Family preparedness

Don't assume an earthquake will occur on the weekend in daylight hours when the whole family is conveniently located at the same place. Have everybody think about what it would be like if it happened on a weekday, with the family members at different places (some at work, some at school, others at home).

During an earthquake...

photo of collapsed school building with desks intact

  • If you are indoors, stay there. Get under a table or a desk, or get under a doorway; things will be less likely to fall on you there. If you don't have a table to hide under, drop to the floor in a sitting position and cover your head. The photo above illustrates how strong desks are: in the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, this school building collapsed, but the student desks survived--they supported the weight of the upper floors of the building.
  • Stay away from windows. The glass may shatter and cut you.
  • If you're in the kitchen, get out of there fast--the kitchen is full of things that could fall on you.
  • Don't run outside while the shaking is still going on--you might get hurt from things falling on you that are not well-secured to the outside of the building.
  • If you happen to be outside during a quake, get into the open, away from buildings, power lines, or anything else that could fall on you.
  • If you happen to be in a crowded store, don't panic and rush for the exit; move carefully.
  • If you happen to be at or near the beach, if the earthquake is big enough that you have trouble standing up, get out of the area and move to higher ground immediately; a locally-generated tsunami may be on its way in a matter of minutes.

After an earthquake...

  • Check for fire and fire hazards. Put out fires in your home or neighborhood immediately.
  • Check for the smell of gas near all gas appliances; if you smell gas, turn off the propane at its source. Don't light any candles or stoves until you're sure there are no gas leaks in your house.
  • Wear shoes in areas of broken glass and debris.
  • Check for injuries and assist persons as best you can; seek medical help for serious injuries.
  • If there is any damage to your house wiring, shut off power at the control box.
  • Clean up any spilled items that might be dangerous, such as bleach or gasoline.
  • Open doors to cupboards and closets carefully, in case items have shifted and might fall on you.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and utility poles.