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How Can I Prepare for an Earthquake Disaster?

File a Claim or Call 1-800-54-Storm (1-800-547-8676)


Unlike weather events, earthquakes strike without warning, sometimes leaving devastation and heartache behind. Usually, earthquakes in the U.S. occur along the West Coast. However, earthquake potential exists in all states. Although nothing can stop an earthquake, careful preparation and planning can make a difference when it comes to protecting your home and family from the effects of an earthquake.

Preparation Tips

  • Develop an earthquake safety action plan for your family identifying places that can provide the highest amount of protection during an earthquake as well as an escape route and off-premises meeting place.
  • Become familiar with your community's disaster preparedness plan.
  • Teach family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to the house.
  • Purchase at least one multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher.
  • Install smoke detectors and change the batteries every six months.
  • Prepare an emergency supplies kit including a three day supply of bottled water and non-perishable food, as well as a manual can opener, paper plates, cups, utensils, first-aid kit, flashlight and battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
  • Retrofit your home's structure to better withstand the forces of an earthquake. This is a job for a professional architect, engineer or building contractor.
  • Retrofit nonstructural areas of your home to protect your personal property.
  • Attach cabinets and bookcases to the wall using brackets.
  • Secure heavy objects (e.g. television, stereos, computers, armoires) with brackets or safety straps.
  • Secure picture frames, bulletin boards and mirrors to walls using closed eye screws into wall studs.
  • Secure ceiling lights to supports using safety cables.
  • Apply safety film to windows and glass doors.
  • Anchor large appliances (e.g. refrigerator, stove) to walls using safety cables or straps.
  • Install flexible gas lines and automatic gas shutoff valves.
  • Tack down glassware, heirlooms and figurines with putty.
  • Install latches on kitchen cabinet doors to prevent items from falling.

Safety Tips

  • At the first sign of an earthquake, drop and take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an inside wall away from objects that may fall on you.
  • Sit or stay close to the floor and hold on to furniture legs for balance.
  • Use your arm to cover and protect your eyes.
  • If there's no sturdy furniture nearby, kneel or sit close to the floor next to a structurally sound interior wall away from windows, shelves, or furniture that could fall and place your hands on the floor for balance.
  • Stay away from doorways, violent motion could cause the doors to slam against your body, crush your fingers or inflict other serious injuries.
  • Do not run outside.
  • If outdoors, quickly move into the open, away from electrical lines, trees and buildings.
  • If driving, bring your vehicle to a stop at the side of the road away from traffic.
  • Do not stop on or under bridges, near or under power lines or road signs.  

Recovery Tips

  • Be alert for aftershocks.
  • Look for injured victims and administer first aid.
  • Pay attention to damaged utilities. Avoid loose or dangling electric power lines and report all gas and electrical problems to the proper authorities.
  • Turn off any damaged utilities.
  • Check for fire hazards and use flashlights instead of candles or lanterns.
  • Wear protective shoes. Have them by your bed in case the earthquake happens in the middle of the night.
  • If your building is sound, stay inside and listen for radio advisories.

Special Thanks to the Following Organizations for Their Contributions to This Information.

American Red Cross
U.S. Geological Survey
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
California Seismic Safety Commission
California Contractors State License Board
Institute for Business and Home Safety

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