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Earthquake! What to Do Before, During, and After

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For many Americans, and especially those of us on the West Coast, earthquakes are a part of life. In fact, many of us treat minor tremors quite casually. But since an earthquake of a bigger magnitude could strike at any time, and we have been warned about the “Big One” coming, it makes sense to be prepared. That way you can minimize the danger and recover more quickly.



“The best time to prepare for any disaster is before it happens.” –

1. Build Your Emergency Kit

The Basics:

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day
  • Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit and medications
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Food and meds for pets

2. Secure Heavy Items

Many earthquake-related injuries are caused by heavy objects falling onto people. Bookcases, televisions, and appliances should be secured to the walls with straps or hooks. Avoid hanging heavy art or shelves above where people sit or sleep. Place unstable items close to the floor and away from doors and escape routes.


3. Make a Plan

Check that everyone in your household (if old enough) knows how to access disaster supplies. Identify safe spots in each room where you can take cover. Practice the “drop, cover, and hold on” drill regularly, especially with younger children. Check out the Great Shakeout. This earthquake awareness event happens annually on the third Thursday of October and will help you and your household get familiar with the safest actions to take when the ground starts to tremble.

Highlight evacuation routes on maps of your area. Plan escape routes from schools and offices too – anywhere you and your family spend regular time when away from home. Agree on a safe place to meet if a quake were to hit when you’re not at home together.



Pro tip: Standing in a doorway cannot protect you from flying or falling objects, which are the leading cause of death and injury during an earthquake.



Stay inside! Do not run outside where you’ll be in more danger from downed power lines or falling debris. Buildings in the U.S. and the rest of the developed world, rarely collapse during a quake (contrary to images you may see in the media). Drop onto hands and knees to avoid being knocked down and stay where you are unless you can quickly get under a solid piece of furniture, like a desk.

If you’re cooking, turn off the stove and try to move to another safer room if there’s time. Don’t use matches or a lighter — anywhere in the house — as gas lines could be ruptured.

Cover your head and neck with one hand and hold on to something with the other hand. If you’re not under something that you can hold on to, lean against an interior wall away from windows and cover your head and neck. Stay on all fours to protect your internal organs. If you’re in bed during a quake, it can be tempting to get out of it, but it’s best to stay there and cover your head with a pillow. If you move to the floor, you could get hurt by debris or broken glass.



Stay outside and make for an open area away from buildings. The most dangerous place is just outside the door of a structure as windows, facades, and architectural details tend to be the first pieces to fall. Keep clear of electrical wires, gas lines, trees, and telephone poles. If you’re in a crowded place, try to take cover where you won’t get trampled. Avoid rushing for the exit as everyone else will be doing the same. Take cover and shield your face and head.

If you’re driving when an earthquake starts, pull over to the side of the road where you won’t block emergency vehicles. Don’t park under utility poles and, if possible, avoid bridges, overpasses, and underpasses. Stay in your car and listen to the radio for instructions from emergency officials.



  • Examine yourself and others for injuries and provide first aid if needed. Cover a seriously injured person with a blanket and seek medical help.
  • Check the water, gas, and electric lines for damage. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off the main valve. If there’s damage to your home’s electrical wiring, shut off the control box.
  • Clean up any spills in the home, such as medicines, drugs, and harmful liquids like bleach or lye.
  • Inspect food and water supplies. Don’t eat anything from open containers in case of broken glass.
  • Look out for items falling out of closets and off shelves.
  • Use up the food in your fridge and freezer before it spoils if the power is off. Or hook up your generator if you have one.
  • Expect aftershocks and be ready to drop, cover, and hold on again if necessary.
  • If you’re in a damaged building, get out, if you can, and move away to safety.
  • If you’re trapped, send a text or bang on a pipe or wall.
  • If you’re safe, avoid tying up phone lines as infrastructure could be affected and emergency phones may be down or overburdened with calls. To communicate with loved ones, send texts instead.
  • Pay attention to local news reports using a battery-operated radio, TV, or text alerts and social media for instructions and emergency information.

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are always a possibility. While it’s not healthy for us to dwell on them continually, a certain amount of peace of mind can be gained by knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare for the worst. Having adequate homeowners insurance or renters coverage can help you feel more secure too. Talk with your Wawanesa agent to learn more about property coverage today.


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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.