How To Survive in an Earthquake?


đź“ťLAST UPDATED ON October 7, 2018 

According to the American Red Cross, 45 states are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes, and they can strike at any time, without warning. The unpredictable nature of earthquakes makes it difficult for local governments to prepare ahead of time, unlike with hurricanes or floods, when there is advanced notice of impending weather conditions.

Even with the best earthquake response from first responders and authorities, it may take days for help to be available. This is why it is crucial for individuals and families to have their own earthquake preparedness plan in place.

An earthquake may cause:

  • Disruption of communications
  • ​Structural instability in homes and buildings
  • ​Power grid failure may cause long-term power outages
  • ​Difficulty getting food, water, and medical supplies
  • ​ Difficulty with transport, including roads, bridges, fuel supply, and air travel

An earthquake (or other disaster) preparedness plan should include awareness of all these challenges, and plan for them ahead of time. Emergency power may not be available, and advance preparation is your best option.

How to prepare for an earthquake or natural disaster

Before an earthquake strikes

It is best to prepare for an earthquake, disaster, or power grid fails well ahead of time, when you have time to develop a detailed plan and discuss it with your family. Creating a plan in a calm state of mind helps you be more thorough and remember details you may otherwise forget. It also creates the opportunity for you and your family to practice your disaster plan, helping to make sure everyone remembers and follows through should the need arise.

Begin by making an emergency preparedness list and organizing items you need, information you need, and things you need to do. Consider the needs of all your family members: medications, diapers, oxygen tanks or medical devices, mobility concerns, etc.

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Items you need:

  • A first aid kit
  • ​Medications
  • ​Drinking water. To prepare for a 72-hour power outage, keep at least 1 gallon of water per person per day, and no less than a 3 day supply
  • ​Non-perishable food for power outage, including dry goods and canned goods
  • ​Flashlights (one for each family member)
  • ​Batteries​
  • ​Matches
  • ​Unscented candles​​​​​
  • C​rank-powered radio
  • ​Power bank for mobile devices (Solar powered is highly recommended, more info here >>)
  • ​Sanitary and personal hygiene items
  • ​Emergency cash

Information you need:

  • ​Be familiar with your local government and Red Cross emergency response plans
  • ​Be familiar with the emergency response plans at yours and family members' schools and workplaces​
  • ​Know where emergency shelters are likely to be located in your community, and how emergency communications will be managed

Things you need to do:

  • ​Download the NOAA app for your phone or mobile devices and have family members do the same
  • ​Gather all crucial personal, legal, and medical documents. For the best security, keep the originals in a safe deposit box outside your home, copies at home with your emergency supplies, and virtual copies stored online
  • ​Gather all emergency contact information and store a physical copy with your emergency supplies, and virtually on mobile devices
  • ​In order to prepare for a long-term power outage, create a power outage checklist and keep it readily available, so that you can use it when it's needed
  • ​For family members who rely on power-dependent medical devices, research a backup plan in case of a power outage, and include it in your power outage checklist

Once you have developed this emergency power outage kit, structure a plan, and discuss and rehearse it with your family.

During an earthquake:

  • 1
    Stay where you are if possible. Get beneath a heavy piece of furniture and hold on. Try to protect your head and torso
  • 2
    ​Remain indoors until the earthquake has passed, being mindful of aftershocks

Immediately after an earthquake:

  • 1
    Remember that earthquakes are followed by aftershocks, and often by landslides or even tsunamis
  • 2
    Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake and can be difficult to detect because alarms and sprinkler systems may be triggered by the earthquake itself, even when there is no fire present. Look for and extinguish fires and be very alert for the smell of leaking gas
  • 3
    ​Tune in to an emergency broadcast for updates and instructions
  • 4
    ​If you leave your building, use stairs instead of an elevator, and don't step outside until checking overhead for falling debris
  • 5
    ​Review your power outage checklist
  • 6
    ​Turn off and unplug all electronics, appliances, and anything that is plugged in. There may be power surges that damage these devices.
  • 7
    ​Leave one light switch on, so you can tell when power has been restored

Living with a power outage:

It may take several days for power to be restored after an earthquake or natural disaster. This is why it is good to prepare for a power outage and make a power outage checklist ahead of time. We highly recommend you shall get one of these portable solar generators for emergency backup power. During a long-term power outage, remember to:

  • 1
    ​Be cautious with candles, and rely on flashlights for light
  • 2
    ​If you are using a generator for power, be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and practice generator safety
  • 3
    ​Know how to manually open your electric garage door opener
  • 4
    Turn off an unplug all unnecessary equipment, appliances, and electronics to protect them from surges
  • 5
    Leave one light switch on, to alert you when power is restored
  • 6
    ​Reduce travel as much as possible. Traffic lights will be out, and the roads may be hazardous
  • 7
    ​Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible, to contain the cold and preserve your food supply. Consume perishable foods first.

Final Thoughts

Check your list and your emergency supplies at least every year to make sure that batteries are fresh, goods haven’t expired, and that the supplies you have on hand still meet the changing needs of your family. Consider keeping two emergency supply kits: one in the car in case of a disaster that requires evacuation, and one in the home in case of a disaster that requires staying home.

Disaster preparedness can be unpleasant to think about but pays off in peace of mind and knowing that you can take care of yourself and your loved ones in case of an emergency. Adopting these power outage tips and tricks will help you survive an earthquake or natural disaster.