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Before an Earthquake

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Earthquakes can occur without warning and have the potential to severely affect lives and structures. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and preparing in advance can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake.

Identify the Safest, Interior Locations

In each room of your home or building, identify the safest places to "drop, cover, and hold on" during an earthquake. Practice finding safe, interior locations and share your plans with housemates and office-mates:

  • Shelter against an inside wall or under sturdy furniture, such as heavy desks or tables.
  • Stay away from any areas where glass could shatter, such as windows, mirrors, or pictures.
  • Avoid areas where heavy furniture could fall over, such as large bookcases and cabinets.

Get an emergency kit

For more information on emergency kits, see Get a Kit. If earthquakes are prone to happening in your area, make sure your emergency kit includes the following:

  • Non-perishable and high-energy food items.
  • Water in bottles or other sealed containers.
  • Medications (must be properly safeguarded).
  • First aid kit.
  • Comfortable shoes and socks.
  • Flashlight and batteries.
  • Battery-operated radio and batteries.
  • Cash (about $20).
  • Books, pack of cards, etc.
  • Include enough food and water for your pets.

Develop a plan

Determine a emergency plan for disasters with family, colleagues, and friends. Topics should include:

  • How to contact each other after an emergency.
  • How to find each other and assemble after an emergency. This includes determining assembly points for both work and home and considering dependents at school, daycare, and assisted living facilities. Remember pets, they depend on you for care and assistance as well.
  • Determining emergency contacts. Make sure everyone has an emergency contact card that is easily accessible in wallets and bags and an I.C.E. (In Case of Emergencies) contact programmed into cell phones.

Identify and reduce earthquake hazards at home and work. These mitigation efforts should include:

  • Securing heavy objects to walls and floors, such as shelves, bookcases, cabinets, and water heaters.
  • Placing large, heavy, or breakable objects on lower shelves.
  • Hanging heavy items – such as pictures and mirrors – away from areas where people sit or gather frequently.
  • Bracing overhead light fixtures.
  • Repairing defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
  • Repairing any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Storing flammable products and hazardous material securely on bottom shelves in cabinets that are closed with latches. Follow MSDS storage guidelines.