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While Earthquakes are sometimes believed to be a West Coast phenomenon, there are 45 states and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk from earthquakes. An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth, caused by the braking and shifting of subterranean rock.

Since it is not possible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is essential that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.

Prepare for Earthquakes

  • Securely fasten shelves to walls.
  • Keep large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items in lower cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Inspect and repair electrical wiring and gas connections; these can be potential fire hazards during an earthquake.
  • Secure your water heater by strapping it to wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
  • Check your home or building for structural defects and repair cracks in your ceiling and foundation.
  • Keep toxic and flammable items securely stored in cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Identify safe places in your home or office where you will ride out an earthquake. The best protection is under heavy furniture where you are protected from falling debris.
  • Learn how to turn off electricity, gas and water.
  • Get an emergency supply kit.

Plan to act Quickly

  • During or immediately after an earthquake, the best protection is to get under heavy furniture, such as a desk, table or bench, staying away from large windows, mirrors or other glass.
  • The greatest danger is directly outside buildings, at exits and along exterior walls, due to falling debris.
  • If you are already outside, stay clear of buildings, power lines, overpasses and elevated expressways.
  • Most deaths and injuries are due to falling walls, flying glass or debris.
  • Expect aftershocks – smaller quakes (and sometimes larger ones) can often follow hours or days after the initial shake, causing further damage to weakened buildings and structures.
  • Check for gas leaks – if you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing noise, open a window and leave the building immediately; turn off the gas at the outside main valve, if possible and call the gas company.

Stay Informed

Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.

For further information on how to plan, prepare and stay informed about earthquakes, visit: Federal Emergency Management Agency or visit NOAA Watch for more weather-related information.