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Emergencies & Your Health: Earthquakes

What to do in an earthquake

In an earthquake - drop, cover, & hold on.

Regardless of where you find yourself during an earthquake, it's important to act fast. Here's what to do if you find yourself in the following locations:

  • Car: pull over, stop, and set your parking brake.
  • In bed: turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
  • Outdoors: stay outdoors and away from buildings.
  • Inside: remain indoors - don't run outside, and avoid doorways and windows.


In a major earthquake, phone communication in the local area is likely to be difficult. This is where having a designated check-in person outside the local area is really helpful. That person can be reached to coordinate not just with family and friends but also with rescue teams if necessary. 

Was that an earthquake just now?

Check these earthquake maps and trackers for up-to-the-moment data:


The U.S. Geological Service offers a real-time earthquake notification service, as well as links to RSS services. See:


There are a few systems that give earthquake alerts or a few moment's advance warning. You may want to try out these:

Safely returning home after an earthquake

Do not return to a building that has had obvious earthquake damage until local emergency response teams declare that it is safe. It may need to be individually inspected, which could take awhile - be prepared to evacuate for a few days at least.


A tsunami is a series of enormous ocean waves caused by earthquakes, underwater landslides, volcanic eruptions, or asteroids. They could happen anywhere along the coast.

To be prepared in the event of a tsunami, advises:

  • If you live near, or regularly visit a coastal area, learn about the risk of tsunami in the area. Some at-risk communities have maps with evacuation zones and routes. If you are a visitor, ask about community plans.
  • Learn the signs of a potential tsunami, such as an earthquake, a loud roar from the ocean, or unusual ocean behavior, such as a sudden rise or wall of water or sudden draining of water showing the ocean floor.
  • Know and practice community evacuation plans and map out your routes from home, work, and play. Pick shelters 100 feet or more above sea level, or at least one mile inland.

Maps of tsunami risk are available for all coastal areas of California, to use in planning evacuation routes. 

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