What to do in an earthquake (Earthquake safety tips)

During an earthquake


  • If you are outdoors, stay outdoors. Drop to your hands and knees to avoid falling. If there is a risk of falling debris, cover your head and neck with your arms, or (if possible and not too dangerous) crawl under something sturdy that will protect you.
  • Avoid being close to potentially dangerous things such as buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, utility wires, and cliffs. Mountains means an increased risk of landslides / avalanches / tumbling stones.
  • If you are driving a vehicle, pull over to the side of the road and park. Avoid parking near the things listed above. Flash the emergency lights to warn other drivers that the vehicle is parked; you can expect them to be rather distracted by the earthquake.


  • Drop → Cover → Crawl → Hold onWhen it starts shaking, drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms. Crawl if necessary (and possible) to get to a place where you have cover from falling items. Hold on to sturdy furniture or similar until the shaking stops.

    If you are in bed, it is usually (but not always) safer to remain in bed and cover your head and neck with a pillow than trying to get out of bed.

  • Trying to evacuate a building during an earthquake can be dangerous. In many situations, it is actually safer to remain inside, especially if you have something sturdy nearby to hide under, such as a sturdy table that can protect your from falling debris. Running and walking during an earthquake is difficult and there is a high risk of falling and sustaining an injury. Also, the moment when you leave the building can be highly dangerous since you might be hit by falling glass, bricks and other building components from the outer wall.
  • Be aware that an earthquake can trigger fire alarms and sprinklers.
  • Do not use elevators.

After the earthquake

  • Check yourself injury. If possible, also check others.
  • If there is a lot of debris in the air, cover your mouth and nose with a piece of clothing to avoid inhaling it.
  • Shouting for help when trapped or injured will quickly exhaust you, and also make you inhale a lot of debris. If possible, find other ways of making noises, such as banging on things. Some people in especially disaster prone areas always wear a whistle in case of emergencies.
  • Even if the phone network still works, it will probably be overloaded very quickly so calling for emergency help may be impossible. Sometimes, sending text messages will work even when calls don’t go through. Also, internet connections are sometimes usable even when the phone network isn’t.
  • If someone is in need, provide first aid if you can do so in a safe manner.
  • If possible, locate your emergency evacuation backpack.
  • If you deem the building to be unsafe, evacuate if possible.Do not linger right outside the building after having evacuated. Seek out an open area at a safe distance from potential hazards such as buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, utility wires, and cliffs.

    If you are in a tsunami risk area, immediately go inland and/or to higher ground.

  • Expect aftershocks.

Before an earthquake – how to decrease the risk of earthquake injuries

Make the indoor environment safer

prepareA majority of all earthquakes that takes place in a year are not strong enough to make buildings collapse, especially not if they are reasonably well built. A lot of the injuries to humans during and right after earthquakes are not due to collapsing buildings; they are instead caused by things such as falling items, shattered glass, and fires that break out soon after the earthquake. Also, people are prone to falling an injuring themselves as they try to escape buildings while the ground is still shaking.

Take a critical look at rooms where you spend time (at home, at work, etc) and assess what you can do to make them more earthquake safe. Secure heavy items such as bookshelves and televisions. Replace decorations and other indoor items that are likely to topple and cause injury in case of an earthquake. You don’t need to keep the indoor environment bare, just chose wisely. In the event of an earthquake, it is nicer to be hit by a falling plush toy and a papier mache sculpture than injured by a heavy stone sculpture, glass ornaments and an unsheathed katana. Potentially dangerous objects should be kept on or near the floor.

Assess the building

If you are a homeowner, assess your home to find out where the weak spots are. In some cases, fairly small reinforcements can make a home much safer.

Make sure you are prepared to evacuate

After a major earthquake, evacuation may be necessary. In some cases, evacuating the building will be enough. In other cases, the infrastructure of the whole area will be so damaged that it is best to leave, if it is reasonably safe to do so.

There is a risk of aftershocks after a major earthquake. An aftershock can be the last straw that causes a building to collapse.

Also, when you prepare for an earthquake, remember that the shaking isn’t the only hazard. Depending on where you are located, side effects such as landslides, avalanches or tsunamis can also be a risk. Even an earthquake that you hardly felt can trigger a potentially dangerous tsunami that makes evacuation necessary after the earthquake.

Here are a few evacuation preparedness tips

  • Create a multi-level evacuation plan that includes possible evacuation destinations at various distances from your location.
  • Create a family emergency communication plan that includes at least two out-of-state contacts belonging to different households and not living in exactly the same area. Make sure you know multiple ways of reaching them, e.g. phone number, email, and Skype / Snapchat / Facebook messenger. It is quite common for the phone networks to become overloaded much quicker than the internet networks after an earthquake.Ideally, memorize the contact info AND write it down and keep it with you.

    A family emergency communication plan is fairly useless if only parts of the family can carry it out. Regularly check with other reasonably old family members that they know the details of the plan.

  • Make sure you have several fire extinguishers in your home. Fire is a common, and dangerous, consequence of earthquakes due to damaged electrical infrastructure, broken gas tubes, etc. People who start cooking over open fires increases the risk.If you have a car, get a fire extinguisher to keep there as well.
  • Put together an evacuation kit in a backpack that you can grab easily as you evacuate.The kit should be tailored to the needs of your specific household, e.g. when it comes to medications.

    Examples of good items to have in the kit:

    – Flashlights with extra batteries

    – At least one flashlight that can be recharged using its built-in hand-crank

    – Potable water

    – High-calorie food that doesn’t spoil and doesn’t need to be cooked before eating

    – A whistle to call for attention

    – Small first aid kit

    – Copies of important documents, including ID’s

    – Important contact information written down. Don’t rely on being able to retrieve it from your phone.

    – Sturdy shoes. If you evacuate in a hurry in the middle of the night, you might find yourself barefoot in an area filled with broken glass and other debris.


Earthquake damage is usually not covered by standard home insurance.

Contact several insurance companies to find out if it is possible for you to buy a special earthquake insurance policy. Always check the fine print; some natural disaster policies are quite useless.