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An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks deep underneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes can happen without warning and can result in injuries and damage to property and roads. Earthquakes can cause fires, tsunamis, landslides or avalanches. While they can happen anywhere, areas at higher risk for earthquakes include California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Mississippi Valley.

If an earthquake happens, protect yourself right away. 

  • If you are in a car, pull over and stop. Set your parking brake.
  • If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
  • If you are outdoors, stay outdoors away from buildings.
  • Do not get in a doorway.
  • Do not run outside.

Stay Safe During an Earthquake: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Stay Safe During an Earthquake: Drop, Cover, and Hold On 

Drop: Wherever you are, drop down on to your hands and knees. If you’re using a wheelchair or walker with a seat, make sure your wheels are locked and remain seated until the shaking stops.

Cover: Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows). Crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris. Stay on your knees or bent over to protect vital organs.

Hold on: If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves. If seated and unable to drop to the floor, bend forward, cover your head with your arms and hold on to your neck with both hands.

Prepare Before an Earthquake

The best time to prepare for any disaster is before it happens.

  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with family and coworkers.
  • Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.
  • Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated.
  • Make a supply kit that includes enough food and water for at least three days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher and a whistle.
  • Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.
  • Consider making improvements to your building to fix structural issues that could cause your building to collapse during an earthquake.

Stay Safe After an Earthquake

If an earthquake has just happened, there can be serious hazards such as damage to the building, leaking gas and water lines, or downed power lines.

  • Expect aftershocks to follow the main shock of an earthquake.
  • Check yourself to see if you are hurt and help others if you have training. Learn how to be the help until help arrives.
  • If you are in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building. Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • If you are trapped, protect your mouth, nose and eyes from dust. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall or use a whistle instead of shouting to help rescuers locate you.
  • If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.
  • Text messages may be more reliable than phone calls.
  • Once you are safe, listen to local news reports for emergency information and instructions via battery-operated radio, TV, social media or from cell phone text alerts. 
  • Be careful during post-disaster cleanup 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 cleanup.
  • Register on the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” website so people will know you are okay.


Associated Content

Build A Kit

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own foodwater and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

Make sure your emergency kit is stocked with the items on the checklist below. Most of the items are inexpensive and easy to find and any one of them could save your life. Headed to the store? Download a printable version to take with you. Once you take a look at the basic items consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets or seniors.

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

To assemble your kit store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)

Additional Emergency Supplies

Since Spring of 2020, the CDC has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu.

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
  • Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler's checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Maintaining Your Kit

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.
  • Replace expired items as needed.
  • Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Kit Storage Locations

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and cars.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
  • Car: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.





Emergency Bag:

Emergency Bag



Watch the following educational videos:

Seismologist Explains How to Prepare for a Massive Earthquake 

Seismologist Explains How to Prepare for a Massive Earthquake 



How to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake 

How to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake 



10 Ways to Survive an Earthquake, According to Experts 

10 Ways to Survive an Earthquake, According to Experts 



Prepare a Family Emergency Plan

Prepare a Family Emergency Plan 



How to Prepare in Case of a Tsunami 

How to Prepare in Case of a Tsunami 



How to Prepare a First Aid Kit 

How to Prepare a First Aid Kit 





Cómo protegerse en caso de terremoto Defensa Civil San Juan

Folleto titulado "Cómo protegerse en caso de terremoto" preparado por el geomorfólogo José Molinelli Freytes para el Municipio de San Juan durante la incumbencia de Héctor Luis Acevedo como alcalde de la ciudad capital (1989-1996).



Manual Terremotos Maremotos En Puerto Rico - Guía de Mitigación de Daños - 2002



Rehabilitacion Sismica de Casas en Zancos - 2013

Documento titulado "Rehabilitacion sísmica de casa en zancos" preparado en 2013 por José A. Cruzado, Ricardo R. López Rodríguez e Yvonne González Avellanet del Programa de Movimiento Fuerte, Departamento de Ingeniería Civil y Agrimensura, Universidad de Puerto Rico en Mayagüez. Según la introducción del documento:"Dado el inminente peligro en la que se encuentran estas residencias en zancos los autores se han dado a la tarea de preparar esta guía para la rehabilitación estructural de estas residencias con la esperanza de que los jefes de familias, ahora consientes de la gran amenaza sísmica a la que están continuamente sometidas, tomen acción firme y urgente, y se decidan reforzar las mismas, según esta guía, antes de que ocurra el próximo gran terremoto."

Rehabilitacion Sismica de Casas en Zancos - 2013



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