Earthquake Hazards

Preparing in advance of a potential earthquake is the best course of action. This includes ensuring that your home or business is structurally able to withstand an earthquake and that valuables and fixtures are secured. It also means planning for what you will do when an earthquake occurs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends the following actions for earthquake preparation:

  • Identify a safe place, such as under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall within a short distance from your location. Make sure your safe place is away from windows and bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you. Protect your eyes by keeping your head down. Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On in each safe place frequently so it becomes an automatic response. 

  • If you are outside in an earthquake, stay outside. Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Crouch down and cover your head.

  • Wait in your safe place until the shaking stops. Move carefully and watch out for things that have fallen or broken and thus create hazards. Be ready for aftershocks. If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use the stairs, not the elevator.

  • Be on the lookout for fires. Fire is the most common earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released. On the other hand, earthquakes can cause fire alarms and fire sprinklers to go off, even in the absence of a real fire.

If you are an employer, have an emergency plan in advance, train your employees, and practice earthquake drills regularly. 

Basic guidelines for earthquake preparation can be found in the following resources:

Persons in or entering areas and buildings after an earthquake face a variety of potential hazards, including but not limited to electrical hazards, structural hazards, displaced gas and water lines, water system breaks that may flood basement areas, exposure to chemicals such as petroleum products or carbon monoxide, and mold growth from water-impacted building materials. First and foremost, life safety issues, such as ensuring the home or building is structurally sound and avoiding electrical shock or carbon monoxide poisoning, must be considered before any entry or clean-up is initiated.