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Store This, Not That! > Blog > Emergency Preparedness > How to Survive an Earthquake
April 18th, 2016

How to Survive an Earthquake


Did you know there are approximately 5 MILLION earthquakes worldwide each year?  One of the worst happening over the weekend on the coast of Ecuador.  It’s easy to think that earthquakes only affect specific areas of the world, but in reality, the majority of the earth is vulnerable to seismic instability and with all of the people visiting the beaches and Disneyland in California, chances are you will be in earthquake country at some point in your life.  Bottom line: it’s never a bad idea to take precautions against such events.

Debbie lives in California and I grew up in California, waiting for the “big one” is like waiting for a long lost family member to come back.  You don’t know when, but chances are it will happen.  In fact, I remember the San Francisco earthquake and the Northridge Earthquakes when I was younger.  With Ecuador fresh on our minds, it’s good to refresh how to prepare for an earthquake.  If you want tips for preparing children, check out our 5 Ways to Prepare Children for an Earthquake post HERE.



If you live in earthquake country ( or even if you don’t), it’s never a bad idea to take precautions against such events.

  1. Purchase a utility shut-off wrench, and keep it in a handy place–like near the shut-offs so you can turn them off quickly in the event of earthquake damage to the lines.
  2. Make sure there is nothing heavy that can fall on any of the beds in your home.
  3. Bolt or strap bookcases, shelving units, and water heaters to the wall studs behind them.  You can use furniture straps like these and/or Earthquake Museum wax to hold antiques and valuables in place.
  4. Give your home a walkthrough, considering what could fall and how to prevent it.
  5. Protect your food investment.  How awful would it be to store plenty of food and water for your family, and then find only a soggy heap of spoiling food and broken glass after an earthquake.  We love these jar boxes (comes in both quart and pint sizes) or you can get some great ideas from The Survival Mom (including how to use rubberbands (this is what my mom did growing up) or even old socks!)



A surprising number of people–including those in earthquake country, who should take a keen interest in the topic–don’t know what to do when the shaking starts.  But a little foresight could save your life!

  1. Know where to take cover. As a family, assess every room in your house.  Look for the spot that’s likely to be safest in a quake.  (HINT: It’s not the doorway! Despite what you’ve heard over the years, standing in a doorway during a quake is actually a terrible strategy.)  If the room has a sturdy table or desk that would protect you from falling debris, then climb under and hold on to one of the legs until the shaking stops.  Otherwise, you can use the “triangle of life”.  This concept involves the triangular voids that solid objects create amid earthquake debris.  Imagine a ceiling falling in–people who hunker down next to desks and couches are often saved because the objects take the brunt of the weight. Or cover your face and head, and stoop in and inside corner of the building that’s away from possible falling objects.
  2. Avoid windows. Glass moves and breaks in strange patterns during earthquakes, and these broken pieces can be deadly if they fall on you or you fall onto them.
  3. Never hide under the bed. The small space underneath will be made even smaller if the ceiling collapses. If you are in bed during an earthquake, simply roll off the bed and stay near the edge.  Teach your children to never crawl under the bed in an earthquake.
  4. Steer clear of the stairs.  The average stairway is a deathtrap in an earthquake.  Don’t be on or under the stairs during an earthquake. After the earthquake use stairs and NOT an elevator.
  5. If you’re outside, head to an open space that’s away from structures, streetlights, and overhead wires.  The area of highest risk is directly outside any buildings.



You probably know the drill: If you’re inside a building when an earthquake hits, stay there.  If you’re outside, get into a clearing.  But what if you’re driving?

  1. Stop driving, if you’re in a relatively safe spot (not on a bridge or under an overpass).
  2. Pull over.  Look for an area where hazards such as telephone poles, street lights, and yes, even over passes won’t fall.  The more more open the area, the safer it is.
  3. If you’re on a bridge, take the next exit ASAP! And if you’re stuck under an overpass with no way to exit, get out of your car and lie flat beside it  If the structure collapses, it will definitely crush your car, but usually not all the way to the ground.
  4. Be prepared for aftershocks.  Don’t hurry off.  Listen to the radio for updates that may affect your route, and remember to expect accidents and damage all around you.
  5. Make sure you have an emergency car kit in your car.  Check out our post on Emergency Car Kits that Really Work HERE.



If you’re inside and the walls come down, you will need to find ways to helps others get you out.

  1. See a clear path? Then get yourself out.
  2. Stuck? find ways to help others get you out–chances are you won’t be able to get out by yourself.  Let rescuers know where you are by tapping on a pipe or wall.  Use a whistle if you have one.  To avoid inhaling dust, cover your moth and nose with a cloth, and use your voice only as a last resort.
  3. Don’t light a match or lighter.  There could be a gas leak and that would be bad…very, very bad.
  4. Remember people will be looking for you.  Loved ones and friends will not desert you.  Remembering and retaining hope may be the difference between surviving and not.



Surviving the quake doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet.

  1. Fire prevention. If the building you’re in appears to be structurally sound, open doors and windows to ventilate gas fumes or dust.  Avoid using any gas or electrical appliances, since the greatest danger after an earthquake is fire.
  2. Protect your hands and feet.  It’s wise to put on boots or shoes with heavy soles, long pants and a pair of sturdy gloves before you go running out into the street.  In addition, rubberized gloves can block potential electrical hazards. Even better, keep these items under or beside your bed for easy access.


51ATSpO17ZL._SX387_BO1,204,203,200_We got a lot of our great tips from the Outdoor Life’s How to Survive Anything book.  We highly recommend it for your preparedness library.





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