How to prepare for an earthquake

How to prepare for an earthquake

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June 25, 2024


Earthquakes can cause a mild to violent shock and can occur anytime, anywhere. This guide can help you protect your family, your property and yourself before, during and after an earthquake.


WHAT: An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock as it releases strain that has accumulated over a long time. Initial mild shaking may strengthen and become extremely violent within seconds. Additional earthquakes, called aftershocks, may occur for hours, days, or even months. Most are smaller than the initial earthquake, but larger magnitude aftershocks also occur.

WHEN: Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning.

WHERE: All the Mexican Republic is at some risk for earthquakes. The risk is higher in identified seismic zones.

IMPACT: Larger earthquakes may cause deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Most casualties and injuries during an earthquake occur when: people fall while trying to walk or run during the shaking; when they are hit by falling, flying, or sliding household items or non-structural debris; and/or when they are struck or trapped by collapsing walls or other parts of the building. Transportation, power, water, gas, and other services may be disrupted. In some areas, shaking can cause liquefaction—when the ground acts more like a liquid. When this happens, the ground can no longer support the weight of a building. In coastal areas, earthquakes under the sea floor can cause tsunamis.


  • Secure items that     might fall and cause injuries (e.g, bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures).
  • Practice how to drop, cover and hold on by participating in a Shakeout drill.
  • Store critical supplies and documents.
  • Plan how you will communicate with family members.


  • Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake does not knock you down.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris. If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl to a     safer place or seek cover (under a desk, a table).
  • Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move whit it until the shaking stops.


  • If you are in a damaged building and there is a safe way out through the debris, leave and     go to an open space outside, away from damaged areas.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.
  • If you have cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Once safe, monitor local news reports (radio,tv, social media) for emergency information and instructions.


You may experience a shaking or a rolling motion in the walls, floor, or ground. This movement may grow more extreme within seconds. If you do not DROP down immediately, you may be knocked off your feet. You may not be able to walk or run. Objects may fall off shelves, light fixtures may swing of fall ceilings, or tall furniture may fall over. There may be dust or glass particles in the air or on the ground. You may hear noises similar to a heavy truck or train passing nearby.


Although there is no advance notice of an earthquake, emergency information will be provided immediately after through radio and TV broadcasts and via Wireless Emergency Alerts texted to cellphones. In addition to commercial radios, there are government and official offices which provide live status through Twitter and Facebook accounts (e.g. @SPCCDMX, @SegobCDMX), as well as smartphones apps like “Sky Alert” that notifies you depending on the situation.


Your family may not be together when an earthquake hits, so it is important to know how you will contact one another and how you will get back together in case of an emergency. Landline and cellular phone systems are often overwhelmed following a disaster, so you may need to use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends. Keep important numbers written down in your wallet in case you cannot access the contact list in your phone.

Protect yourself Before an Earthquake

To prevent potential injuries, take the time to secure your space. Secure items that might fall, fly, or slide in an earthquake. Imagine if the room was picked up and shaken up and down and side to side and then determine what items would be thrown around. Periodically review the locations where you spend time—your home, workplace, or school—to look for potential hazards and secure them. Cabinet doors can fly open allowing contents to crash to the floor; secure them with latches. Objects such as framed photos, books, lamps, and other items that you keep on shelves and tables can become flying hazards. Secure them with hooks, adhesives, or earthquake putty to keep them in place. Move heavy or breakable items to lower shelves.

Mirrors, pictures frames, and other hanging items should be secured to the wall with closed hooks or earthquake putty. Do not hang heavy objects over beds, sofas, or any place you may be seated.

Electronics such as computers, televisions, and microwave ovens are heavy and expensive to replace. Secure them with flexible nylon straps.

Bookcases, filing cabinets, china cabinets, and other tall furniture should be anchored to wall studs, (not drywall), or masonry. Use flexible straps that allow them to sway without falling to the floor.

Secure your water heater, refrigerator, and other major appliances with the appropriate straps screwed into the wall studs or masonry to help keep them from falling over and rupturing gas or electric connections. Gas appliances should have flexible connectors to absorb the shaking while reducing the risk of fire.


Take the time now to collect the emergency supplies you would need if the power was out, water supplies were cut off, and grocery stores were not open. You can build your supplies over time by adding a few items as your budget permits. Basic emergency supplies should include the following, most of which you probably already have in your home.

WATER – Ensure you have at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days. (Store a longer than 3-day supply of water, if possible). An average person needs to drink about 3/4 of a gallon of fluid daily. Individual needs vary depending on age, gender, health, level of activity, food choices, and climate. You may also need stored water for food preparation.

FOOD – Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food for members of your household, including pets. Consider special dietary needs (e.g., infant formula). Include a non-electric can opener for canned food.

FLASHLIGHT, RADIO, and CELL PHONE CHARGER – You will need to be able to charge these items without electricity. Your flashlight and radio should be either hand-cranked or battery-and stored with extra batteries. Your cell phone charger should be hand-crank, solar, or able to be charged from a car outlet.

MEDICAL – Include first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription/over-the-counter medications, and medical supplies.

SANITATION – Pack supplies for sanitation, such as hand sanitizer, towelettes, paper products, and plastic bags, for use when water resources are limited.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY – Include battery backup power for power-dependent mobility devices, oxygen, and other assistive technology needs.

CLOTHING AND BLANKETS – Ensure you have clothing with long sleeves and long pants, thick-soled shoes, and work gloves to protect yourself after the earthquake, and a sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person, if you live in a cold-weather climate.

WHISTLE – Include a whistle to signal for help.

CASH – Store cash in case ATMs are not functioning after the earthquake.

FIRE EXTINGUISHER – Earthquakes can cause fires to break out; have a fire extinguisher so you can put out any small fires. Use a fire extinguisher only if you are physically capable.

Consider storing supplies in several locations if possible. This means having basic supplies of food and water in locations, including your workplace, your vehicle, and, if possible, other places you and members of your household regularly spend time (e.g., house of worship, community center, and school). It is important to consider the unique needs of your family, including access and functional needs, and the needs of children and pets. You may need to include extra water; special food, such as infant formula or pet food; and supplies or equipment, such as diapers, glasses, or medical equipment.

Protect yourself During an Earthquake


Duringan earthquake, minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place. If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure it is safe to exit.

DROP to your hands and knees.

COVER your head and neck with your arms. This position protects you from falling and provides some protection for vital organs. Because moving can put you in danger from the debris in your path, only move if you need to get away from the danger of falling objects. If you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table. If there is low furniture, or an interior wall or corner nearby and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

HOLD ON to any sturdy shelter until the shaking stops.

DO NOT run outside! STAY where you are until the shaking stops. DO NOT get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects and you likely will not be able to remain standing.

If you can, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, Drop, Cover, and Hold On. STAY THERE until the shaking stops. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.

If you are in bed: STAY there and COVER your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

Itis difficult to control a vehicle during the shaking so stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.

Protect yourself After an Earthquake

Once the shaking has stopped, wait a minute before getting up and then look around for debris or other dangers. If you are able to safely move to exit the building and there is an open space to go to, exit the building and avoid damaged areas and downed power lines. For buildings in metropolitan areas that do not have nearby open space, it may be safer to remain in the building until you are certain you will avoid additional glass and debris that may fall from nearby buildings. Remember aftershocks may cause further damage to weakened structures and present hazards to those exiting buildings.

Monitor local news reports (battery-operatedradio, TV, and cell phone text alerts) for emergency information andinstructions.

If you are in a damaged building and there isa safe way out through the debris, leave and go to an open space outside. Ifyou can do so safely, take a moment to take what you might need immediately andcan carry easily, such as a purse or go bag. Once outside, do not re-enteruntil the building is certified to be safe.

Check for injuries and provide assistance ifyou have training. Assist with rescues if you can do this safely.

If you are near the coast, learn the tsunamirisk for your area. If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, whenthe shaking stops, walk inland or to higher ground immediately. Monitorofficial reports for more information on the area’s tsunami evacuation plans.

If you are trapped, do not move about or kickup dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Shout only as a lastresort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. Use yourcell phone to call or text for help. Tap on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle,if available, so rescuers can locate you.

Stay away from damaged areas. Never use alighter or matches near damaged areas. Check for and extinguish small fires.

Have your utilities inspected by qualifiedprofessionals for damage to electrical system, sewage, gas, and water lines.

Ifyour home has been damaged and is no longer safe, and you need a place to stay,text SHELTER + your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest publicshelter in your area. A sample text would be SHELTER 12345. Follow local mediafor information on shelters.

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