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Know What To Do
Before, During & After a Major Earthquake

Earthquake, Damage, Home

Damage to a home in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) News Photo.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Southern California faces a 75% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake within the next few decades. The odds of this happening are at least one percent each year. Such a quake will be violent, frightening, and destructive. It will probably damage and disrupt our water systems, sewage systems, electrical and gas utilities, telephone communications, transportation and supply systems. For days and weeks and even months, it may become a challenge to obtain needed goods and services. Unfortunately, too many are unprepared for any of this.

See: Probability of an Earthquake in the Los Angeles Region


Emergency Kit, Supplies, Earthquake, Disaster

Photo courtesy of www.Ready.gov.

Prepare your family

  • Discuss the possible effects of an earthquake on your home, workplace, school, and community.
  • Hold home discussions and drills to avoid injury during an earthquake.
  • Train family members in first aid.
  • Learn how to shut off electricity, gas, and water at main fuse box or valve.
  • Establish a family reunion plan. Teach family members the phone number of an out-of-area contact (preferably outside Southern California) who might be easier to reach by telephone in an earthquake emergency.
  • Set aside essential emergency supplies (click on image in box below).

Set aside essential emergency supplies:
Emergency Kit, Supplies, Earthquake, Disaster

Check your home for potential risks

  • Secure water heater, refrigerator, and top-heavy interns to wall studs.
  • Secure overhead lighting fixtures.
  • Store heavy items and breakables on lower shelves. Fasten shelves securely to wall studs.
  • Remove or isolate flammable materials and toxic chemicals.

Check school emergency policy

  • Will the school hold or release your children or release your child only to you or to someone you have authorized?


Earthquake, Disaster

Photo courtesy of www.Ready.gov.

  • Remain calm - do not panic.
  • Remain where you are.
  • Indoors, take cover under a heavy desk, or table, away from glass and windows, or huddle against an inside wall. Cover face and head.
  • In a high-rise building, get under a desk or similar heavy furniture, away from windows and objects that could fall. Be prepared for the building to sway and shift.
  • In public buildings, get under a table or heavy furniture, or huddle against an inside wall. Cover face and head.
  • Outdoors, stay away from buildings, trees, and power lines.
  • In a car, stop at the side of the road. Avoid bridges, overpasses, and overhead wires. Turn on the radio. Stay in the car until the earthquake is over.

Drop, Cover and Hold On for Earthquakes

Immediately, when an earthquake hits: Drop, Cover and Hold On. From the U.S. Geological Service.


Post a message on the front door indicating where you can be found. Take with you:

  • Medicines and first aid kit
  • Flashlight, radio and batteries
  • Important papers and cash
  • Food, sleeping bags, extra clothes, eyeglasses

Leave pets confined, if possible with food and water, if you are going to a site which does not accept animals.

Shakeout Earthquake Scenario
The ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario


Comfort Your Family, Earthquake, Disaster

Photo courtesy of www.Ready.gov.

Be prepared for aftershocks

  • Wear shoes if near debris.
  • Check for injuries and give first aid.
  • Check for fires and fire hazards.
  • Comfort children and pets.
  • Check for damaged utilities.

Gas: Do not turn off the gas unless you smell or see a leak. Inspect for leaks by smell only. Do not use candles or matches. Do not turn on electrical switches or appliances. If you smell gas, shut off the main valve and open all windows and doors.

Electricity/Water: If lines are damaged (frayed wires, sparks, smell of hot insulation, water leaks), turn off system at main fuse box or valve.

DO NOT turn on gas or electricity again until the utility company has first checked your home.

  • Turn on a portable or car radio for emergency bulletins and instructions.
  • Restrict telephone use to medical, fire or public safety emergencies.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, flammable liquids, bleaches, and chemicals.
  • Check house, roof, and chimney.
  • Open closets and cupboards cautiously.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings until you know they are safe.
  • Do not touch "downed" electrical lines or broken appliances.
  • Do not use your vehicle, except for an emergency. Keep streets clear for emergency vehicles.


After a severe earthquake, essential services such as police, fire, and paramedics may not be able to respond to the needs of your neighborhood for at least 24 hours or more. Normal supplies of food and water may be unavailable. Telephones may not work. Transportation and utility systems may be damaged.

Community preparedness begins with an awareness of your community's earthquake hazards and available resources. Meet and find out who has the skills that will be useful before and after an earthquake. Identify who may need particular help after an earthquake, including the disabled, those with special medical needs, older persons, mothers with nursing infants, unattended children, and non-English speaking neighbors.

Much of the above material was from the County of Los Angeles pamphlet "You and Your Family Can Survive an Earthquake By Knowing What to Do Before, During, After a Major Earthquake."

-- A Comprehensive Guide to Family Preparedness by City of L.A. Emergency Management Department
-- Staying Safe Where the Earth Shakes - Southern California Coast Edition by Earthquake Country Alliance.

Also see: Significant Earthquakes in Los Angeles County