized and ready to go:

  • Prepare an earthquake emergency kit with non-perishable food, bottled water, copies of important documents (birth certificates, prescriptions, insurance papers, etc.), flashlights, first aid materials, blankets, spare glasses, and other essential items and store it where it will be easily accessible in case of a quake.
  • Keep cell phones charged and replace emergency kit supplies as necessary to keep them usable.
  • Plan alternative commuting routes in case an earthquake damages roads.
  • Set up a family meeting location in a safe area.
  • Teach all family members basic first aid, how to behave during a quake, and what to do after a quake.

Prepare Your Pets

Your pets are part of the family, so make sure they'll be safe and ready when the time comes.

  • Have an emergency kit packed for your pet including their shot records, proof of ownership, medications, food and water bowls, and a week supply of food. If possible, you can also have a small spare dog bed and foldable crate ready to go in case of emergency.
  • Make sure all of your pets have collars with your updated contact information on a tag and appropriate leashes or carriers. Don't forget to keep extra poop bags in your pet's emergency kit or a spare litter box and litter for cats.
  • Get all of your pets micro-chipped and keep the chip number with your pet's records.

During an Earthquake

Earthquakes can last just a few seconds or as long as several minutes, and knowing how to react during the quake can help prevent injuries:

  • Immediately seek a safe location such as in a doorway (if you live in an old, adobe house that is not reinforced), beneath a table or desk, or along an interior wall away from windows or hazardous objects.
  • Cover the back of your head and your eyes to minimize injury from flying debris.
  • Do not take elevators during an earthquake.
  • If cooking, turn off heating elements immediately.
  • Stay calm and brace yourself to keep your balance, sitting if possible.
  • If you have young children or live with elderly individuals who may need assistance staying safe, get to them as quickly as possible to help them find a safe location. If you are unable to reach them safely, locate them as soon as the earthquake is over and check for injuries.
Earthquake Evacuation Education

After an Earthquake

Quick thinking after an earthquake hits can minimize immediate dangers. Proper earthquake safety precautions after a tremor include the following:

  • Be prepared for aftershocks, which may be stronger than the initial jolt.
  • Tend injuries immediately and summon emergency assistance if necessary.
  • Check for structural damage, but do not enter a building that shows damage or has visible cracks in the walls or foundation.
  • Wear shoes at all times to avoid stepping on broken glass.
  • Turn off gas, electricity, and water if damage is suspected or if advised to do so by authorities.
  • Be cautious opening cabinets, cupboards, and closets in case items may be poised to fall.
  • Keep phone lines clear for emergency use.
  • Be patient: It may take hours or days to restore all services depending on the severity of the quake.

Post-Earthquake First Aid

After an earthquake you, a friend or family member, or a pet may have sustained some injuries. Post-earthquake be sure to:

  • Check for superficial injuries including cuts, gashes, and bumps. As soon as possible, clean wounds and dress them appropriately.
  • Check for more intense injuries like a concussion and serious bodily injuries.
  • If you determine that an injury is serious and you need to call for emergency assistance, be sure to let the operator know if the individual is breathing, has a pulse, and has any bodily injuries.
  • If someone hit their head and is not acting like their usual self, be sure to call an ambulance right away. To check someone's mental status ask them their name, if they know the date, if they know what just happened, and if they know a few basic facts about themselves. Relay this information to the emergency medical technicians upon arrival.
  • In the event that you decided to call an ambulance and are waiting with a conscious, injured individual be sure to try to remain calm and let them know that help is on the way. Try to talk with them in a soothing tone and ensure them that help is near and that you will wait with them until it arrives.
  • If your pet sustains an injury, contact your vet immediately to schedule an appointment. If the injury is serious, take your pet on leash or in a crate to the closest emergency animal hospital.

What To Do if You're Outside

If you're outside during an earthquake, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind. Remember to:

  • If outdoors, stay in open areas away from buildings, power lines, trees, and other potential hazards.
  • If driving, stop quickly but safely and stay in the vehicle. Do not stop near power lines, bridges, overpasses, or other potentially dangerous locations.
  • Be mindful of damaged roads or sidewalks after the earthquake and proceed with caution.

Additional Disasters to Prepare For

Earthquakes can trigger additional emergencies, and individuals should also be prepared to contend with these related natural hazards:

  • Tsunamis near coastal areas
  • Landslides or mudslides in mountainous regions
  • Fires if gas lines are ruptured or power lines spark blazes
  • Flooding if dams break or rivers are diverted

These hazards will vary based on where the earthquake hits and how strong it is, but thorough safety precautions will address these additional disasters if necessary.

Being Prepared Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death

An earthquake can be a terrifying event. By taking proper safety precautions, you can help limit that terror through careful planning and organization. Hold occasional earthquake drills so your family knows exactly what they should do in the event a quake strikes. This will increase the odds that everyone survives unharmed.

Earthquake Safety Tips and Precautions