How to Prepare for an Earthquake

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You can prepare for an earthquake by taking just a few steps. Everyone in the family should know what to do when an earthquake strikes. Know where utility shut-off valves are located and how to turn them off. A packed emergency kit should be ready to go and be prepared for aftershocks.

I have honestly never been more scared than when I was on the second floor of our house with two little children when I felt the entire house move. I knew I had mere seconds to get us downstairs and under a door frame or outside. I couldn’t move fast enough, and fortunately, I knew how to prepare for an earthquake.

How to Prepare For an Earthquake via The Survival Mom

We were living in Alaska at the time, and I knew we lived in an earthquake-prone area. Thank God I knew what to do, but I will never forget that feeling in the pit of my stomach when the house shook.

Earthquakes happen with no notice and can strike almost anywhere in the world. However certain areas, like Alaska and the West coast, are more prone to them. If you just moved to an area that is in an earthquake zone, you need to know how to prepare for an earthquake. Here are some tips to help you prepare for “the big one.”

How to prepare for an earthquake

The best family earthquake drill advice is simple.

  • Get under something sturdy, in a door frame, or go outside.
  • Do NOT use the so-called “Triangle of Life”. Emergency planning experts consider it to be unsafe.
  • Hold a family meeting. Talk about getting under a sturdy piece of furniture and then holding on until the quake ends.
  • Go through each room of the house. Look for places to “hide and hold”.
  • Let kids know in advance you’ll be having an earthquake drill
  • Blow a whistle, yell out “It’s an earthquake”. See how quickly everyone can get to a safe location.
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Take time to run through this drill at different times of the day and even from different locations so your whole family can quickly evaluate where the closest safe spot is to them. It doesn’t take but mere moments for things to start falling apart when the earth moves.

Young children can be taught the importance of running to their parents in emergency situations. Use a certain phrase that catches their attention to have them come to you so you can get them to safety.

Know where to turn off utilities

It’s important to know how to turn off the gas line at your home if you have one. Gas explosions can occur because of earthquakes, which can break gas lines. Know where the gas shutoff valve is and have the right tool somewhere outside to use to turn it off.

It’s good to know how to turn off your electricity and water, too, until after you inspect all the damage in the area.

Have emergency bags ready to go

Place your bug-out bags or emergency kits somewhere that can be easily accessed if a house collapses on it. Garages with no rooms on top of them or sheds may be the easiest places to dig into to find a bug-out bag. If your home is severely damaged, there is a good chance your vehicle may be, too, along with local roads.

Plan on walking to wherever you need to go or plan to camp out in your backyard. Have a couple of locations in mind since the earthquake damage will be unpredictable.

Your earthquake-ready bag should include:

  • N95 face masks to help filter out dust and fine debris
  • Safety glasses to protect eyes
  • A whistle to get attention if you’re trapped
  • Red Cross emergency app on your phone
  • Flashlight and other light sources

Protect head, feet, and eyes

When an earthquake shakes and rattles your world, there are three parts of your body that are particularly vulnerable: your head, feet, and eyes. When the earth shakes, everything shakes, and that includes shelves, cupboards, appliances, mirrors, office equipment, and anything mounted on a wall.  As those things come tumbling down, and shattering, not only are you dealing with the fear factor but also dodging falling objects and trying to get to safety quickly.

To protect your head, along with the rest of your body, dive under the nearest sturdy table or desk. Once the rattling stops, you’re still not safe from falling beams, ceiling tiles, light fixtures, etc. An inexpensive hard hat, stored in an accessible location, may turn out to be your best friend.  You’d be surprised by how many injuries during an earthquake are caused, not by people falling through fissures in the earth (that’s 100% Hollywood!) but by the ordinary injury of being knocked on the head by a lamp or a flying copy of a Tom Clancy book.

Anything breakable is a likely casualty during an earthquake, and as heartbreaking as it might be to discover the shattered remains of your favorite china or Grandma’s collection of porcelain dolls, a more serious casualty could be your feet. Unless you wear shoes 24/7, there’s a good chance you’ll be barefoot.  Many earthquake-savvy Californians have learned to always keep a pair of shoes at their bedside, specifically for this reason. If your feet are cut and bleeding, you’ll have a much harder time getting to safety, much less helping other members of your family.

Here’s where a pair of Crocs might come in handy. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are great for slipping on, they’re wide enough to allow for thick socks (important if you’re dealing with chilly temperatures), and because of their sizing and design, it takes a while for kids to outgrow them. No, they aren’t Red Wing work boots, but neither are they $200+.  If you have panicking children nearby, your first thought will be to get to them, even if it means walking over broken glass, so protect those feet!

So how is protecting your eyes important in an earthquake? Well, a pair of safety goggles is helpful because once the tremors stop, there will be dust, debris, and possibly smoke in the air. You’ll be grateful for a way to protect your eyes at that point.

However,  I am also highly recommending keeping a pair of eyeglasses or your contact lens case close by, always. I’m particularly sensitive to this because one thing you probably don’t know about me is that my eyes are about as sharp as a naked mole rat’s. One optometrist told me that my vision was in the 20/800 range (compare those numbers to the ideal 20/20). In layman’s terms, that’s blind!  If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, even if your vision is better than mine, you absolutely must have your glasses or contacts within arm’s reach, especially at night.

When the earth starts shaking and you hear glass breaking (and kids screaming), you can’t afford to be stumbling around, unable to see potential hazards. If you can’t see those hazards, you may be in more danger than you realize. Make it a habit to keep those eyeglasses or your contact case right next to your bedside, and preferably in a drawer where they can’t slide off.

It’s usually not a one-time event

Remember that there will probably be aftershocks, which could lead to more damage. Earthquakes can also trigger landslides, avalanches and volcanic eruptions (or vice versa on that one). Each of these events has its own preparation list.

Duct tape and plastic tarps are key to have on hand for volcanic eruptions. Try to imagine keeping ash out of a house damaged by an earthquake. What other supplies and tools might you need? And, where would you go if your home was no longer a safe place to stay? It’s highly important to stay connected with the most recent news by radio, TV, your cell phone and neighborhood forums. is an invaluable resource with very likely, the most accurate updates.

It can strike when you’re not at home

You may be at work and need to walk home. You may have to gather family members from school or friends’ houses. You may be stranded on the one highway that leads anywhere because it is damaged. Have enough emergency gear in your vehicle to prepare you for these scenarios. If you live near a volcano, consider having air masks for people and air filters for your car – a vehicle can only drive so far if it’s sucking up ash.

I hope you never feel the earth move under your feet, but if you live in an area where it could happen, please take the time to be prepared. A little bit of thinking and planning will pay off if “the big one” ever hits. Know how to prepare for an earthquake!

How to Prepare For an Earthquake via The Survival Mom

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Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Visit her at

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8 thoughts on “How to Prepare for an Earthquake”

  1. Don’t forget that you may not be in your own home but inside another building – a grocery store, a department store, an office building…my geology prof in college told us ALWAYS to look around whenever we went anywhere and ask ourselves: “what could fall on me?” Never sit in a classroom right underneath or near a raised television set/monitor. Do not sit near large windows. Notice where the exits are. Know where the stairs are in case of electrical failure, in which case the elevators will not work. (Signs posting exits and stairways are common in buildings such as doctors’ offices, banks, apartments etc.) Always be aware.

    In your own home, keep a flashlight near the bed. Keep a pair of sturdy shoes near the bed but not in a place where they might end up with glass shards inside – in other words, if there is a window near your bed don’t put the shoes under it! NEVER hang anything over the bed – no matter how pretty you think it looks to have a candelabra there. Do not hang heavy pictures on the walls behind your bed. Options include a fabric hanging or other soft decorative piece. Use childproof latches inside cabinet or cupboard doors, they will help keep china or glass from flying out and smashing on the floor. Quakehold putty will firmly attach decorative items to a mantel or shelf. There are webbing straps available many places, including Home Depot and Lowe’s, which will anchor your television and computer equipment. Any tall item should be bolted to a wall stud with an L bracket, this includes bookcases, grandfather clocks, entertainment centers, tall bureaus and china cabinets. Water heaters should also be strapped to wall studs if they are inside the house – strap kits are available at home improvement centers. A safer place for a water heater in earthquake country is outside the house in its own cabinet. Also, be sure to check your home. If you live in a home with a crawlspace underneath, be sure that your house is bolted to the foundation. You might have an old sliding glass door which is not safety glass; there is a film which can be attached to older doors which will stabilize the glass in case it breaks.

    For those who want to be really prepared, have a grab-and-go backpack hanging near your bed with gloves, a jacket, dust masks, and a change of clothes. Include a first aid kit. If power goes you may not have tap water available, plan ahead and store 1 gal/per person per day, plan for 7 days. Think of emergency food as well, and a week’s worth of any prescription medications as well as a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses. As with any emergency plan, have a contact person for the family who lives in a different place, such as out-of-state.

    I grew up in Southern CA and these were just normal precautions for us. Once they are done, you won’t worry. Actually, my parents did not implement many of these until after they were affected by a moderate quake (I was not living at home then) and had more losses than they should have, such as china and glass. Hindsight is 20/20. With that said, I lived 52 years in So Cal and never had items damaged due to a quake. I went to work every day with a box in my car containing water, granola bars, a jacket, set of clothes such as jeans and shirt which I could change into if necessary, and a pair of sturdy shoes in case something happened and I had to walk home. (I sure didn’t want to attempt that in a skirt and high heels.) Never happened, but if it had….

    Now we live in Oklahoma and my husband felt so relieved that we weren’t going to have to strap anything…until we started having earthquakes here too! Now he’s in the process of bolting that 2×4 again to the wall studs in back of our entertainment unit so that he can attach the webbing straps!

    If this helps anyone I will be very happy!

  2. Actually, running outside is the worst thing to do in an earthquake. Most people in earthquakes are not injured by structural collapses; they are injured by things falling on them, especially when running outside during a quake.

    The recommendations are DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON. (Most people know about the drop and cover, but don’t realize they should hold on to their sheltering object because a big quake may make it move away from you and take away your protection.) Once the quake has stopped, THEN you evacuate to outside.

    Hopefully, you have some shoes, socks, a headlamp, and gloves under your bed in case a quake happens at night.

  3. We have a fair amount of earthquakes here in Oklahoma. The worst one I actually heard the “roar” people talk about, my house felt like waves of water under my feet, and it was scary the first time. We’re a little more nonchalant about it now.

  4. If you live near a volcano, keep a pair of nylons in your vehicle. Put the leg over the air filter in your car. Be sure to remove and clean the nylons often depending upon how much you drive. My parents used this method to save the engine when they got 2-3 inches of ash from Mt. St. Helen’s.

  5. Being in the UK we don’t have to deal with serious earth quakes and hopefully will never have to.

    These are some great tips and I think could be applied to other natural disasters.

  6. We get a lot of earthquakes here in New Zealand. During one of our recent bigger ones, my mother in law was in the shower. She ran stark naked through through the house and out into the back yard! In the heat of the moment a lot of people panic and don’t think things through. She’s actually a very sensible, level headed woman so it surprised me that she didn’t at least grab the clothes she’d just taken off. Also, their house has floor to ceiling book shelves in almost every room except the bathroom. It would have been safer to stay put. Most people don’t know how they’ll react until the moment is upon them. Having earthquake drills would definitely help to pre programme your brain into doing the right thing.

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