Sample Instructions

What to Do at Home
in Case of an Earthquake


More than 10,000 earthquake tremors hit the United States each year. These earthquake tremors can be deadly. For instance, on July 27, 1976, an earthquake that struck the city of Tangshan, China, killing 250,000 people and injuring 500,000 more. This guide tells you how to prepare for an earthquake, what to do during an earthquake, and what steps to take after an earthquake has hit.

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

  1. Learn the basic procedures for first aid. The Red Cross offers regular classes.

  2. Prepare an emergency supply box. The box should be large and sturdy. Include the following items:
    flashlights portable radio spare batteries
    first aid kit medication blankets
    bottled water canned goods manual can opener

  3. Secure shelves to walls and large items to shelves.

  4. Install flexible gas hoses and connectors to gas-operated appliances.

How to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake

  1. When you feel the rumbling of the initial shock, stay calm. Most earthquakes last about 45 seconds and are not destructive.

  2. If indoors, stay indoors. If outdoors, stay outdoors. Many injuries occur when people enter or leave buildings.

  3. If indoors, stay clear of windows, basements, and tall furniture. Take cover under a study desk, table, or bench. If no protection is available, drop onto the floor, curl up into a ball, and cover your head with your hands.

  4. If outdoors, stay in the open away from power lines, trees, and buildings. If in a car, pull over to the side of the road (but do not stop on a bridge or under an overpass).

What to Do After an Earthquake

  1. Stay calm. After an earthquake, many people lose control of their emotions.

  2. In your home or office, check for broken gas lines. Use a flashlight, not an open flame, to make this check.

  3. Beware of weak-structured walls. Look for cracks or bulges that signal structural damage.


There is no fail-safe prevention from the damage that earthquakes wreak. However, by preparing for earthquakes in your home and business, by knowing what to do during an earthquake, and by anticipating dangers after an earthquake has passed, you can greatly reduce your chances of injury and death from earthquakes.

Last updated 8/03
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