What to do in an Earthquake

The Great California ShakeOut Earthquake Drill


It could happen anywhere!!

The Great ShakeOut earthquake drills are an opportunity to practice how to be safer during earthquakes: "Drop, Cover and Hold On." ShakeOut also has been organized to encourage you, your community, your school, or your organization to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.  Click here for more information.


Emergency management experts and official preparedness organizations all agree that “Drop, Cover and Hold On” is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. The ShakeOut is our opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes.

  • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
  • HOLD on to it until the shaking stops

The main point is, try not to move and to immediately protect yourself where you are. Earthquakes occur without warning and may be so violent that you cannot run, walk or crawl. In this case, you will most likely be knocked to the ground wherever you happen to be. You will never know if the initial jolt will turn out to be the start of the big one, so always DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON immediately.


For more information, visit the links below and learn how to protect yourself while driving when outdoors and checkout a new earthquake guide for people with disabilities.

www.shakeout.org | www.sf72.org


What to do in an Earthquake

If you are indoors when shaking starts:

  • “DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON.” If you are not near a strong table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.

  • Avoid windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and cabinets filled with heavy objects.

  • Do not try to run out of the structure during strong shaking.

  • If you are downtown, it is safer to remain inside a building after an earthquake unless there is a fire or gas leak. There are no open areas in downtown San Francisco far enough from glass or other falling debris to be considered safe refuge sites. Glass from high-rise buildings does not always fall straight down; it can catch a wind current and travel great distances.

  • If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head with a pillow.

  • Do not use elevators.

  • If you use a wheelchair, lock the wheels and cover your head.

If you are outdoors when shaking starts:

  • Move to a clear area if you can safely walk. Avoid power lines, buildings and trees.

  • If you’re driving, pull to the side of the road and stop. Avoid stopping under overhead hazards

  • If you are on the beach, move to higher ground. An earthquake can cause a tsunami.

Once the earthquake shaking stops:

  • Check the people around you for injuries; provide first aid. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger.

  • Check around you for dangerous conditions, such as fires, downed power lines and structure damage.

  • If you have fire extinguishers and are trained to use them, put out small fires immediately.

  • Turn off the gas only if you smell gas.

  • Check your phones to be sure they have not shaken off the hook and are tying up a line.

  • Inspect your home for damage.

If you are trapped in debris:

  • Move as little as possible so that you don’t kick up dust. Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

  • Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort.


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