An earthquake is a result of a sudden release of energy in the earth’s crust that creates seismic waves, or rapid shaking of the earth. The magnitude and location of earthquakes often vary. Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and they can occur at any time of the year, day or night. 

According to the American Red Cross, forty-five states and territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes, and they are located in every region of the country.

Earthquake warning systems have been developed that can provide regional notification of an earthquake in progress. These warnings generally occur just before the ground surface has begun to move, potentially allowing people within the system’s range to seek shelter before the earthquake’s impact is felt. Earthquakes can still cause a number of additional natural disasters that include:

In general, most earthquakes form part of a sequence, related to each other in terms of location and time. Here are some ways you can keep your family safe in the midst of an earthquake:

Preparing for an Earthquake

Secure your home by identifying hazards and securing movable items. Install flood detectors and always have a working smoke alarm in case of other disasters that occur alongside earthquakes. Consider a monitored smoke detector from Protect America


Our disaster sensors are specifically designed to sense danger in order to keep your family safe. A monitored smoke detector will call for help as soon as it realizes any potential danger, saving you precious moments in the event of an emergency. 


Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency. Rehearse your plan with your family in the event of a disaster. Make sure everyone knows where to go and what to take, if there is time. For example, keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed in case the earthquake strikes in the middle of the night. Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations. You can put together an emergency supply bag that might include the following items, just in case an emergency evacuation may occur:

  • First Aid Kit
  • 3-Day Supply of Drinking Water
  • 3-Day Supply of Non-perishable Food
  • Can Opener
  • Flashlight With Extra Batteries
  • Multi-purpose Tool
  • Matches, Whistle, and Duct Tape
  • Sanitation and Personal Hygiene Items
  • Cell Phone and Chargers
  • A Map
  • Copies of Personal Documents (birth certificates, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, insurance policies, medication lists, social security cards, etc.)
  • Two-way Radios

Consider minimizing your financial hardship in the event of a natural disaster by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance. Mobile homes and houses not attached to their foundations are particularly dangerous in areas where earthquakes are prevalent, such as areas of Southern California.

Survival and Recovery

During an earthquake, if you are caught in your home or indoors, get under a sturdy piece of furniture until it passes. It will help shelter you from falling objects that could severely injure you during an earthquake. Remember, doorways are in no way stronger than any other part of the house. Do not rely on them for safety! Stay away from windows and chandeliers, or precarious glass objects that could shatter. Stay indoors until the shaking stops, then exit when you are positive it is safe. Never use the elevator immediately following an earthquake. In many cases, power outages or aftershocks occur.

If you are outside when an earthquake occurs, find a clear spot away from trees, buildings and power lines. Crouch as close as you can to the ground until the shaking stops. If you are in a vehicle, do not get out. Avoid bridges or overpasses. Pull over to a stop until the shaking stops. If something falls on your vehicle, stay in the car until help arrives. If you are in the mountains or cliffs, beware of landslides.

After an earthquake, expect and prepare for aftershocks or tsunamis. Stay away from damaged areas and try to extinguish any small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake. When driving, beware of any traffic light outages.