What to Do in the Event of an Earthquake

If You’re Outside a Building… Run to an open space. Quickly move away from buildings, trees, overhead wires, or anything

If You’re Outside a Building…

  • Run to an open space. Quickly move away from buildings, trees, overhead wires, or anything else that might fall on you. The larger the open space you can find, the safer you will be. People are rarely injured during an earthquake simply by the ground moving.
  • Drive towards an open space. If you are in a car, find an open space, such as a large parking lot, and stop the car. Do not stop on a bridge, beneath an overpass, or beside tall buildings or trees. Stay in the car until the shaking stops.

If You’re Inside a Building…

  • Stop what you’re doing. Even if you feel a very slight tremor, prioritize your safety until the all-clear is given. You may simply have felt a foreshock that precedes a much more powerful earthquake.
  • Drop to the ground. If the shock is more severe, get down. This will lower your center of gravity and reduce the chance of being hit by debris.
  • Take cover. Get under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture for protection and hold onto it. If there is nothing suitable nearby, crouch down in a corner where two interior walls meet, well away from windows or other glass. Cover your head and face with your arms. Do not shelter in a doorway – if it doesn’t have a load-bearing structure, it may collapse.
  • Stay where you are. Do not move until the shaking stops, even if the lights go out or automatic sprinklers come on. Most people who are injured are those who move about during an earthquake.

If You’re Trapped Under Debris…

  • Cover your nose and mouth. Avoid inhaling potentially harmful dust. Try to get your bearings and check yourself for injuries.
  • Get help. Listen for sounds of rescue and try to tap on something to alert rescuers. If you can get to it, use your mobile phone to call someone or to generate intermittent music, beeps, or sound. Only shout as a last resort, as it is tiring and can result in you inhaling more dust.
  • Warning: If you find yourself trapped, do not strike a match for light.  Dust-filled air can be explosive and gas may have escaped from broken pipes.


An earthquake is usually followed by a series of aftershocks. Their size and frequency is unpredictable, although generally, the bigger the main earthquake, the greater the size and number of aftershocks. Aftershocks are especially dangerous because they cause further collapse to already damaged buildings and infrastructure. Treat them seriously and act as you would for an earthquake.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest