How to Prepare for an Earthquake

Three Methods:Preparing an Emergency PlanPreparing an Emergency Earthquake KitPreparing Your Home to Minimize Damage

An earthquake is a very destructive natural disaster; particularly in the Pacific Rim region. After an earthquake, your home may be a mess and you might be left without a water supply and energy. There are several things you can do to prepare for an earthquake before it happens, to minimize the damage and potential for injury in and around your home.

Method 1
Preparing an Emergency Plan

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    Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan for your house or place of work. Know what you and your family are going to do before the earthquake happens. Form your plan together and go over it on a regular basis. The most important first step is understanding what to do the moment an earthquake hits.[1] This plan needs to:
    • Identify the best places for cover in your building. Under sturdy desks and tables and inside strong interior door frames are good places. If there is no other cover, lay on the floor next to an interior wall and protect your head and neck. Stay away from large furniture, mirrors, external walls and windows, kitchen cabinets, and anything heavy that isn't bolted down.
    • Teach everyone how to signal for help if trapped. Rescuers searching collapsed buildings will be listening for sounds, so try knocking three times repeatedly or blow an emergency whistle if you have access to one.[2]
    • Practice until it is second nature. Practice this plan often -- you only have a few seconds to make adjustments in a real earthquake.[3]
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    Practice "drop, cover and hold on" until it becomes second nature. In a real earthquake, this is your number one defense. Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on firmly. Be prepared for shaking and falling objects. You should practice this in every room of the house, knowing your protected areas no matter where you are when an earthquake hits.[4]
    • If you are outside, move into the open, away from anything that could fall or collapse like trees and buildings. Drop and cover your head from falling objects. Stay there until the shaking stops.[5]
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    Learn basic first aid and CPR or make sure there is at least one person in the house is knows it. There are resources in your community to educate you and your family on how to deal with first aid emergencies. Your local Red Cross has monthly classes as well that will teach you the basic skills to deal with most common injuries and situations.
    • If you cannot attend a class, purchase basic first aid books and put them with each stash of emergency supplies in the house. Also having a first aid kit helps.
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    Decide on a rallying point for your family for after the earthquake. It should be away from buildings. Go over what your family should do in the event that not everyone makes it to the rallying point. If you have civil defense safety meeting points (as designated by your town), be sure that every member of the family knows the location of the one closest to home, school, and work.
    • Identify an out-of-area contact person, like an out-of-state aunt or uncle, that your family can call and get in touch with one another. If you can't call each other for some reason, make sure you call them to help coordinate a meet-up. Use FRS and GMRS service (GMRS requires a license by FCC in US) to contact each other. Phone lines get congested in disaster. Some FRS and GMRS radio can send radio waves up to 40 miles!
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    Learn how to turn off the utilities in your house, especially the gas line. A broken gas line leaks flammable gas into space, which can lead to a very dangerous explosion if untended. You should learn how to operate your utilities now so that, in the event you smell leaking gas, you can quickly stop the problem.[6]
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    Write down and share emergency contact lists. This should include everyone in your home, office, etc. You need to know who must be accounted for and how to get in touch with them if they can't be found. In addition to normal contact information, ask each person to provide and emergency contact as well.[7] You should also include:
    • Names and numbers of neighbors.
    • Name and number of the landlord.
    • Important medical information.
    • Emergency numbers for fire, medical, police, and insurance.[8]
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    Try to develop routes and methods for getting home after an earthquake has occurred. Since there is no precise time of day when an earthquake might strike, you may be at work, at school, on a bus, or in a train when one strikes. It is highly likely that you will need to know several ways to get home since roads and bridges will likely be obstructed for long periods of time. Note any potentially dangerous structures, like bridges, and figure out a route around them if need be.

Method 2
Preparing an Emergency Earthquake Kit

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    Prepare disaster supplies in advance, making sure the entire house knows where to find everything. Earthquakes can trap people in their homes for days at a time in the worst case scenario, so you need everything for survival in the house.
    • If you have a large house or family, more than 4-5 people, consider making extra kits and leaving them in different sections of the house.
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    Purchase enough emergency food and water for at least three days. You should have a gallon of water for each family member, plus a few more for emergencies. Make sure you bring a manual can opener to get into emergency rations as well. You can purchase any non-perishable food you prefer, such as:
    • Canned foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and tuna.
    • Processed crackers and salty snacks.
    • Camping food.[9]
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    Buy a solar or manual crank flashlight and radio, or a normal flashlight with extra batteries. You should preferably have one for each individual in the house. Get a portable, battery-operated radio as well. There are some models that are solar or kinetically powered that may be worth an investment as you'll never have to worry about batteries.
    • You should also Purchase and use glow-sticks, matches, and candles as backup options.
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    Create a First Aid kit. This is one of the most important objects in your emergency kit, and needs to be fully stocked with the following.[10]
    • Bandages and Gauze
    • Antibiotic ointments and alcohol wipes
    • Pain-relievers
    • Broad spectrum antibiotic pills
    • Anti-diarrhea medication (essential to fight dehydration in an emergency_
    • Scissors
    • Gloves and dust masks
    • Needle and thread
    • Splinting material
    • Compression wraps
    • Up-to-date prescriptions
    • Water purification tablets[11]
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    Put together a basic tool kit that can help get out of the house in an emergency. You may need to help rescue crews, or move fallen debris trapping you in the house. You should have:
    • Wrenches for gas lines
    • Heavy duty hammer
    • Work gloves
    • Crowbar.
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Rope ladder.[12]
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    Store miscellaneous supplies to make an emergency stay more comfortable. While everything above is essential to a good survival kit, the following materials should also be rounded up if time and money allow:
    • Pillows and blankets
    • Closed-toe shoes
    • Plastic bags
    • Disposable cutlery, plates, and cups
    • Emergency cash
    • Toiletries
    • Games, cards, kid's favorite toy, writing material, etc.[13]
    • Scanner (would be helpful to see what's going on and the police/fire dept. support)

Method 3
Preparing Your Home to Minimize Damage

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    Fasten any large items securely to the walls and floor. There are a number of specific hazards in your home that you can deal with before an earthquake occurs. The biggest danger is actually from falling objects inside your house. Luckily, these sorts of injuries can be prevented with some forethought:
    • Fasten all shelves securely to the walls.[14]
    • Use brackets to attach wall units, bookcases, and other tall furniture to wall studs. Standard steel brackets are fine and easy to apply.
    • Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves or on the floor. They might fall during an earthquake and the less distance they have to fall, the better. You can also screw objects onto things, such as a desk.[15]
    • Use non-slip mats to prevent objects with a low center of gravity from sliding. For example, fish bowls, vases, floral arrangements, statues, etc.
    • Use an invisible nylon cord to secure tall, heavy items that can topple over to the wall. Place an eye screw in the wall, and tie the thread around the object (such as a vase) and then tie it to the eye screw.[16]
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    Install shatter-safe window films to protect from breaking glass. In a last-minute pinch, placing masking tape across the diagonals (in an "X") of your windows can keep them from shattering.[17] Most earthquake prone areas will already require these windows, but you should check to make sure.
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    Place breakable items (bottles, glass, china, etc.) in closed cabinets that have latches. Lock or latch them up so that the cabinet doors cannot fly open. Use poster tack/plastic putty to keep ornaments, figurines, and glassware adhered to shelves and mantelpieces.
    • There are even special commercial quake putties available, allowing you to secure objects in place without decorations.
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    Remove or secure hanging objects from above seating and sleeping areas. Heavy pictures, light fixtures, and mirrors should be hung away from beds, couches, and anywhere that someone might sit. Conventional picture hooks will not hold pictures during an earthquake, but they are easy to fix - simply push the hook closed, or use a filler material to fill the gap between the hook and its backing. Other alternatives include buying special art hooks and ensuring that heavy paintings have adequate, strong hooks and cord.[18]
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    Check with a professional, your landlord, or the zoning board that your house is up-to-date with earthquake protections. f you have any deep cracks in the ceiling or foundations, repair these immediately. You might need to consult an expert if there are signs of structural weakness. Make sure your foundation is properly braced and that all modern laws are being complied with.
    • Have flexible fittings placed on your gas pipes. A professional plumber will need to do this. It's also a good idea to have flexible fittings on your water pipes, so have these fixed at the same time.
    • If your house has a chimney, secure it to the walls of the house using galvanized metal angles and bands at the top, ceiling line, and base. The angles can be bolted to the wall, and to ceiling joists or rafters if you have cladding on the house. For the part of the chimney sitting above the roof-line, brace it to the roof.[19]
    • Evaluate your electrical wiring, electrical appliances, and gas connections. Do any repairs if needed. During an earthquake, faulty fittings and wiring can become a potential fire hazard. When securing appliances, be sure not to drill holes in them - use existing holes, or make loops from leather, etc., that can be glued onto an appliance.
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    Work with your community to find meeting points, preparedness workshops, and support groups. If there aren't civic groups present in your area focused on earthquake preparedness, work on putting one together. The first step in keeping everyone safe is education.


  • Read wikiHow's articles on How to survive an earthquake, Deal with being indoors during an earthquake, and How to react during an earthquake for more information on what to do during an earthquake.It is always helpful to Be Prepared for Natural Disasters
  • Make sure all gas lines are completely tightened. And do not turn any lights on after an earthquake!
  • If at all possible, avoid living near fault lines and large mountains in an earthquake-prone region. Not only will the damage to your home be more severe, but it will be more likely that you cannot get to your home if you are away from it.
  • If you don't have the knowledge or ability to fix your home, ask for help. Ask your neighbors to lend a hand, other family members, or dial a handyman company that is good at fixing things for a reasonable price. Use qualified, reputable plumbers and electricians for all electrical and plumbing work.
  • Consider keeping a pair of shoes, a flashlight and an energy bar under your bed. Similar items should be kept at your desk at work or school (for work, keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes ready).


  • If you have a pet,watch out for strange pet behavior. This can be from walking around indifferently to running about or hiding and not coming out.
  • NEVER leave the house in an earthquake, under any circumstances. Wait until the tremors are done.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic putty can be purchased from hardware stores, stationery stores, and supermarkets. Some art and antique galleries might also have suitable putties for sale.
  • Non-slip mats or matting. Available from hardware stores.
  • Furniture-to-wall braces and/or reversed brackets.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Two weeks of non-perishable food and water for each family member.
  • Portable radios with extra batteries
  • Clothes (enough for a minimum of 3-5 days)
  • Entertainment such as board games or books that do not require electricity.
  • Phone numbers of emergency services and shelters, if phone service is available.
  • A kit

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