A severe earthquake is a frightening and destructive phenomenon of nature and its terrible aftereffects can leave people injured and in many cases homeless without needed supplies.
An earthquake (also known as a tremor or temblor) is the Earth's continental plates moving slowly over, under, and past each other. Sometimes, the continental plate movement is gradual resulting in a tremor and at other times an abrupt shift results in an earthquake. Earthquakes occur because the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy; when the built-up energy grows strong enough, the plates push free.
When earthquakes occur in a populated area, the outcome may be many injuries, deaths, and extensive property damage.
Earthquake Kit Checklist:
- Emergency water
- Survival food rations
- Breathing protection
- Emergency light (flashlights and lanterns)
- Emergency shelter (blankets, tents, etc)
- Emergency communication (radio - crank, solar, battery powered)
- Emergency first aid
- Emergency tools
- Emergency warmth
- Emergency sanitation and hygiene
Earthquake Preparedness Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an earthquake hazard:
A sudden slipping or movement of a
portion of the earth's crust,
accompanied and followed by a series of vibrations.
An earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake.
The fracture across which displacement has occurred during an earthquake.
The slippage may range from less than
an inch to more than 10 yards in a severe
The place on the earth's surface
directly above the point on the fault
where the earthquake rupture began.
Once fault slippage begins, it expands
along the fault during the earthquake
and can extend hundreds of miles before
Vibrations that travel outward from the earthquake fault at speeds of several
miles per second. Although fault slippage directly under a structure can
cause considerable damage, the vibrations
of seismic waves cause most of the
destruction during earthquakes.
The amount of energy released during
an earthquake, which is computed from
the amplitude of the seismic waves. A
magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale
indicates an extremely strong earthquake.
Each whole number on the scale represents
an increase of about 30 times more energy
released than the previous whole number
represents. Therefore, an earthquake
measuring 6.0 is about 30 times more
powerful than one measuring 5.0. The largest earthquake ever recorded occurred near Santiago, Chile, in 1960. Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, the quake measured an impressive 9.5 on the Richter scale. More recently was the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake which was recorded at 9.1 on the Richter Scale and generating a formidable tsunami which damaged much of the coastline of Southeast Asia.
Before an Earthquake
The following are things you can do prior to an earthquake to
protect yourself, your family, and your
- Hold earthquake drills regularly with your family
members: Drop, cover, and hold on!
- Locate and identify safe spots in each room of your home or business (e.g.) under
a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Store your emergency earthquake kit and earthquake supplies in a safe central location that will be accessble after an earthquake. Be sure each member of the home or business is aware of these locations and reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Ensure that you have an Earthquake Emergency Preparedness Kit & Supplies accessible for you and each member of your household.
- Should an earthquake occur when you are away from home, having an earthquake kit in your car and another earthquake kit at work may be critical to your comfort and survival.
- If you have school aged children, don’t forget to make sure that their schools have adequate earthquake kits and earthquake supplies. Many schools have an earthquake plan but no earthquake supplies or classroom earthquake kits to support the plan.
- Have defective electrical
wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible
utility connections repaired by a professional. (Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself, leave this to a professional.)
- Have an emergency tool with a gas main shut-off notch and water main shut-off notch, like the
4-in-1 Emergency Tool (72060) included with your Earthquake Emergency Kit and know how to use it.
- To avoid gas or water leaks install flexible pipe fittings as flexible fittings
are more resistant to breakage.
- Bolt down and secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace,
and gas appliances to the wall studs. If recommended by
your gas company, have an automatic gas
shut-off valve installed that is triggered
by strong (seismic) vibrations.
- Be sure to brace
tall top-heavy objects like shelves with straps or wall mount brackets and place large or heavy objects on lower
shelves and fasten mirrors and
large picture frames to walls.
- Store bottled foods, glass, china,
and other breakables on lower shelves or
in cabinets that fasten shut.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures with proper and secure fitted anchor screws.
- Be sure the residence is firmly anchored
to the foundation and when appropriate have the foundation inspected.
During an Earthquake
Minimize your movements during an earthquake
to a few steps to a nearby safe place.
Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped
and you are sure exiting is safe.
If you are Indoors:
- Take cover under a sturdy desk,
table, or bench or against
an inside wall, and hold on. If there
a table or desk
near you, cover your face and head
with your arms and
crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside
doors and walls, and anything that
could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
- Stay in bed—if you are there
when the earthquake
strikes—hold on and protect your
head with a pillow,
unless you are under a heavy
light fixture that could fall.
In that case, move to the nearest safe
- Use a doorway for shelter only if
it is in close proximity
to you and if you know it is
a strongly supported, loadbearing
- Stay inside until the shaking stops
and it is safe to go
outside. Most injuries during
earthquakes occur when
people are hit by falling objects
when entering into or
exiting from buildings.
- Be aware that the electricity may
go out or the sprinkler
systems or fire alarms may
- DO NOT use the elevators.
you are Outdoors during an Earthquake:
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, streetlights,
and utility wires.
If you are in a moving vehicle:
- Stop as quickly as safety permits
and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping
near or under buildings, trees, overpasses,
and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake
watching for road and bridge damage.
Trapped under debris:
- Do not light a match.
- Do not move about or kick up dust.
- Cover your mouth with a handkerchief
- Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers
can locate you. Use a
whistle if one is available.
Shout only as a last resort—
shouting can cause you to inhale
dangerous amounts of
After an Earthquake
- After an earthquake you may be left with only the emergency survival supplies you have on hand. Without an earthquake kit or earthquake supplies, you may be left without the basics for survival for hours, days or longer.
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
These secondary shockwaves are usually
less violent than the main quake but
can be strong enough to do additional
damage to weakened structures.
- Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of
objects that can fall off shelves.
- Stay away from damaged areas unless
your assistance has been specifically
requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
- Be aware of possible tsunamis if you
live in coastal areas. These are also known
as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called “tidal
waves”). When local authorities
issue a tsunami warning, assume that
a series of dangerous waves is on the
way. Stay away from the beach.
If you require more information about any
of these topics, the following are
resources that may be helpful.
A Checklist for Homeowners. Safety tips for before, during, and
after an earthquake
in High-Rise Buildings.
FEMA-76. Earthquake safety tips for high-rise
to Live in Earthquake Country: Preparedness
in Apartments and Mobile Homes. L-143.
Safety tips on earthquake preparation for
residents of apartments and mobile
Earthquake Safety Home Hazard Hunt and
Drill. FEMA-113. How to identify home
hazards; how to conduct earthquake drills
Preparedness: What Every Childcare Provider
Should Know. FEMA 240. Publication for
teachers and for presentation to children.
Available online at www.fema.gov/kids/tch_eq.htm