Earthquake Preparedness and Safety

5 Seconds after an Earthquake

Immediately following an earthquake Duck, Cover, and Hold is the key:
  • Duck under a sturdy structure like a table
  • Cover your head from falling or flying objects
  • Hold onto something sturdy until the shaking stops

5 Minutes after an Earthquake

1. Check for injuries. Do not move a seriously injured person unless they are in immediate danger of further injuries.

2. Safety check. Check for the following hazards:
  • Fire or fire hazards.
  • Gas leaks: Shut off the main gas valve only if a leak is suspected or identified by the odor of natural gas. Wait for the gas company to turn it back on once the damage is repaired.
  • Damaged electrical wiring: Shut off power at the control box.
  • Downed or damaged utility lines: Stay away from downed lines even if power appears to be off.
  • Fallen objects in closets and cupboards: Displaced objects may fall when you open the door.
  • Downed or damaged chimneys: Approach chimneys with caution. They may be weakened and could topple during an aftershock.
  • Check your telephone: Make sure each phone is on its receiver. Telephones that are off the hook tie up the telephone network unnecessarily.
3. Clean up. Clean up potentially harmful materials and/or medicines which may have spilled.

4. Expect aftershocks. Most of these are smaller than the main earthquake. Some may be large enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
  • Use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns. Do not use lighters, matches, candles, or lanterns until you are sure there are no gas leaks.
  • Use your telephone only in the event of life-threatening emergencies.
  • Turn on a battery-powered radio for information, damage reports, and for information on volunteering your assistance.
  • Keep streets clear for emergency vehicles. Cooperate with public safety officials.
Learn these valuable skills at one of our FREE Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes.

5 Days after an Earthquake

  • Ensure you have the necessary supplies to be self reliant for 3-5 days - see our Disaster Supply Checklist.
  • Develop a Family Communication Plan - phone numbers of in/out of area contacts, pre-designated meeting place, and more.
Links to Emergency Preparedness Information:
  • SMC ALERT - Register your information to receive important alerts from San Mateo County's Community Alert System
  • SMCReady - Disaster Preparedness Information for San Mateo County
  • - Learn how to Prepare, Plan, and Stay Informed from the US Dept. of Homeland Security