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Earthquakes are a rapid and sudden shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of underground rock as it releases long-stored energy. Earthquakes occur along cracks in the earth's surface, called fault lines, and can be felt over large areas, even though they usually last less than a minute. Earthquakes cannot be predicted – although scientists are working on it!
Earthquakes can occur at any time of the year. All 50 states and 5 US territories are at some risk from earthquakes.
Before an earthquake
- To start preparing, you must prepare an emergency supply kit Ydevelop a family communication plan.
- Look around you at the places where you spend time. Identify safe places, such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office, or school, so that when the shaking starts: get down on the floor, cover up head and neck with your arms and, if there is a safer place nearby, crawl to it and hold on.
- practice and Drop, Cover and Hold On.
- To react quickly you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.
- Before an earthquake strikes, securely fasten objects that can fall and cause injury (for example, bookshelves, mirrors, lamps) to the walls.
- Store critical supplies (eg water, medication) and documents.
- Plan how you will communicate with family members and include various methods when prepare your family communication plan.
- When selecting your home or business, verify that the building is earthquake resistant to local building codes.
during an earthquake
If you are inside a building:
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go out. Do not leave the building during the shaking. Don't use door frames unless you know they are securely fastened, weight-bearing, and close to you.
- Drop to the floor, Take Cover under a table or other sturdy furniture, and Hold on until the shaking stops.
- Cover your face and head with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris
- If you are at risk from falling objects, and can move to safety, drop and take cover under a table or other sturdy furniture.
- If low furniture, an interior wall, or a nearby corner is nearby, and the path is clear, these can also provide some additional protection.
- Stay away from glass, windows, exterior walls and doors, and anything that could fall, such as lamps or furniture.
- Keep your movements to a minimum, just a few steps to be close to a safe place. Stay there until the shaking stops and it is safe to get out.
If you think it will not be possible to safely drop to the ground to protect yourself:
- Identify an inside corner of the room that is away from windows and objects that could fall on you. The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low to the ground as possible. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should secure the wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
If you are in bed when you feel the tremor:
- Stay in bed if you were there when the earthquake started. Wait and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy lamp that could fall. If so, move to the nearest safe place.
If you are trapped under debris
- If you are outside when the shaking starts, stay away from buildings, streetlights, traffic lights, and power lines. Once you are in an open area “Drop, Cover and Hold on”. Stay there until the shaking passes. However, this could be a challenge in a city so if possible and safe, seek shelter inside a building, crouching in a corner inside the building to avoid falling debris.
If you are in a moving vehicle when the shaking is felt:
- If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and power lines. Once the earthquake has passed, proceed with caution. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.
After an earthquake
- When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it's safe to move. Then leave the building and go to an open area, away from the affected area.
- If trapped, do not move or kick up dust.
- If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
- Knock on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you. Use a whistle, if you have one.
- Once you are in a safe place, listen to the local news through a battery-powered radio or television for the most up-to-date emergency information. Check social media and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
- In case of aftershocks, Drop, Cover and Hold On. These secondary earthquakes are generally less violent than the main tremor, but can be strong enough to cause further damage to weakened structures.
Hear from local officials
Learn about the emergency plans that state and local governments have established for your area. In an emergency, always heed the directions of local emergency management officials.
Find more information on how to plan and prepare for an earthquake and learn about available resources by visiting the following websites:
- The Great Shake Out
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- United States Geological Survey Earthquake Hazard Program (English)
- American Red Cross
- Alliance of Countries against Earthquakes
- National Science Foundation (English)
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (English)
If you need more information on any of these topics, the following resources may be helpful.
- Step-by-step guide on how to protect your property or business in an earthquake (English)