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A telephone pole tilted over and collapased buliding becuase of an earthquakes

Earthquakes are the shaking, rolling or sudden shock of the earth’s surface. Earthquakes happen along cracks (called fault lines) in the earth's surface. Earthquakes can be felt over large areas, although they usually last less than one minute. Earthquakes cannot be predicted — although scientists are working on it!


Visit the FEMA library to download more facts about Earthquakes



  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Know the safe spots in every room – under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Ask your family to hold earthquake drills – drop, cover, and hold on!


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.
  • 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 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.
If trapped under debris:
  • Cover your mouth with your shirt.
  • Do not scream – you could breathe in dust.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can find you.


  • Expect aftershocks. They are usually not as strong but can cause damage.
  • Open cabinets carefully. Objects that have moved 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, if you have a cell phone, 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.


Am I at Risk?

All 50 states and 5 U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year.

Words to Know!

Seismic Activity

Another word for earthquakes, along with tremors, quakes and shakes

Fault Lines

Cracks in the rocks below the earth’s surface


A smaller earthquake that follows the main shock or previous earthquake


The center, or focus, of an earthquake, from which seismic waves are sent spherically in many directions


A machine that measures an earthquake