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    How to Survive an Earthquake: A Beginner’s Guide

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    How to Survive an Earthquake: A Beginner's Guide

    Every region on Earth has the potential for some kind of disaster such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and extreme temperatures, just to name a few. However, earthquakes are a completely different beast from the rest because they have the potential to happen anywhere with disastrous, widespread effects. This is why everyone should prepare for earthquakes even if they don't live on a major fault line. 

    What many people may not realize is that earthquakes happen all the time, almost every single day. The majority of these are so minor that they go unnoticed unless you have special equipment to monitor them. It isn’t until a large one happens that we take notice, but by then it can be too late. To help you be prepared, this article will outline what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.

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    Before An Earthquake 

    Like most disasters, getting through an earthquake safely will depend a lot on what you do before it happens. The good news is that if you are into being prepared for emergencies, then a lot of the groundwork has already been laid. 

    Spread Out Your Supplies 

    There is an old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It is best to spread out your supplies and kits as much as possible. During an earthquake, structures become damaged, so your supplies won't do you much good if they're all in a house that has completely collapsed.

    It's a good idea to further split up supplies and kits at home in case just part of the home becomes inaccessible or damaged beyond repair. Some people get this idea wrong and put all of one type of supply in one location. For example, they put all their water in the garage, all their food in the kitchen, and all their medical supplies in the basement.

    If just one of these areas becomes inaccessible due to an earthquake, then you won't have any of that particular item.  The important thing to remember about this is to make full survival kits and spread those kits throughout the property such as in the garage, basement, pantry, closets, bedrooms, attic, and somewhere outside like a backyard shed.  

    Items To Include In An Earthquake Survival Kit 


    Food and Water

    Heat and Cooking

    Light and Power

    Building Damaged By Earthquake


    Temperature Management



    Now that you've seen the earthquake survival kit checklist, I'd like to highlight a few of the items.

    Emergency Whistle – An emergency whistle is a highly underrated item in survival kits. They require little effort to use, and they are extremely loud. Very helpful in attracting attention, especially if you become trapped within a collapsed structure. Everyone in your group should have one, especially kids, and everyone should know that three individual blasts from a whistle are the international signal for help.  

    Fire Protection – Invest in fire retardant blankets and plenty of fire extinguishers. Ideally, there should be a fire extinguisher in almost every room and closet in your home. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the home. Test these alarms and replace batteries regularly. 

    Tools – A survival kit at home should have a few basic tools in it, some of which can be used for turning off utilities in the event the main lines are damaged. Be sure you know where utility shutoffs are located, how to shut them off, and if they require a special tool to do so.

    During an emergency, it's considered okay for a property owner to shut off their utilities in the presence of danger. However, it is best practice to have utility companies turn them back on, especially gas lines. Make sure that everyone in your group knows where utility mains are located and how to shut them off.

    Prepare Your Home 

    There are several things you can do to prepare your home and property for an earthquake that will make it safer .

    • Anchor and secure decorations, shelves, and bookcases to the wall and add a lip to shelves to prevent items from falling off.
    • Anchor furniture, appliances, water heaters, and anything else that could become a safety hazard to walls and floors.
    • Replace windows with safety glass or add a shatterproof film/coating to them.
    • Make sure to secure and anchor items in a garage as well.

    Walk around the outside of your home and look for items that could become a hazard during an earthquake and secure them to the best of your ability. 

    Vehicle Kit 

    It is important to have a survival kit in your vehicle in case your home supplies become inaccessible, or you are on the road during an earthquake. Much of the supplies will be the same as your home kit but they may be in a different form or size. Items to include are:

    What To Do During an Earthquake 

    • If you are indoors when an earthquake strikes, position yourself in a doorframe or under a sturdy piece of furniture and stay away from windows and outside walls. 
    • If you are outdoors during an earthquake, get to an area that is as open as possible. Stay away from buildings, trees, towers, and any other overhead hazards that could fall on you. Avoid seeking protection on or under bridges.
    • If you are in your vehicle when an earthquake strikes, pull off to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle.
    • If you are driving on or under a bridge, or inside of a tunnel, drive away from those areas as long as traffic flow allows.
    • If you come upon powerlines that are down, do not drive over them. If power lines are down around or on your vehicle, do not exit the vehicle. Call emergency services and stay inside.
    Earthquake Magnitude Scale

    What Do To After An Earthquake 

    Earthquakes are not always a one and done event. Often there is a larger main quake that can be followed by several smaller tremors. These tremors can happen right away, or they can be spread out over several hours. This is why it is important not to let your guard down after the main quake and to remain vigilant. 

    If you are at home after an earthquake happens, do the following:

    • Shut off any utilities that appear to be damaged such as busted water waters pipes or if you smell gas. If you are unable to shut utilities off and you smell gas, exit your home, get to a safe location, and notify the utility company or emergency services immediately.
    • If it is not an emergency, do not leave your home after an earthquake until you have heard the all-clear from emergency services. Tremors and aftershocks can happen hours after an earthquake and the roads need to remain as open as possible for emergency services to do their job.
    • Due to aftershocks and tremors, do not climb onto structures and be aware of overhead hazards that could still fall down.

    If you are in your vehicle after an earthquake happens do the following:

    • Stay in your vehicle if there are any unsafe conditions outside such as down power lines or any other dangerous debris.
    • If it is safe to do so, move the vehicle away from hazards such as fires, power lines that are down, and any other loose debris that could become a hazard. 
    • Drive extra slow and use caution as there may be debris in roadways and traffic lights may be nonfunctional.
    • Avoid driving on and under bridges or through tunnels until the all-clear has been given by emergency services.

    Earthquakes and Tsunamis

    Another aspect of earthquakes to keep in mind is that when they happen on or near coastal regions, or around large bodies of water, they can also cause tsunamis. 

    A tsunami occurs when a large amount of water is displaced in a large body of water. This displacement creates a series of waves that can be destructive and reach far inland. 

    Know the Warning Signs 

    If you are on a coastline then there is one very clear tsunami warning sign that you should pay attention to and that is a quickly receding waterline. As a tsunami builds, it will pull the coastal waters out into the main body of water. If you notice the water along a coastline receding quickly and more than it should, there is a good chance that a tsunami is on its way.

    Anytime the ground shakes from earthquakes, whether it be locally or from afar, a tsunami can happen. If you live on a coastline, it is critical to stay informed about earthquakes even when they happen a long distance from you. 

    Protect Yourself From Tsunamis 

    If you are around any sufficiently large body of water when the ground shakes, there is the potential of a tsunami occurring and the best course of action is to get to high ground or as far inland as possible. 

    Along with an earthquake survival kit, it is imperative to also have a tsunami survival kit if you live within a coastal region. 

    What To Do After a Tsunami 

    There are all sorts of hazards hidden in the flood waters a tsunami can bring that include but are not limited to power lines that are down, vehicles, broken glass, logs and other natural debris, and sea life. Allow flood waters to recede when possible before traveling, but if you must travel, use extreme caution. 

    Tsunamis can come in several separate waves. Once you are in a safe zone, do not leave it until you hear the all clear signal from emergency services. 


    The above information may not include everything a person will need or should do as it pertains to an earthquake but as a beginner's guide, it should give you a solid foundation. Thanks for reading and stay prepared. 

    If you have any questions or thoughts about earthquake survival, please leave a comment below. 

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