An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock. While earthquakes are sometimes believed to be a West Coast phenomenon, there are actually 45 states and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes including the New Madrid fault line in Central U.S. Since it is impossible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is important that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.
What to Do During an Earthquake
Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. 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.
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 place.
Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside.
Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
DO NOT use the elevators.
Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
If 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 has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
If trapped under debris
Do not light a match.
Do not move about or kick up dust.
Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
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 dust.
What to Do After an Earthquake
Listen to a battery-operated radio or television.
Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
Stay away from damaged areas.
Help injured or trapped persons.
Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.
Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.
Check gas leaks.
Look for electrical system damage.
Check for sewage and water lines damage