earthquake preparedness at Home

Green highway sign that says "The Big One Just Ahead"

While they may never happen to you, earthquakes and their aftermath affect millions of homes each year, so it's only prudent to prepare for them - no matter where you live.

After all, natural disasters like earthquakes rarely give us sufficient warning to prepare.

These earthquake preparedness tips for securing items in and around your home can keep your family safe when the shaking starts.

Earthquake Preparedness Starts with Securing Items in Your Home 

Earthquake shaking can move virtually anything in your home, even large and bulky items. Imagine your home being picked up and shaken sideways - what would be tossed around?

Essentially, anything inside it that isn't bolted down - or otherwise secured is vulnerable to an earthquake's destructive forces. 

Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items. Try doing one item from the list below every weekend until you get everything done. Start with what you can do for free.

No-cost Earthquake Preparedness

  • Move heavy or large items, such as potted plants or large speakers, to the floor or low shelves.
  • Move things that can fall on you away from anywhere you spend a lot of time (bed,  couch, your home office desk, etc.).
  • Move heavy objects away from doors and escape routes.

Low-cost Earthquake Preparedness

  • Secure water heater to the wall studs with two metal straps. (Average cost $20)
  • Secure (or brace) electronic items such as desktop computers and TVs - with straps. (Average price $15)
  • Hang mirrors and pictures on closed hooks. (Average cost $2 per hook)
  • Secure top-heavy furniture and appliances to wall studs. (Average price $12)
  • Secure small items on shelves with museum wax. (Average cost for tub of wax $10)
  • Install latches on kitchen cabinets. (Average price $8)

Ask for help

  • Use flexible connections where gas lines meet appliances.
  • Secure overhead light fixtures.
  • Secure free-standing wood stoves or fireplace inserts.

For more about securing your space, go to

Earthquake Preparedness Plans for Safety

Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency.

Will everyone in your home do the right thing during the violent shaking of a major earthquake?

Before the next earthquake, get together with your family or housemates to plan what each person will do before, during, and after.

What to Include in Your Plan

  • Identify safe spots in every room that you can easily reach in just a few steps, such as under sturdy desks or tables.
  • Keep flashlights and extra batteries in several places around your home.
  • Secure a fire extinguisher where you can quickly get to it or attach it to a wall. Everyone in your family should know how to use it.
  • Place a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight in a bag and tie it to one of your bed legs. This makes it easy to find shoes, so you don't cut your feet on broken glass, one of the most common earthquake injuries.
  • Take a first aid and CPR training course and download a first aid app to your smartphone.
  • Choose a place nearby where everyone can meet if your home is not accessible. 
  • Provide all family members with a list of essential contact numbers. 
  • Know about the earthquake plan developed by your children's school or daycare. Keep your children's school emergency release card current.
  • Choose someone who lives out of the area who everyone can text or call to tell them how and where you are. Long-distance phone lines are restored before local ones. 
  • Learn how to use an NOAA Weather Radio with the Public Alert feature to get information on tsunamis or other hazards. 

Disaster Supplies for Earthquake Preparedness

Organize disaster supplies in a few convenient locations - your home, car, school, and at work. 

Earthquake kit surrounded by emergency survival supplies.

Routes away from home may be blocked, and help may not get to you for a while.

Think about what your family will need if you have to shelter at home for up to three weeks. In a big earthquake, utilities may not be available for an extended period.

Make a "grab-and-go" backpack with things you may need in an evacuation and organize supplies for staying in your home for an extended period. 

  • Keep an emergency backpack near the door to "grab-and-go" in case you can't stay in your home. This is especially important if you live or work in a tsunami zone. Place copies of important documents/cash in a plastic bag in the backpack. Include medication and extra glasses that anyone in your family may need. Other items: water, snacks, baby formula, cell phone chargers, etc.
  • Store emergency supplies in a dry area at home, including food and water for your family and pets, clothing, blankets, work gloves, tools, personal care items, and anything you will need daily.
  • Store water for everyone in your family. The recommended amount is one gallon per person or pet per day for at least three days and ideally up to two weeks (or even longer if you live in the desert or remote areas).
  • Buy an NOAA Weather Radio with the Public Alert feature. 

What to Do When the Shaking Starts

When the earth shakes, drop, cover, and hold on! The farther you move while the ground is shaking, the more likely you are to be hurt. In most situations:

  • DROP down on your hands and knees (before the quake knocks you down).
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. 
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
  • If you are IN BED, stay in bed and cover your head with a pillow. People get injured when they get up and move around. 
  • If you are unable to DROP, brace yourself and protect your head and neck.
  • If you're NEAR THE SHORE, and you feel a sharp or long-lasting earthquake, or the water suddenly draws back from the beach, tsunami waves may arrive within minutes. As soon as it is safe to move, go immediately to higher ground or inland away from the coast. 

What to Do When the Shaking Stops

In the days and weeks that follow, restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing the damage, and rebuilding community. You, your family, friends, and neighbors can come together to start the process of recovery.

  • Do not enter your home until you know it's safe.
  • Check for gas leaks, chemical spills, damaged electrical wiring, and broken water pipes.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially seniors and the disabled.
  • Use your refrigerated and frozen foods first, and save the canned goods for later.
  • Take pictures of the damage to your property and home.
  • Contact your insurance company right away to begin the claims process. Keep records of any repair or cleaning costs.

Check out FEMA's Earthquake Safety Checklist for more information.

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