An earthquake is the sudden, quick shaking of the earth. It is caused by rock breaking and moving under the ground. Additional earthquakes, known as aftershocks, can occur for hours, days, or even months after an earthquake. These are usually smaller than the first earthquake. However, they could cause more damage to structures weakened by the first earthquake.

Earthquakes can also cause tsunamis. Tsunamis are a series of waves caused by a large and sudden disturbance of the sea.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will be ongoing as earthquakes continue to occur throughout the year. Remember to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local authorities to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19 and other disasters.


Words to Know

All 50 states and 5 U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning. Scientists are working on a way to detect when an earthquake may happen.

Living through environmental disasters, like an earthquake, can be more complicated when we are also experiencing a pandemic like COVID-19. It is important to be prepared and to understand how COVID-19 might affect you and your family. 

COVID-19 may affect different people in different ways. By practicing good health habits, like washing your hands and social distancing, you can lower your chances of getting sick, both from COVID-19 and in general. 


  • Build an emergency kit with items that you will need if you have to evacuate quickly. Your kit should include hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, cleaning supplies, two masks per person to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and non-perishable foods that could last for several days or weeks in case you must stay at home.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Know the safe spots in every room—under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Secure household items.
  • Ask your family to hold earthquake drills—drop, cover, and hold on!
    • Practice social distancing during your earthquake drills. Think about how you could drop, cover, and hold on while staying about six feet apart from people who are not a part of your household.
  • Wear a mask whenever you’re in public so that you are ready if an earthquake occurs. Remember that there is little warning before an earthquake occurs. Masks should not be worn by children under two, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own.


If Inside

  • DROP to the ground.
  • Take COVER under a sturdy table or other heavy furniture. If there is nothing to get under, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch near an inside wall. Try your best not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • HOLD ON until the shaking stops.
  • STAY AWAY from windows, glass, lighting fixtures, or furniture that could fall, like bookcases.
  • Do not use elevators!
  • If trapped under debris:
    • Cover your mouth with your shirt. Try to touch only your shirt. Try not to touch your mouth, nose, and eyes, especially with unwashed hands. If you are wearing a mask, you can use this instead of your shirt.
    • Do not scream – you could breathe in dust.
    • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you.

If Outside

  • Stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and wires.
  • Stay out in the open until the shaking stops. Buildings could collapse and hurt you.


  • Expect aftershocks. They are usually not as strong but can cause damage.
  • Do not enter a damaged building.
  • Open cabinets carefully. Objects might have moved and could fall on you.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, and shoes to protect your skin from getting scratched by broken objects.
  • Text, don’t talk. Unless there’s a life-threatening situation, send a text so that you don’t tie up phone lines needed by emergency workers. Plus, texting may work even if cell service is down.
  • Wash your hands using soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Remind your parents to clean surfaces that people touch frequently, like, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls. Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work. 
  • Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Take care of your body and talk with your parents or other trusted adults if you are feeling upset.
  • Tell your parents if you are not feeling well. 
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
    • Wash your hands often, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, and eating or making food.

Staying Healthy

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes! If you are not wearing a mask, use a tissue or cough or sneeze into your elbow. If you do use a tissue, throw it in the trash right away. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while you wash your hands. Make sure to wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, and before eating or cooking. 
  • If you can’t find soap and water to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. 
  • Stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or sick.
  • Remind your parents to clean surfaces that people touch frequently, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls.
  • Tell your parents if you feel sick.

Did you know?

The “Ring of Fire’ is the zone surrounding the Pacific Ocean where about 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur.

The Richter Scale measures the strength of an earthquake. It goes from 0.0 (none) to 10.0.

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Explore Other Hazards

Last Updated: 10/18/2021