Staying Safe in Earthquake Country

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Published on June 10, 2020

Staying Safe in Earthquake Country

Image of an earthquake seismographLiving in Southern California isn’t all sunshine. Earthquakes are a reality that everyone in the region must face. Because earthquakes are still difficult to predict, they strike with very little warning. This is why Southern California residents should be “earthquake ready” at all times. Although the severity of an earthquake and its aftermath can vary, there are still some basic points you can follow to keep you and your loved ones safe when the next quake strikes.

Before the next quake

  • Secure your home: Conduct a walkthrough of every room and corridor and note any objects that can move, break or fall during an earthquake. This is especially important for large heavy objects such as bookcases, electronics, appliances, and anything hanging from walls or ceilings. Use nylon straps, closed hooks, or any flexible fasteners to secure tall or hanging objects or move them to areas where they won’t fall on someone during a quake.
  • Create a family emergency plan: Identify the safest places to take cover during an earthquake and practice getting there quickly and safely. Make a list of addresses, phone numbers, and potential sites your family can evacuate to if necessary. Also include information of an out-of-state contact. This list can be stored at home and carried by each family member.
  • Make an emergency supply kit: Be sure to include enough food and water for everyone for at least three days, flashlights, radios, extra batteries, a fire extinguisher, first-aid kits, and anything else that will be useful if you have to survive on your own. Visit to see a comprehensive list of additional items you can include in your emergency supply kit.

When the quake strikes

  • Drop, cover and hold: If possible, drop down to your hands and knees. If you are using a wheelchair or walker, make sure your wheels are locked and stay seated until the shaking stops. Once on the floor, cover your head with your arms and get under a sturdy table or desk if possible. You can also crawl to an interior wall away from windows if it is safe to do so. If you are under a table, hold on to it with one hand and follow underneath if it moves during the shaking. If you are seated and can’t take cover, bend forward and use your arms to cover your head.
  • Other situations: Earthquakes may not strike when you are readily able to drop, cover and hold. If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow. If you are in a car, pull over if it’s safe to do so, come to a stop and engage your parking brake. If you are outdoors, stay outdoors and away from buildings and power lines.

When the quake stops

  • Aftershocks: Expect moderate shaking to continue for hours or even days after the initial quake. Although often much weaker, some aftershocks can approach the intensity of the original quake, so it helps to stay alert.
  • Injuries and damage: Check yourself and loved ones for any injuries that may require first aid or further medical attention. If your building was damaged, exit the structure safely and move away from it and any other buildings that may collapse. If your building appears fine, check carefully for any broken pipes, damaged electrical wiring and gas leaks. You may need to shut off the water supply, power, or natural gas lines to prevent further damage.
  • Stay tuned for updates: Listen to local news for emergency information with your battery-operated radio or TV, social media platforms, or mobile phone text alerts. If you are near the beach, be especially mindful of any tsunami warnings that are issued and seek higher ground as instructed.

Earthquakes are a reality we cannot not ignore. Since we never know when the next big quake will hit, it pays to be prepared ahead of time. You can find more information and resources on earthquake safety and preparedness at:

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.