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a car damaged by an earthquake



An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks deep underneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes can cause fires, tsunamis, landslides or avalanches. While they can happen anywhere without warning, areas at higher risk for earthquakes include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington and the entire Mississippi River Valley.

Prepare Before an Earthquake

The best time to prepare for any disaster is before it happens.
  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with family and coworkers.
  • Make an Emergency Plan: Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for several days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher and a whistle.
  • Protect Your Home: Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves. Consider making improvements to your building to fix structural issues that could cause your building to collapse during an earthquake.Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.

Stay Safe During

broken pieces
If an earthquake happens, protect yourself right away:
  • If you are in a car, pull over and stop. Set your parking brake.
  • If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
  • If you are outdoors, stay outdoors away from buildings.
  • If you are inside, stay and do not run outside and avoid doorways.

Protect Yourself During Earthquakes


1. Drop (or Lock)

Wherever you are, drop down to your hands and knees and hold onto something sturdy. If you’re using a wheelchair or walker with a seat, make sure your wheels are locked and remain seated until the shaking stops.

2. Cover

Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows). Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris. Stay on your knees or bent over to protect vital organs.

3. Hold On

If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves. If seated and unable to drop to the floor, bend forward, cover your head with your arms and hold on to your neck with both hands.

Using a Cane?


Using a Walker?


Using a Wheelchair?


Stay Safe After

warning sign
After an earthquake, there can be serious hazards such as damage to the building, leaking gas and water lines, or downed power lines.
  • Expect aftershocks to follow the main shock of an earthquake. Be ready to Drop, Cover, and Hold On if you feel an aftershock.
  • If you are in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building. Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • If you are trapped, protect your mouth, nose and eyes from dust. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall or use a whistle instead of shouting to help rescuers locate you.
  • If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.
  • Check yourself to see if you are hurt and help others if you have training. Learn how to be the help until help arrives.
shield with checkmark
Once you are safe, pay attention to local news reports for emergency information and instructions via battery-operated radio, TV, social media or from cell phone text alerts.
  • Register on the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” website so people will know you are okay.
  • Use text messages to communicate, which may be more reliable than phone calls.
  • Be careful when cleaning up. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves and sturdy thick-soled shoes. Do not try to remove heavy debris by yourself.

Additional Resources


Social Media and Graphics

Tip Sheets

More Information

Earthquake Social Media Messaging

Messages to share

Include these key messages about earthquake preparedness when creating content for social media posts.

Hashtag: #EarthquakeSafety#EarthquakePrep

  • Earthquakes can happen anytime, anywhere. The best time to prepare for an earthquake is before it happens.
  • Talk about earthquakes with your family so everyone knows what to do. Discussions ahead of time help reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
  • Protect your property. Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions, and objects that hang on walls.
  • Practice with family & friends by 1) Dropping to your knees, 2) Covering your head, and 3) Holding on to sturdy furniture.
  • Depending on your needs, there are alternatives to Drop, Cover & Hold On. If using a walker or wheelchair: Lock, Cover & Hold On. If in a recliner or bed: cover your head & neck with your arms or a pillow
  • Remember that aftershocks can happen after an earthquake. Text loved ones to let them know you're ok instead of calling. Save your battery by only using your phone for emergencies. Monitor local news & officials for updates.
  • After an earthquake happens, clean-up begins. Know how to stay safe: Wear protective clothing. Put on thick-soled shoes, work gloves, and goggles. Work with others to lift heavy objects.

Last Updated: 10/09/2020