Earthquake Preparedness

Q: During an Earth Quake (EQ), should you head for the doorway?

Ans: Yes, only if you live in an old, unreinforced adobe. In modern homes, doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the house and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you. You are safer practicing the duck, cover, and hold under a sturdy piece of furniture.

Q: What emergency supplies do I need?


  1. Fire extinguisher
  2. Adequate supplies of medications that you or family members are taking.
  3. Crescent and pipe wrenches to turn off gas and water supplies.
  4. First-aid kit and handbook.
  5. Flashlights with extra bulbs and batteries.
  6. Portable radio with extra batteries.
  7. Water for each family member for at least 3 days (allow at least 1 gallon per person per day) and purification tablets or chlorine bleach to purify drinking water from other sources.
  8. Canned and package foods, enough for several days and MECHANICAL can opener. Extra food for pets if necessary.
  9. Camp stove or barbecue to cook on outdoors (store fuel out of the reach of children).
  10. Waterproof, heavy-duty plastic bags for waste disposal.

Q: How can I plan ahead for an Earth Quake?


  1. Make sure each member of your family knows what to do no matter where they are when EQs occur:
    • Establish a meeting place where you can all reunite afterward.
    • Find out about EQ plans developed by children's school or day care.
    • Remember transportation may be disrupted, keep some emergency supplies--food, liquids, and comfortable shoes, for example--at work.
  2. Know where you gas, electric and water main shutoffs are and how to turn them off if there is a leak or electrical short. Make sure older members of the family can shut off utilities.
  3. Locate your nearest fire and police stations and emergency medical facility.
  4. Talk to your neighbors--how could they help you, or you them after an EQ.
  5. Take Red Cross First Aid and CPR Training Course.

Q: What should I do during an EQ?


  1. If you are indoors--stay there! (Get under a desk or table and hang on to it, or move into a hallway or get against an inside wall. Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, and heavy furniture or appliances. Get out of the kitchen, which is a dangerous place (things can fall on you). Do not run downstairs or rush outside while the building is shaking or while there is danger of falling and hurting yourself or being hit by falling glass or debris.
  2. If you are outside--, get into the open, away from building, power lines, chimneys, and anything else that might fall on you.
  3. If you are driving--stop, but carefully. Move your car as far out of traffic as possible. Do not stop on or under a bridge or overpass or under trees, light posts, power lines, or signs. Stay inside your car until the shaking stops. When you resume driving watch for breaks in the pavement, fallen rocks, and bumps in the road at bridge approaches.
  4. If you are in a mountainous area--watch out for falling rock, landslides, trees, and other debris that could be loosened by quakes.

Q: Things Not to do during an EQ?


  1. Do not turn on the gas again if you turned it off; let the gas company do it.
  2. Do not use matches, lighters, camp stoves or barbecues, electrical equipment, appliances until you are sure there are no gas leaks. They may create a spark that could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion and fire.
  3. Do not use your telephone, except for a medical or fire emergency. You could tie up the lines needed for emergency response. If the phone doesn't work send someone for help.
  4. Do not expect firefighters, police or paramedics to help you. They may not be available.

Q: What can I expect in my house when an EQ occurs? How do I identify it? What can be done?

Ans: The contents of your home may be damaged and can be dangerous:

  1. Shaking can make light fixtures fall, refrigerators and other large items move across the floor, and bookcases and television sets topple over. Identify: Look around your house for things that could fall or move.
  2. Ask yourself if your cupboard doors fly open (allowing dishes to shatter on the floor)

What Can Be Done: You can install door latches, braces and fasteners to fix most of these hazards yourself.

Q: What do I do after an earthquake?


  1. Wear sturdy shoes to avoid injury from broken glass and debris. Expect aftershocks.
  2. Check for injuries (if a person is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound, use clean gauze or cloth if available; If a person is not breathing administer CPR; Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger of injury; cover injured persons with blankets to keep warm; seek medical help for serious injuries.
  3. Check for hazards (Fire hazards--put out fires in your home or neighborhood immediately, call for help; Gas leaks--shut off main gas valve only if you suspect a leak because of broken pipes or odor; Damaged electrical wiring--Shut off power at the control box if there is any danger to house wiring; Downed or damaged utility lines--do not touch downed power lines or any objects in contact with them; spills--clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other harmful materials such as bleach, lye, gas; downed or damaged chimneys--Approach with caution--don't use damaged chimney (it could start fire or let poisonous gases into your house; fallen items--beware of items tumbling off shelves when you open doors of closets and cupboards; (4) check food and water supplies--Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass; If power is off, plan meals to use up foods that will spoil quickly or frozen foods (food in the freezer should be good for at least a couple of days; Don't light your kitchen stove if you suspect a gas leak; Use BBQ or camp stoves, outdoors only for emergency cooking; If your water is off you can drink supplies from water heaters, melted ice cubes or canned vegetables (Avoid drinking water from swimming pools or especially spas--it may have too many chemicals in it to be safe.) .

Q: What are the steps to EQ safety/awareness?


  1. Estimate what EQ of what size are likely to occur (geology).
  2. Given the EQ size we then estimate what the shaking will be (seismology).
  3. Given the shaking, we estimate the response of different types of buildings (EQ engineering). Only with all these steps can we take steps as society to enact bldg. codes and retrofitting programs to make our community safer.

Q: What are part of the earthquake Supplies and Equipment Checklist?

Ans: When organizing supplies for an earthquake, remember that you need to get to them after an earthquake has turned your house into mess. Store supplies in an easy to find location that has a minimal chance of being buried under falling objects. If you are short on space, a large trashcan makes an excellent storage container. If you live in an apartment, the container can be hidden under a decorative tablecloth. Earthquakes can happen at any time. Are you prepared right now? Have you rotated your food supplies in the last six months? If not, make time on your calendar. Do it now!

  • Work Gloves.
  • Ax / Maul (min. 6 lb.).
  • Shovel (flat head and pointed).
  • Broom.
  • Hammer and Nails.
  • Screwdrivers.
  • Crowbar or Claw Tool (36" or Longer).
  • Plastic Sheeting Rolls (4 Mil. IO' X 25').
  • Plastic Garbage Bags (Heavy Duty, 30 Gal. or Larger).
  • Small and Large Plastic Bags.
  • Coils of Rope 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" (25' - 50').
  • Coil of Wire.
  • Tent (Family or Tube Type).
  • Tarp (PVC or Canvas, Minimum Two, 8' X IO').
  • Sleeping Bags, Blanket, or Space Blanket.
  • Cheese Cloth (To Strain Particles From Water).
  • CASH MONEY (Small Denominations & Coin).
  • Dry Food.
  • Water.
  • Clothing.
  • Walking Shoes and Socks Local Road Map.
  • Fire Extinguisher (We recommend a dry chemical type with a minimum size rating of 2A -IOBC, with an earthquake restraining strap, a hose type nozzle, and a metal head).
  • Compass.
  • Flashlight With Batteries, Chemical Light Sticks and Matches, In Waterproof Container.
  • Small Radio (Battery Powered Portable).
  • Entertainment Pack - Family Photos, Notebooks, Literature, and Games.

Q: What are the sanitation supplies one need to carry during the EQ?


  1. Plastic Bags - heavy duty garbage can size and smaller zip-lock types
  2. Powdered Chlorine Lime - (proper storage is required, it is an oxidizer and it is corrosive)
  3. Portable Camp Toilet with Chemicals
  4. Tissue Paper
  5. Handi-wipes, Wet-N-Drys, etc. for water free cleanup
  6. Toilet Supplies - Towelettes, Shampoo, Toothpaste, Deodorant, Sanitary Napkins, Etc.
  7. Insect Sprays
  8. Q: What are the structural precautions one can take while constructing house to avoid the risk of EQ?


    • Strengthen the connections between ceilings, walls and floors using the appropriate hardware (image at right).
    • Inspect all exposed framing in garages, basements, porches and patio covers. 
    • Strengthen this where necessary.
    • Brick and Masonry Facades:
    • Check all brick, masonry and stone facades to make sure they are securely attached to your home. Consult a structural engineer for advice on how to do this.
    • One of the most common types of damage suffered in earthquakes is toppled chimneys. This becomes extremely dangerous when bricks penetrate the roof and fall to the rooms below.
    • Check the chimney for loose mortar, flue or bricks.
    • Reinforce the ceiling surrounding the chimney with 3/4" plywood nailed to the beams. This will provide protection from failing bricks that might break through the roof.
    • Inspect all large plate glass windows to make sure they are safety glass.
    • Consider adding a safety film to all windows. This does not prevent the window from breaking, but it does keep the glass from falling and injuring loved ones.
    • Homes that have been framed in wood are generally quite resistant to earthquake damage. Watching tall trees in a strong wind storm demonstrates this resistance. It is unlikely that conventionally-frame houses will collapse. This is the case only if the home remains on its foundations and the roof, ceiling and walls remain connected.

    The majority of residential structural damage is caused by homes sliding off their foundations during major earthquakes.

    • Check your house and garage for foundation bolts. These bolts secure the wood structure to the concrete foundation. They are placed approximately six feet apart along the sill plate and should look like the one illustrated.
    • Using a hammer drill and a carbide bit, drill a hole through the sill plate into the foundation. Place these holes every six feet. Drop a 1/2" X 8" expansion bolt into the holes and finish by tightening the nut and washer.

    Cripple Walls:

    • Inspect the vertical studs that extend from the foundation to the first floor of your home. These are called cripple walls. If they are exposed on the inside, they could buckle in the severe ground motion that accompanies many large earthquakes.
    • Strengthen the cripple walls by nailing plywood sheeting to the vertical studs.
    • Inspect the garage for exposed cripple walls. This is particularly important if the garage is supporting living quarters.

    Mobile Homes:

    • It is relatively easy for a mobile home to be thrown off its supports during an earthquake, even those that produce relatively minor shaking. Leave the wheels on the coach to limit its fall. Check the undercarriage to make sure that it has been securely tied to the foundation.
    • Tie double-wide mobile homes together. The two halves generally are of different weights. Because of this, they move differently in an earthquake and can easily pull apart.
    • Seismic bracing systems are commercially available. Be sure that any system you are interested in has been CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certified and inspected by the appropriate local authorities.

    Q: What should one do when people comeback home from the disaster?

    Ans: Returning home after a major disaster can be both dangerous and difficult. Do not return home until authorities have indicated that it is safe to do so.

    Remember that it takes a long time to recover from a disaster. Take your time and pace yourself. Plan a reasonable amount of activity each day. Include children in clean-up and recovery activities. Watch for signs of stress in yourself and family members. If you can't shake feelings of despair, get professional help. While life will not be the same as before the disaster happened, you can and will recover.

    The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely. If after a disaster you have to leave town, take your pet with you. Pets are unlikely to survive on their own.

    Try to stay at home and avoid driving to keep roads clear for emergency workers.

    If you have appropriate insurance, call your agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

    Before entering a damaged building:

    • Put on a sturdy shoes and work gloves for protection against glass or other debris.
    • Check exterior, roof and chimney for structural damage.
    • Stay away from fallen or damaged electrical wires. They could still be alive. Do not carry lanterns or torches that could start a fire.
    • If you have any doubts about safety, have your home inspected by a professional before entering.
    • Keep a battery operated radio with you to hear any emergency updates

    Upon entering:

    • Check for injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
    • Extinguish all open flames.
    • Until phone service is fully restored, use the phone only for a life-threatening emergency.
    • Check utilities and appliances:

    Check gas supply:

    If you smell, gas or hear a blowing or hissing sound, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

    Check electricity:

    If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker; call an electrician first for advice.

    Check sewage and water lines:

    If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

    Checking Electrical Appliances

    If any of the electrical appliances are wet, turn off the main power switch in the house. Unplug the appliance, dry it out, then reconnect it and turn off the main power switch back on.

    If fuses or circuits blow when the electrical power is restored, turn off the main power switch again and inspect for short circuits in the home wiring or appliances. Call a professional if the problem continues to occur.

    Cleaning Up:

    • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids.
    • Try to protect your home from further damage. Open windows and doors. Patch holes.
    • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. The mud left behind by floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals.
    • If your basement is flooded, pump it out gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid damage. The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still waterlogged.
    • Throw out food, cosmetics and medicines that have come into contact with flood waters.