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Content developed in collaboration with National Organization on Disability's Emergency Preparedness Initiative


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An earthquake is a sudden slipping or movement of a portion of the earth's crust, accompanied by a series of vibrations.

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

  • See Get A Kit and Make A Plan for general information
  • Discuss special needs you may have during an earthquake with your support network and plan accordingly
  • Bolt down and secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances to wall studs
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves
  • Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls
  • Brace high and top-heavy objects
  • Anchor overhead light fixtures
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall

How to Respond to an Earthquake

  • If you are indoors:
    • If you are able:
      • Seek shelter under a sturdy table or desk; stay away from outer walls, windows, fireplaces, and hanging objects
      • Cover your neck and head to protect from falling objects
      • Hold on until shaking is over
    • If you are confined to a wheelchair:
      • Try to get under a doorway or into an inside corner
      • Lock the wheels
      • Remove any items that are not securely attached to the wheelchair
      • Cover your head with your arms
    • If you are unable to move from a bed or a chair, protect yourself from falling objects by covering up with blankets and pillows
  • If you are outdoors:
    • Go to an open space away from buildings, power lines, and anything else that could fall on you
  • If you are driving:
    • Stop away from a bridge, overpass, tree, light post, power line, or sign
    • Stay inside your car until the shaking stops
  • The duration of the earthquake will depend on how close you are to the center and may be anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes
  • Be prepared for aftershocks, secondary shockwaves that can be strong enough to damage weakened structures
  • If you become trapped under debris: cover your mouth, avoid moving around and kicking up dust, tap on a pipe or wall, and shout only as a last resort

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