Photo: San Francisco earthquake

Photograph by Michael K. Nichols

Earthquakes are a common occurrence, rumbling below Earth's surface thousands of times every day. But major earthquakes are less common. Here are some things to do to prepare for an earthquake and what to do once the ground starts shaking.

Safety Tips

  • Have an earthquake readiness plan.
  • Consult a professional to learn how to make your home sturdier, such as bolting bookcases to wall studs, installing strong latches on cupboards, and strapping the water heater to wall studs.
  • Locate a place in each room of the house that you can go to in case of an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you.
  • Keep a supply of canned food, an up-to-date first aid kit, 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of water per person, dust masks and goggles, and a working battery-operated radio and flashlights.
  • Know how to turn off your gas and water mains.

If Shaking Begins

  • Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit.
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you.
  • Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay in the car until the shaking stops.

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