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December 11, 2022

Earthquake safety and preparedness tips

Consider implementing these earthquake preparedness steps to protect your home and your family.

Each year, the US experiences around 20,000 earthquakes, according to the US Geological Survey. While most of the earthquakes affecting the US are small, the damage to your home and property can be extensive.

To help avoid significant loss and keep yourself and your family safe, you may want to consider taking the following earthquake preparedness steps and precautions to prepare your home for such an event.

How to prepare for an earthquake

Inside your home

  • Secure bookcases and filing cabinets to nearby walls.

  • Brace overhead light fixtures.

  • Use straps to anchor large appliances, such as water heaters, to wall studs.

  • Install ledge barriers on shelves to keep contents from falling; heavy items should be placed on low shelves.

  • Secure pictures and mirrors to the walls with closed screw-eyes and wire.

  • Secure computers and small appliances to desks, tables, or countertops.

  • Install latches on drawers and cabinet doors to keep contents from spilling.

  • Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.

Structure of your home

  • Add anchor bolts or steel plates between your home and its foundation.

  • Brace the inside of your home's cripple wall (the short wood-stud wall between the top of the foundation wall and the first floor) with sheathing.

  • Brace chimneys, masonry, and concrete walls and foundations.

  • Natural gas lines should have automatic seismic safety shut-off valve at all structure entry points. If you are unsure whether you have an automatic shut-off valve on your natural gas or propane system, contact the local gas/propane company.

  • Apply these tips to the structure of your garage, if necessary. Earthquake damage to the garage could also damage any vehicle(s) parked inside.

Tips for your family

  • Create and practice fire evacuation and earthquake preparedness plans with your family.

  • Find a safe place in each room of your home – under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you.

  • Practice “drop, cover, and hold on” in each safe place.

  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed in case an earthquake strikes in the middle of the night.

  • Keep and maintain a Go Bag – a collection of earthquake preparedness items you may need in the event of an evacuation – for each member of your household. Each Go Bag should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A Go Bag may include:

    • Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, birth certificates, deeds, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.).

    • Emergency contact and meeting place information for your household and a small regional map.

    • Credit and ATM cards, and cash, especially in small denominations.

    • Extra set of car and house keys.

    • Flashlight, whistle, emergency radio, and extra batteries.

    • Cell phone charger(s) including one that can be used without electricity, such as a car charger, and an extra cell phone battery.

    • Bottled water and nonperishable food such as energy or granola bars.

    • Medication for at least one week and other essential personal items. Keep a list of any medications and dosages for each member of your household, or copies of all your prescription slips, as well as your doctor’s contact information.

    • Sturdy, comfortable shoes, lightweight rain gear, and a mylar blanket.

    • Child care supplies or other special care items.

    • Personal items such as soap, feminine hygiene products, toothbrush, and toothpaste, etc.

What to do during an earthquake

If you are indoors:

  • Drop, cover, and hold on. Move as little as possible.

  • Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.

If you are outdoors:

  • Find a clear spot away from buildings, power lines, trees, and streetlights, and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops.

  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses, and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.

What to do after an earthquake

  • Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides, or even a tsunami.

  • Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover, and hold on.

  • Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out if necessary.

  • Open closet and cabinet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe. Before entering your home, check outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, or other damage.

For more information, please request a home quote.