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Seven Essential Earthquake Safety Tips

Preparing for the next California earthquake can help you and your family to survive and recover when the ground shakes. Get ready today to keep your family safe from injury and avoid damage to your home. The following essential earthquake safety tips will help you plan and prepare. Learn more about the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.

Prepare

Get ready by reducing hazards throughout your home, which can greatly reduce your risk of injury during and following a damaging earthquake. Create an earthquake safety preparation checklist. Conduct a “hazard hunt” to help identify and fix unsecured items such as large appliances and bookshelves. And make a plan with your family to stay safe.

Step 1: Secure Your Space

Step 1: Secure Your Space

Step 1: Secure Your Space

Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items.

Prepare your home BEFORE an earthquake. Decrease your risk of damage and injury from an earthquake by identifying possible home hazards. For a complete list of home earthquake safety precautions, visit Red Cross Earthquake Safety.

  • Keep heavy unstable items away from doors and exits.
  • Use flexible connections where gas lines meet appliances.
  • Place beds away from windows.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Secure top-heavy furniture to studs.
  • Brace water heaters with metal straps attached to studs.

Learn more about personal preparedness inside your home, including how to secure personal belongings.

If your home was built before 1980, it may be more vulnerable to earthquake damage. Have a professional check to see if your home is securely anchored to its foundation. Consider strengthening porches, decks, carports, chimneys and fireplaces, and garages.

Step 2: Plan to be Safe

Step 2: Plan to be Safe

Step 2: Plan to be Safe

Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency.

Begin writing your earthquake emergency plan by focusing on family communication. Consider that family members may not be home when the earthquake strikes.

Text messages may get through during an earthquake when phone calls can’t. Follow these earthquake safety tips:

  • Collect contact information about your family and other important organizations such as doctors, schools and hospitals. Include your out-of-city contact person’s name and number, your reunion location, and the location of your emergency supplies.
  • Share a paper copy of the plan with every family member.
  • Store the plan on your refrigerator and keep copies in backpacks, briefcases, handbags and autos.
  • Enter emergency contact information into all household members’ mobile phones or devices.
  • Sign up for the MyShake app today.
  • Review and practice the plan with family meetings.

Step 3: Organize Disaster Supplies

Step 3: Organize Disaster Supplies

Step 3: Organize Disaster Supplies

Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations

Have your earthquake emergency kit readily reachable. It should include three days’ supply of water and food for each member of your household and your pets. Also include flashlights and batteries, portable radios, first aid kit, medications and a whistle. For a full list of suggested earthquake safety preparation supplies, visit Ready.gov.

Step 4: Minimize Financial Hardship

Step 4: Minimize Financial Hardship

Step 4: Minimize Financial Hardship

Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance.

Protecting the following financial and personal documents before an earthquake hits is an important step in being prepared. You can choose to store financial documents in the Cloud, in a fireproof bag, or on a portable drive kept in your earthquake emergency kit. Gather the following as part of your earthquake safety procedures:

  • Housing: lease or rental contract, mortgage documents or title to your home, home insurance.
  • Vehicle: loan information, Vehicle Identification Number, registration, title , auto insurance
  • Financial: checking, savings, debit card info, retirement, life insurance
  • Other Financial Obligations: utility bills, credit card info, student loans, alimony, child support, elder care, automatic payments, appraisal documents, photos and a list of valuable property.
  • Tax Statements: income tax returns, property tax, and vehicle tax.
  • Estate Planning: wills, trusts and power of attorney documents.

Make financial documentation part of your earthquake safety steps. Without the proper documentation it can take much longer to get financial assistance and begin the recovery process. For additional checklists and guidance on collecting and safeguarding important information, download FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.

Strengthening your older property against earthquake damage is also important. Houses built before 1980 are more vulnerable to sliding off their foundations because they were built before modern seismic building codes were in place. And chimneys and fireplaces can also topple and fall if they were built before 1995. Find your house type to learn how to take steps to strengthen it and make it safer for you and your family.

Did you know that earthquake damage is not covered in a standard homeowners policy? Earthquake insurance can help you repair your house, repair or replace personal belongings, and can help pay additional living expenses if you need to move out because of earthquake damage. Consider earthquake insurance to help you recover financially from the next damaging earthquake.

Survive

When a major earthquake strikes near you, be prepared with emergency plans and supplies. For an early warning mobile message, sign up for the MyShake app today.

Remember to Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Earthquake safety preparation begins with knowing what to when the ground shakes without warning.

Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Drop, cover, and hold on when the earth shakes.

Nothing is more important to your family’s safety than knowing what to do when the ground starts to shake. Practice the following earthquake safety steps:

  • Drop to the ground, away from windows or furniture that could fall.
  • Cover. Get under a heavy table or desk. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Hold On. Stay inside and in place until shaking stops. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different building location or try to leave.

Step 6: Improve Safety

Step 6: Improve Safety

Step 6: Improve Safety

Improve safety after earthquakes by evacuating if necessary, helping the injured, and preventing further damage.

Improve your earthquake safety preparation with an inspection of your home’s structure.

If your home was built before 1980, you may need to secure your home to the foundation to make it stronger against earthquake damage. Check out California earthquake building codes and always employ an experienced California licensed contractor for any retrofit work or repairs.

Recover

After the initial shaking stops, check yourself and others for injuries. Inspect your home and surroundings for damage. Continue to follow your earthquake safety precautions.

  • Call 9-1-1 for seriously injured people.
  • Listen to the radio for important information and instructions.
  • Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage.
  • If you smell gas, open all the windows and doors, leave immediately, and report the leak to the authorities.
  • Check for cracks and damage to the roof and foundation of your home. 
  • Be careful around broken glass and debris.
  • Stay away from beaches, in case of tsunamis.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings and areas.

Step 7: Reconnect and Restore

Step 7: Reconnect and Restore

Step 7: Reconnect and Restore

Restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding community.

After an earthquake continue to follow your earthquake plan. Aftershocks will continue to occur. Some may cause additional damage. Remember to drop, cover, and hold on.

Follow these earthquake safety tips:

  • Stay in communication. Monitor local radio reports and government websites.
  • Text your out-of-area contact to update your status.
  • Stay off the phone. Phone lines need to be kept open for emergency responders.
  • Reach out to your neighborhood and community organizations.
  • If your home has been damaged or you have been displaced from your home, visit FEMA financial assistance. Resources also may be available from state and local government sources.
  • If you need to repair your home, always use a state licensed contractor. Try to obtain at least three bids.

how to prepare your house for an earthquake

The first step in your earthquake safety preparation is getting to know your home’s earthquake resistance. Schedule an onsite visit with a licensed contract or structural engineer to learn if the structural elements of your home need reinforcing. Common retrofits include:

  • Adding anchor bolts or steel plates between your home and its foundation.
  • Reinforcing the inside of your home's crawl space wall (cripple wall), the short wood-stud wall between the top of the foundation wall and the first floor.
  • Bracing unreinforced chimneys, masonry and concrete walls and foundations.

Understand Structural & Geologic Threats to your House

Get to know the potential structural risks to your home in case of a major earthquake. Earthquakes can cause homes, mobilehomes and apartment buildings to move off their foundations, windows to shatter and gas lines to rupture. Your home also may be vulnerable to serious structural damage if it was built before 1980.

Find out about faults in your area by visiting the California Earthquake Authority’s risk by county map. The violent shaking from earthquakes can rupture the earth, trigger landslides and turn the surface of the earth to liquid. Identify the geologic hazards near you.

Your home’s location near a fault, hazard setting, and foundation structure are key factors in earthquake safety preparedness.

Reinforce your House

Knowing your home’s structural strengths and weaknesses in the event of an earthquake is an important earthquake safety precaution.

If you own a home built before 1980, the best way to prevent earthquake damage is with a seismic retrofit. This is also known as a "brace and bolt retrofit," "house retrofit," "foundation bolting," or "foundation retrofit."

By improving the connection between the wood-frame and the concrete foundation of a house, your home will be less prone to major structural damage during an earthquake. 

New building codes went into effect in 1980’s resulting in better foundation to wood-frame connections. Homes built after 1980 are nailed down to the foundation and use large bolts throughout the foundation to create a stronger connection.

strengthen your House!

Get ready today for the next big California earthquake by strengthening your house’s foundation.

During an earthquake the ground moves and shifts from under the house, but gravity tries to hold the structure in place, which causes weak sections to break. Homes and structures with weak foundation-to-frame connections tend to experience damage along entire sections of a home.

Nothing replaces earthquake safety preparedness when the next major earthquake hits.

Get started today and strengthen your house.

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