Earthquake Safety 101

This story first appeared Oct. 5, 2012. We are re-posting in the wake of the 6.0 Napa earthquake.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, preparing for one doesn't have to be difficult. Here are some basic actions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones if needed.

Make a Plan

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
  • Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for help.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe spots in your home to "drop, cover and hold."
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
  • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher, and show them where it's kept.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Conduct a home hazard hunt.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a disaster supplies kit.
  • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
  • Eliminate hazards by securing your furniture. Unsecured furniture may fall on you during an earthquake.
  • Inform others, like babysitters or caregivers, of your emergency plan.

What Should I Do During an Earthquake?

  • If you are indoors when the shaking starts, drop, cover and hold. Move as little as possible.
  • If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold. Protect your head with a pillow. Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and until it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator, in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
  • Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.

If You Are Outside When the Shaking Starts

  • Find a clear spot and drop to the ground.
  • Stay there until the shaking stops, away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights.
  • If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.

If You Are in a Vehicle When the Shaking Starts

  • Pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines, if possible.
  • Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
  • If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance.

Let Your Family Know You're Safe

  • Register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website available through to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don't have Internet access, call 1-800-REDCROSS to register yourself and your family.
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