Earthquakes worldwide are increasing in frequency: Do you know what to do during an earthquake?

  • Earthquakes increasing in size, frequency, and intensity
  • Think you don’t live in an earthquake zone? Think again!
  • How can you prepare before an earthquake?
  • What should you do during an earthquake?
  • Should you drop, cover, and hold on?
  • What should you do after an earthquake?

On September 8, 2017, on the border between the North American and Cocos Plates, an 8.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico. The quake was felt in Austin, Texas. Buoys up the west coast of the North American Plate, across the Aleutian Islands, and down into Japan went into alert mode.

In all probability, the quake was much larger than the magnitude reported by the USGS, who for many years now, have been downgrading and dropping quakes from the charts. Inland quake swarms are occurring in such places as Yellowstone, Idaho, the Midwest, and many other states and countries around the world.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is under increasing stress and earthquakes are appearing in places not previously known to be earthquake prone.

Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared. Geraldo Rivera

These are changing times we live in and regardless of where you live, an earthquake could strike at any time. The following advice is from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on what to do if an earthquake hits your community:

Before an Earthquake

Before an earthquake occurs, secure items that could fall or move and cause injuries or damage (for example, bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures, televisions, computers, hot water heaters).

Move beds away from windows and secure any hanging items over beds, couches, cribs or other places people sit or lie.

Practice how to “Drop, cover, and hold on!”

duck cover and hold on

Plan and practice how to drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your arms, and if a safer place is nearby that you can get to without exposing yourself to flying debris, crawl to it and hold on to maintain cover. To react quickly, you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.

Store critical supplies (for example, water, medication) and documents

Plan how you will communicate with family members, including multiple methods by making a family emergency communication plan. Consult a structural engineer to evaluate your home and ask about updates to strengthen areas that would be weak during an earthquake. When choosing your home or business to rent or buy, check if the building is earthquake resistant per local building codes.

During an Earthquake

If you are inside a building:

  • Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground before the earthquake drops you!
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
  • If you are in danger from falling objects and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.
  • If no sturdy shelter is nearby, crawl away from windows, next to an interior wall. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
  • Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops.
  • Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.

 If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible:

  • If getting safely to the floor will be difficult, actions before an earthquake to secure or remove items that can fall or become projectiles should be a priority to create spaces.
  • Identify an area away from windows and objects that could fall on you.
  • The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels, bend over, and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

If you are in bed when you feel the shaking:

If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

If you are outside when you feel the shaking:

If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, “Drop, cover, and hold on.” Stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking:

  • It is difficult to control a vehicle during the shaking. If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible 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 the earthquake may have damaged.

After an earthquake

When the shaking stops, look around.

  • If the building is damaged and there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
  • Check for injuries and provide assistance if you have training. Assist with rescues if you can do so safely.


If you are near the coast, learn about tsunamis in your area. If you are in an area that may have tsunamis, when the shaking stops, walk inland and to higher ground immediately. Monitor official reports for more information on the area’s tsunami evacuation plans.

Post-disaster clean-up

Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.

Be prepared to “Drop, cover, and hold on” in the event of aftershocks. ttps://


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