A blue house, partially collapsed and leaning over


Earthquakes are rough. They come from out of nowhere and can be extremely serious very quickly.

They often lead to other circumstances: fires quickly spring up from broken gas lines and downed power lines.

And they almost never happen one at a time, aftershocks a commonplace and can be even more damaging than the original quake.

Since evacuation typically isn't possible during an earthquake, people have to make due finding shelter where they are at the time. has a list of guidelines for what to do during a quake here.

A collapsed highway overpass from an earthquake with cars trapped in the rubble

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Before an Earthquake

The best time to get ready for an emergency is before the emergency.

There are certain things you should do beforehand:

  • Protective Gear
  • Prepare your Home

Protective Gear

There are a couple of specific items you should have quickly available in your pack following earthquakes: a dust mask, goggles, work gloves, and a sturdy pair of puncture-proof boots.

Pyramex Ridgeline Full Brim Hard Hat

Pyramex Ridgeline Full Brim Hard Hat

Typical Price: $25

Having a hard hat on hand isn't a bad idea. Good to have during a quake if you can grab it, and very helpful afterwards to avoid falling debris during cleanup or moving from place to place.


3M 6000 Series Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator

3M 6000 Series Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator

Typical Price: $14

Provides excellent protection against particulates and a wide variety of gases and vapors when used with the right kinds of cartridges and filters. The head straps are easy to adjust and help keep the mask comfortable. Can't go wrong with this one.

Comes in 3 models based on size: 6100 Small, 6200 Medium, 6300 Large.


Most masks don’t come with the necessary filters or cartridges, so you'll have have to grab some of those as well.

3M P100 Multi Gas/Vapor Cartridge 60926

3M P100 Multi Gas/Vapor Cartridge 60926

Typical Price: $27 per pair

These filters are your best choice for full respiratory protection from certain organic vapors, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methylamine, formaldehyde, or hydrogen fluoride, and non-oil and oil particulate concentrations.


Dewalt Concealer Anti-Fog Dual Mold Safety Goggles

Dewalt Concealer Anti-Fog Dual Mold Safety Goggles

Typical Price: $10

Goggles will help keep stuff out of your eyes, like particulate materials flying throughout the air. We like the Dewalt Concealer Goggles, because they also repel liquids as well as solids.


Mechanix Wear Leather Work Gloves

Mechanix Wear Leather Work Gloves

Typical Price: $18

Keep your hands protected and in good shape when working with debris after a quake. A hand injury can turn into a major issue quickly, don't take the risk.


Prepare your Home

A destroyed stairway in an apartment complex in Los Angeles

There are a few ways to be warned before a quake is about to hit.

If you live in Southern California there is the ALERT Radio System which operates on a few Amateur frequencies that also provides an advanced warning to those with VHF/UHF radios like an inexpensive Baofeng. Any upcoming earthquakes that are level 3.0 or higher will come through the radio's speaker.

The USGS is also working on an advanced warning system like one in Japan, which will send text messages to all phones in the area.

There are 2 types of waves a quake emits, P waves and S waves. Think of P waves like the flash of lightning and the S waves as the thunder.

P waves travel much faster than the destructive S waves that follow them and can be detected by devices like Earthquake Alarms.

JDS Earthquake Alarm

JDS Earthquake Alarm

Typical Price: $50

The Quake Alarm is designed to provide instant warning of seismic activity by detecting the "P" wave (compression wave) of an earthquake, which travels faster than the more destructive "S" wave (shear wave).

One very important advantage of the Quake Alarm is that it can wake you up and alert you the moment the quake starts so that you can immediately take cover or tend to other family members.


If you live in an earthquake area, it is possible to reduce the damage that they can do in your home.

One of the biggest dangers of earthquakes are the items flying off of shelves or walls and out of cupboards.

You can hold down your stuff by using Museum Wax (aka Quake Putty) to stick them down.

Quakehold! Museum Putty Neutral

Quakehold! Museum Putty Neutral

Typical Price: $4

Museum Putty secures antiques, collectibles, figurines and more from falling and breaking.

It can be used on most surfaces, including ceramics, porcelains and laminates, as well as on walls to help stabilize pictures.

It sets within 30-minutes and comes off cleanly with no mess. To remove, simply lift and twist from the bottom of the object. One packet will secure up to forty items of average size.


QuakeHOLD! Flat Screen Safety Straps

QuakeHOLD! Flat Screen Safety Straps

Typical Price: $24

Secures flat screen TVs up to 70 inches and 150 lbs. Its adjustable nylon straps mean no holes have to be drilled into your walls, leaving no damage to furniture or equipment.


Additional Protective Measures

To keep cabinets closed during an earthquake consider using Seismo Latches in addition to locking shelf pins (so the shelves don't collapse inside the cabinet.) 

Furniture should be strapped to the walls. This is a good idea even if you don't live in a quake area, but have kids around who could get hurt by climbing on things they shouldn't.

Tremor Hangers can keep paintings and photographs from falling off the walls.

Broken gas and water lines coming into your home can also cause big problems. These may have to be turned off after a quake; you might need a special tool to do so.

Emergency Gas and Water Shutoff

Emergency Gas and Water Shutoff

Typical Price: $17

A light-weight, heavy duty, easy-to-use tool which Shuts off Gas, Shuts off Water, Pries Open Doors, and Digs through debris.


Further Reading

Earthquake Country Alliance has a fantastic website with lots of very detailed information about preparing yourself, your family, and your home from earthquakes.

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