When an earthquake strikes, will you know where to take cover? Before the next one hits, there are simple things you can do to save a life and make your environment safe. Earthquakes and aftershocks can happen anywhere without warning, and they can cause fires, tsunamis, landslides and avalanches.

Here are the steps to stay safe before, during and after an earthquake. These tips will make you, your family or your workplace better prepared to survive and recover quickly.

Before an earthquake

  • Create an emergency plan and decide how you will communicate with your family during a disaster. A communication plan should have an out-of-state contact and a plan where to meet if you get separated from loved ones or co-workers.
  • Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for several days, as well as a flashlight, a fire extinguisher and a whistle. Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations.
  • Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents.
  • Consider earthquake insurance policies. Standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover earthquake damage.
  • Practice Drop, cover and hold on. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl only as far as needed to reach cover from falling materials. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.
  • Secure your home or workspace by identifying hazards and securing moveable items. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.

When preparing for an earthquake, hunt for the things in your house or workplace that can fall.

During an earthquake

Your level of preparedness will make a difference in how you and others survive and can respond to emergencies. If an earthquake happens, protect yourself right away and do the following if you are in different locations.

What to do during an earthquake, no matter where you are.

After an earthquake

Your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow. There can be serious hazards, such as damage to a building, leaking gas and water lines, or downed power lines. You are encouraged to take the following actions to recover as soon as possible:

  • Be ready to drop, cover and hold on if an aftershock occurs.
  • Check yourself for injury. If you need medical attention, contact your health care provider or 911 for instructions.
  • If you are in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building. Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies.

    Here is what you should do – and check – after an earthquake.

Remember: a natural disaster can happen at any time. Being prepared allows you to reduce the fear, anxiety and losses that accompany disasters. Know your risk for an earthquake in your area and what you must do to stay safe.

For more tips on earthquake preparedness, please click on the following links below:

Drop, Cover, and Hold On – Shakeout

Secure Your Space

Plan to be Safe

Organize Disaster Supplies

Drop, Cover, and Hold on

Minimize Financial Hardship

Improve Safety After Earthquake

You Are the Help Until Help Arrives

Reconnect and Recover


Kristin Daniel is an emergency management specialist for VA’s Office of Emergency Management & Resilience.

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