The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) offers these tips for people to prepare for an earthquake, to survive a quake and to deal with what happens following one:
Before an Earthquake
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property in the event of an earthquake:
— Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
— Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
— Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
— Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.
— Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
— Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
— Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
— Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
— Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover, and hold on!
During an Earthquake
— Minimize your movements during an earthquake to a few steps to a nearby safe place.
— Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
— Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
— Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
— Stay in bed - if you are there when the earthquake strikes - hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
— Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
— Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.
— Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
— DO NOT use the elevators.
— Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
— In a moving vehicle Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
— Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.
After an Earthquake
— Be prepared for aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
— Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
— Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
— Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called “tidal waves”). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.