The United States Geological Survey estimates that around the globe, there are an average of 15 major earthquakes (magnitude of 7 to 7.9) – and one giant earthquake (magnitude of 8 or above) – each year.1 We can’t predict when a quake will occur, but with good preparation you can help protect your family and your home – and emerge from the disaster a lot less rattled. Here are some important earthquake safety tips:
Before an earthquake
Structures built to meet or exceed common building codes may better withstand an earthquake. Talk to an architect, engineer or building contractor about:
- Adding anchor bolts or steel plates between your home and foundation
- Bracing your home’s cripple wall with sheathing
- Bracing loose chimneys, masonry, concrete walls and foundations
Preparing your home
Suggested steps that may help make your home and family safer:
- Having a disaster plan so your family knows where to gather in an emergency
- Placing flashlights and fresh batteries around the house
- Instructing adult and teen family member how to turn off electrical or gas feeds
- Investing in a battery-operated or hand-crank radio to monitor emergency announcements.
- Anchoring large items, such as appliances or bookcases, to walls with safety cables or straps
- Locking the rollers of large appliances or furniture
- Installing ledge barriers on shelves to keep objects from rolling off
- Placing heavy items on lower shelves
- Putting safety film on windows and glass doors to minimize shattering
- Fitting gas appliances with flexible connections or a breakaway shut-off device. Check local building codes to see whether the shut-off must be installed by a professional.
During an earthquake
Your safety depends on staying calm and reacting quickly. Some tips:
- If you're indoors, stay there.
- Move away from windows, skylights, doors and objects that could fall.
- Gather your family for a head-count.
- Shut off all utilities.
- Find a sturdy piece of furniture, like a heavy table or solid desk, to get under. Stay there until the shaking stops.
- Be aware that sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- Don't use elevators.
- If you're outside, move quickly and safely into the open – away from electrical lines, trees and buildings. Drop to the ground and wait for the shaking to stop.
- If you're driving, slowly pull to the side of the road away from traffic and stop.
- Don't stop on or under bridges, under power lines or near roadway signs that might fall. Once the shaking has stopped, drive carefully and look for debris in the road.
After an earthquake
You still may be in danger once the shaking stops. In the aftermath of an earthquake, buildings can collapse. There can also be landslides, floods and fires.
If you're trapped under debris
- Cover your mouth with a piece of clothing.
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you. If you yell, you may inhale dust or airborne debris.
- Don't light a match or lighter.
- Don't move around or kick up dust.
If you're in your home
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
- Move around the house only if you see that it is structurally sound. Otherwise, quickly and carefully move your family outside to safety.
- Check for gas or water leaks and electrical shorts. Don’t turn utilities back on until they have been inspected by a professional.
- When it’s safe, assess and document damage. Then contact your insurance company or agent.