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Each year 12,000-14,000 earthquakes are reported; that's an average of 35 earthquakes a day. Forty-five states and U.S. territories are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes - these states are located in every region of the country.

Safety basics

When earthquakes strike a populated region, they can cause extensive property damage. Buildings and bridges can collapse, and gas, water, electric and phone service can be disrupted. Earthquakes can also cause serious injuries and fatalities. Scientists cannot predict precisely when or where one will occur. It's important to know what to do before, during, and after an earthquake:


Identify safe spots at home and work:

  • Under sturdy tables or desks
  • In structurally sound or strongly supported doorways.
  • In a small room or hallway

Never take cover near windows or heavy furniture that can tip over, such as bookcases and entertainment units. Avoid poorly supported doorways, such as those with metal frames.

Have a plan

  • Family members can become separated during an earthquake. Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
  • Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack.


Stay Calm. The precautions you should take are determined by where you are when the earthquake begins.

  • If inside, take cover using the drop, cover, and hold on technique. If you must move for safety, take only a few steps and stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If outside, stay at least 10 feet away from any building from which window glass and other debris could fall. Move away from trees, streetlights, and power lines. Crouch down and cover your head.
  • If in a vehicle, park in a location away from trees, wires, buildings, bridges and overpasses. Stay where you are, with your safety belt fastened, until the earthquake is over. Never stop under or on a bridge.
  • If in a coastal area, move to high ground.
  • If in a mountainous area, watch for and avoid falling rocks, broken roadbeds, landslides and falling debris.


Earthquakes are dangerous, but the disasters they can trigger such as fires, floods, landslides, tsunamis (giant sea waves) and avalanches can be more devastating.

Expect aftershocks, smaller earthquakes that can occur after a major quake. Monitor radio news reports for updates and the latest emergency information. The risk of injury increases for those who go outside too soon. If you loose electricity, use a flashlight. Never use candles because of the possibility of a gas leak and the danger of fire. When authorities say the event has ended, check your home for structural damage, gas leaks, and fire. Report any problems to the appropriate authorities. Record any damage that has resulted from the quake.

Source: FEMA, National Earthquake Information Center