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Earthquake Preparedness in California

Every region of California has earthquake risk. California has nearly 16,000 known faults, and more are being discovered. Begin preparing for an earthquake by knowing your home’s weak spots, and what earthquake hazards are near your home. 

  • California Office of Emergency Services MyHazards can help you find out if the area where you live or work is prone to earthquake-induced landslides.
  • Discover where the active faults are in your area.
  • Learn about your house’s structural risks and the steps you can take to seismically strengthen your house.

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

Follow these earthquake preparedness tips:

  • Locate safe places in each room of your home. 
  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with each member of your household. 
  • Have an earthquake safety kit in your home.
  • Find out if your home requires earthquake retrofitting.
  • Fix potential earthquake hazards in your home.

Strengthening your house's foundation helps prevent major shaking damage.

Learn the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety

Prepare for an earthquake by practicing the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, including securing your space and organizing needed supplies. Decrease your risk of damage and injury from an earthquake by identifying possible home hazards, such as: 

  • Tall, heavy furniture that could topple, such as bookcases, china cabinets, or modular wall units.
  • Water heaters that are not up to California code could rupture.
  • Stoves and appliances that could move enough to rupture gas or electrical lines.
  • Hanging plants in heavy pots that could swing free of hooks.
  • Heavy picture frames or mirrors over a bed or couch that could fall.
  • Latches on kitchen cabinets or other cabinets that will not hold the door closed during shaking.
  • Breakables or heavy objects that are kept on high or open shelves that can tumble down.
  • A masonry chimney that could crumble and fall through an unsupported roof into your home.
  • Flammable liquids, such as painting or cleaning products, which would be safer in a garage or outside in a shed.

Image: Bracing heavy furniture to the wall makes it safer in an earthquake.

Survive and recover from an earthquake by following the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.

Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Image: practice drop, cover, and hold on
 

When an earthquake hits and you are indoors, stay there. Get under—and hold onto—a desk or table, or crouch against an interior wall. Stay clear of exterior walls, glass, heavy furniture, fireplaces and appliances.

Practice the following drill with all members of your household:

  • 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 in place until shaking stops. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

Once the shaking stops and it is safe for you to move, grab your emergency kit and check for injuries to yourself or your family members.

Build an Earthquake Emergency Kit

Involve members of your household in building a stay-at-home earthquake kit. Store enough food, water and gear for three days per person. Keep your kit where you can easily reach it.

Important supplies for earthquake preparation should include:

  • A three-day supply of water for each member of your family.
  • A three-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • First aid kits for your home and autos.
  • A three-day supply of food and water for your pets.
  • Flashlights in every room with extra batteries.
  • Power packs for phones.
  • Prescription medications.
  • Whistle.
  • Swiss Army knife.
  • Copies of your personal documents.
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses.
  • Small cash bills.

Refresh water and food items every six months

Understand Structural & Geologic Threats to Your House

Image: Understand structural & geologic threats to your house


The explosive force of earthquakes can rupture the earth, trigger landslides and turn the surface of the earth to liquid. If your home was built before 1980, it may be vulnerable to serious structural damage from a quake’s violent shaking.

Preparing for an earthquake includes understanding your home’s structural threats. A seismic retrofit involves strengthening your home’s foundation to make it more resistant to shaking. Some structural threats can be lessened with the help of a California licensed engineer with seismic experience.

Reinforce Your House

Image: Chimneys and fireplaces with masonry veneer and decorative surrounds can crumble and collapse during an earthquake, causing death or injury to those nearby, and can cause damage to your home.California earthquakes can’t be prevented, but you can prepare for them. Older homes are especially vulnerable to earthquake damage. If your house was built before 1980, the best way to prepare for an earthquake and prevent serious damage is with a seismic retrofit to create a stronger connection to the house’s foundation.

Improving the connection between the wood-frame and the concrete foundation of a house will reduce major structural damage during an earthquake.

If your house has a chimney and fireplace, those should be evaluated as well. Chimneys and fireplaces with masonry veneer and decorative surrounds can crumble and collapse during an earthquake, causing death or injury to those nearby, and can cause damage to your home. Learn more about the ways to strengthen those other house hazards.

strengthen your house

Image: Start your earthquake preparedness today before the next big California earthquake. Begin by strengthening your home’s foundation.

Start your earthquake preparedness today before the next big California earthquake. Begin by strengthening your house’s foundation.

An earthquake causes the ground under the house to shake and shudder, but gravity tries to hold the structure in place. This torqueing of the structure causes weak sections of a house to break. Weak foundation-to-frame connections tend to face damage along entire sections of a home.

Take the next steps. Find out what kind of earthquake retrofit your house may need. Make your house stronger and your family safer today!


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