Preparing for an Earthquake

One of the most important things you can do for an earthquake is to be prepared. Here are several steps that you can take to be prepared for an earthquake:

  1. If you have a car, you can keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. The kit should include first aid supplies, a flashlight with extra batteries, extra personal supplies (medications, glasses, etc.), sturdy shoes, a jacket or sweater, blanket, and water.
  2. It would be useful to know basic first aid and to know how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
  3. Establishing an out-of-area contact for your family members will allow you to contact your family members. During earthquakes, long distance telephone lines are usually the first lines to return to service.

What to Do During an Earthquake

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Have you ever wondered what to do during an actual earthquake? Depending on where you are, it is important to be aware of your surroundings in order to remain safe. Here is a brief guide on how to take advantage of your surroundings during an earthquake:


  • When a quake starts, you should drop down on the floor and take cover under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture. Hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. Hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move. If you are seated in a lecture hall, between the rows of classroom seats. You should not rush for the exit.
  • If you are in a hallway, drop to the floor and cover your head and neck. If you stand in a doorway, brace yourself against the frame and watch out for a swinging door and other debris. A doorway should only be used if it is in close proximity and is a strongly supported load bearing doorway. If no cover is near, duck and cover near an interior wall or corner of the building.
  • You should try and stay away from overhead fixtures, windows and bookshelves that may fall over.
  • It is a good idea to stay indoors until the shaking has stopped because most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling debris when entering or exiting buildings.
  • You should check yourself and others around you for injuries. It is best to treat only life-threatening injuries immediately. Minor injuries should wait until after you have checked for secondary hazards. If you can, give first aid and protect those who are injured from aftershocks. There will be a first aid station set up at the north end of the quad in the event of a major earthquake. If the injured are able to walk, they should be helped to the first aid station.
  • You should check the immediate work area for secondary hazards such as fires, spills or gas leaks. If you are unable to eliminate them, the best way to contain them is by closing doors. Small fires can be put out with fire extinguishers. Gas and electricity to appliances, hot plates, etc. If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound, you should open windows and leave the building immediately. Also, alert Facilities Services or PCC Police as soon as possible.
  • It is important not to use candles, lighters or matches because there may be gas present.
  • You should not smoke inside the building, and should be extremely careful where you smoke outside. There may be flammable materials that spilled during main shock, and an aftershock may cause you to drop your cigarette.
  • Check your telephone to make sure that it is on its receiver. The telephone should be used for genuine emergency calls.
  • Report serious casualties and hazards and the location of any trapped people to you Facilities, and/or PCC Police or call 911. If necessary, send someone for assistance.
  • The elevator should never be used under any circumstances.
  • If you are trapped, try using a flashlight, whistling, or tapping on a pipe or wall to alert people of your position. Be careful to not kick up dust. Also, shouting should be used only as a last resort because you may inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
  • In case of a major disaster, you can call PCC Police and Safety Services, receive information from Alert U or go to the PCC website at
  • Aftershocks should be expected after an earthquake.


  • Move quickly away from buildings, utility poles, and structures. The safest place to be is in the open.
  • Avoid power and utility lines because they may still be energized.
  • If you are in a car, stop and pull over when it is safe to do so.
  • Park your car in an open area away from overpasses, buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • Remain inside your vehicle until the shaking has stopped.

In Offices:

  • You can brace or rearrange furniture to minimize falling hazards.
  • Try not to use tall bookcases or cabinets as room dividers.
  • Try to keep books on shelves with restraint bars or cords.
  • You should not stack bookcases or file cabinets.
  • Large or heavy items should be placed on lower shelves or the floor.
  • Keep heavy items or full boxes off of tall furniture.
  • Securely anchor your computer, monitor, and printer to the desk or workstation.
  • Do not stack heavy frames, mirrors or bookshelves over your workstation.
  • Regularly back up your computer(s) and keep CDs, DVDs or thumb drives at a separate location.
  • Irreplaceable items or books and copies of course notes should be kept off-campus.

In Labs:

  • Secure as much of your equipment as possible. Keep an up-to-date chemical inventory in your laboratory and with EH&S
  • Install restraint bars on chemical shelving and latching devices on cabinet doors.
  • Close sliding doors when not in use.
  • Restrain gas cylinders to the wall or lab bench with chains crossing vertically and horizontally all the way up the gas cylinder.
  • Anchor electronic equipment with specialized fasteners.
  • Secure stills withs traps and install refrigerator clasp locks.
  • Anchor animal containers. If they are on shelves, bolt the shelves to the wall.
  • Try to keep acids, bases, and solvents separate from one another.
  • Provide secondary containment for chemicals.
  • Do not keep any potentially hazardous materials on mobile carts.