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What to Do


During an earthquake

  1. DROP to the ground and get under a table or big sturdy piece of furniture, away from any windows.   
  2. COVER your head and neck with your arms.
  3. HOLD onto the table or furniture item that is protecting your head until the shaking stops.

Stay away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets, heavy mirrors/artwork, hanging plants, and other heavy objects that could fall. Watch out for falling plaster and ceiling tiles. Stay undercover until the shaking stops, and hold onto your cover. If it moves, move with it. Do not stand in a door way inside of a building because the door may close on you.

Tips for specific locations. If you’re:

  • In a HIGH-RISE BUILDING, and not near a desk or table, move against an interior wall and protect your head with your arms. Do not use the elevators. Do not be surprised if the alarm or sprinkler systems come on.  Unless the bldg has suffered structural damage or there is a fire, chemical spill, or gas leak, remain inside. Glass windows can dislodge during the quake and sail for hundreds of feet.
  • OUTDOORS, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, electrical wires, and poles.
  • On a SIDEWALK NEAR BUILDINGS, stand up against a building to avoid falling bricks, glass, plaster, and other debris.  Avoid awnings or overhead fixtures attached to the bldg as they could break loose and fall.
  • DRIVING, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Turn off the engine and set the parking brake.  Turn on the hazard lights.  Avoid overpasses, power lines, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over.
  • In a CROWDED STORE OR OTHER PUBLIC PLACE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall.
  • In a WHEELCHAIR, stay in it. Move to cover, if possible, lock your wheels, and protect your head with your arms.
  • In a KITCHEN, move away from the refrigerator, stove, and overhead cupboard. (Take time NOW to anchor appliances, and install security latches on cupboard doors to reduce hazards.)
  • In a STADIUM OR THEATHER, stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over, and then leave in a calm, orderly manner. Avoid rushing toward exits.

Building Collapse

Stay away from broken windows, heavy lights, and furniture that may move.

Exit only if you are in danger.

  • If you smell gas, leave right away.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Think before you try to move someone. You may cause further injuries to the victim.
  • Follow instructions from safety workers.

What to Do After an Earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks, and plan where you will take cover when they occur.
  • Check for injuries. Give first aid, as necessary.
  • Watch for falling objects. Avoid broken glass and downed power lines.
  • Check for fire. Take appropriate actions and precautions.
  • Check for smell of gas. If you can, shut off the gas. Open windows, leave building, and report to PG&E.  Once turned off, do NOT turn the gas back on yourself.  Call PG&E.
  • Tune to the emergency broadcast station on radio or television. Listen for emergency bulletins on 88.5 FM (KQED), 680 AM (KNBR), 740 AM/106.9 FM (KCBS) and 810 AM (KGO).
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.

Check Utilities

  • Turn off gas only if you smell gas (see diagram below)
  • Identify the main shutoff value which is located on the gas line coming into the main gas meter. This is usually on the exterior of your home or building, or in an external closet. To turn gas off, give the valve a quarter turn in either direction. When the lever crosses the direction of the pipe (i.e., at 90-degree angle), the gas is off.                                           
  • Warning – If you smell gas, do NOT turn on or off any Power switches. Do not use ANY open flame candles, matches, lighters to check for leaks.
  • Once turned off, do NOT turn the gas back on yourself.  Call PG&E.


Gas Shut Off

Turn Off Water

  • Water leaks can cause property damage and create an electrocution hazard.
  • Cracked pipes may allow contaminants into the water supply in your home.
  • After a major earthquake, shut off your water supply to protect the water in your house.
  • The water shutoff is usually located in the basement, garage or where the water line enters the home.
  • The water shutoff is located on a riser pipe and is usually a red or yellow wheel.
  • Turn wheel clockwise to shut off.

Check Electricity

Electrocution can result from direct contact with live wires or anything that has been energized by these wires.

  1. Locate your main electric switch, which is normally in the garage or outdoors in houses, or may be within a cupboard or wall panel within apartment and condominium buildings. The panel box may have a flip switch or pull handle on a large circuit breaker.
  2. Shut off electricity when:
    • Arcing or burning occurs in electrical devices.
    • There is a fire or significant water leak.
    • You smell burning insulation.
    • The area around switches or plugs is blackened and/ or hot to the touch.
    • A complete power loss is accompanied by the smell of burning material.

Electrical Panel


For more information on turning off utilities, go to


What to Do During a Fire


When using a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire, think PASS

  • Pull the pin
  • Aim the Nozzle at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle
  • Sweep foam from side to side

Fire Precautions

  • Get out of the building if you can
  • If you are trapped inside, stay near the floor
  • Go to a window and call for help
  • Set off the fire alarm
  • Close doors and windows to slow down the fire
  • If inside a burning bldg and you’re approaching a door, touch the door handle with the back of your hand first to check if it’s hot.  If opening the door to exit, place your foot firmly on the floor up against the door and open the door slowly.  Exit only if safe to so do.


What to Do During a Power Outage

  • Turn off all appliances and computers.  Unplug them to avoid a power surge when the power comes back on.
  • Leave one light on, to show when power is back on.
  • Do not use candles. Use flashlights.
  • When power is on again, make sure that appliances work properly.
  • If you are cold, bring everyone into one room and close all doors to keep heat in.
  • Drivers: If traffic signals are not working, treat them as stop signs.


What to Do If Someone Is Injured

Do not move the victim unless there is immediate danger.

  • Call 911, if the victim is bleeding or unconscious, tell the operator.
  • Perform First Aid as needed.
  • Remain calm, stay with the victim.

If 911 does not respond due to the extent of the disaster, perform First Aid as needed if it is safe to do so. If the person can be moved, drive them to the nearest medical clinic or hospital that may be open. If the person cannot be moved, try to find someone nearby who can help you. 


Shelter in Place

If instructed to, if you hear Alerting and Warning Sirens, or if you become aware of a hazardous material release, you can shelter in place to stay as safe as possible.  Follow these ten steps:

1) SHELTER – Go inside the nearest building. You are looking for enclosed protection from the outside.

2) SHUT – Close all doors and windows. The tighter and more complete the seal the better. Close as many windows and doors between the outside and your shelter-in place room as possible. Close curtains.  Stay away from the windows.

3) LISTEN – to radio, TV or for public announcements. Critical instructions and important information will be broadcast.

4) Cover mouth and nose with a damp cloth or handkerchief. The damp cloth will help filter airborne hazards and keep you cool.

5) Close all vents and turn off ventilation systems. You want to keep the inside air in and the outside air out.

6) When possible, select rooms above ground level (avoid basements!). Many hazardous materials are heavier than air, and will settle on lower levels.

7) Select an internal room or a room with as few windows as possible. Think of each wall as a filter or barrier. Put as much space and as many walls and closed doors as possible between you and the outside. Seal any cracks, gaps or spaces with damp towels, duct tape, or other barriers. If an internal room is not possible, choose a room facing away from the hazard.

8) When possible, choose a room with bathroom facilities and water. Bring your emergency supplies - you may need to shelter in place for several hours.

9) Turn off all motors and fans. Still, non-moving air is best. Turn off anything that creates wind, generates extra heat, or could generate sparks.

10) Remain sheltered until the “all-clear” signal is given.


Other Important Tips

  • Do not use candles.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in separate locations.
  • Pre-tune radios to emergency frequencies (See Emergency Broadcast Stations listing, top of page, at right).
  • Always keep car fueled.
  • Plan ahead to have emergency chargers for cell phones.


Secure Your Gas Appliances

Your stove, water heater, furnace, clothes dryer, etc., may run on natural gas or propane. Unsecured gas appliances may crush someone or rupture their gas feed line during a quake. If these objects move or topple, the resulting gas leak may destroy your home, which would otherwise have survived with only minor damage.

  1. Secure all gas appliances to a wall stud, and use flexible gas line. The flexible gas line should be longer than necessary to allow for some movement.
  2. The appliance should be secured top and bottom to prevent tipping, rolling and sliding.
  3. Use heavy plumber’s tape or braided cable to secure your water heater to the studs in the wall.


Secure Your Water Heater

In order to prevent movement of your water heater during an earthquake, you need to secure it to the floor and the wall studs behind it. Movement by the water heater can cause gas or water lines to break, destroying a home that otherwise might have survived the earthquake. Also, insure that your gas lines to your appliances are of current flexible designs.

  1. Wrap a 1-1/2-inch-wide, 16-gauge-thick metal strap A around the top of the water heater and bolt the ends together. Do the same about 1/3 of the way up the side of the water heater
  2. Take four lengths of EMT electrical conduit, each no longer than 30 inches. Flatten the ends. Bolt one end to the metal strap as shown B. Screw the other end to a 2-inch by 4-inch stud in the wall using a 5/16- inch by 3-inch lag screw.
  3. Be sure a flexible pipe C is used to connect the gas supply to the heater.


Strapped Water Heater

Secured water heater image courtesy of Ready America Inc.

Text courtesy of US Geological Survey








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