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What to do when an earthquake hits


The word earthquake makes most people think of the west coast and California in particular; however, according to the Insurance Information Institute, these types of natural disasters have been reported in 39 states, causing damage in all 50 states. They may be rare, but earthquakes can create an enormous amount of physical and property damage. While you can’t exactly predict when one will hit, there are steps you can take to make an unexpected quake a little less traumatic and a little more manageable.


If you live in a high-risk area, take these ten pre and post earthquake suggestions from State Farm Insurance and help keep the damage to a minimum.

Bolt it down

Identify the heavy objects in your home, such as refrigerators, bookcases, water heaters, stoves, armoires, and other furniture and secure them with brackets, bolts or strapping.

Keep your chemicals outside

Locate all flammable liquids and household chemicals and store them in your garage or shed. Keep these items in sturdy containers that are secured to the floor.

Store breakables low to the ground

Put all your glassware and other fragile items in low cabinetry or cases.

Head for open space

Find a spot in every room that is free from falling objects. If you find some rooms are filled to their capacity, create a safe space ahead of time, as you may not be able to move from room to room once the earthquake hits.

Turn it off

Learn how to shut off your water and natural gas mains in case of leaks once the earthquake is over.

Create an emergency kit

Before an earthquake hits, be prepared by putting together an emergency kit filled with: 

  • Necessary medication
  • Insurance policies, medical records, legal and financial documents
  • Photos of family and pets in case of separation
  • Water
  • Food and a can opener
  • A radio and flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps
  • Blankets and change of clothing
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Paper plates, towels, cups, utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Chlorine for disinfecting
  • Baby and pet supplies

Drop, cover and hold on

Once the quake hits, get under a sturdy desk or table. If this isn’t feasible, then sit against an interior wall that is away from windows or large items that could fall on you and then cover your face for protection. Once you are in position, stay where you are until the shaking stops. If you are in bed, just stay put until it’s all over.

Stay outdoors

If you are outside when an earthquake hits, then head toward an open area away from trees, power lines and buildings and lie on the ground. If you are in your car, drive to a clear area and stay in your vehicle.

Plan ahead for your pets

Be proactive and make an emergency plan for your pet. Find out which hotels, emergency shelters, boarding places, veterinarians and even friends will shelter animals should you need a place to stay after a quake. Write this information down and put it in your emergency kit.

Anticipate the worst

The most important thing you can do is formulate an emergency plan and discuss it with your family ahead of time. Make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go or meet afterwards. You will also want to make sure your emergency kit is in an easily accessible area and that every member of your family knows where it is. You can’t prevent an earthquake from happening, but you certainly can be prepared in case one occurs!

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