Image of a road cracking due to an earthquake.

While not common in all states, earthquakes are certainly not something to overlook. They've been known to occur frequently in states like California, but also uncommonly in states like North Carolina. If you're unsure if you live in a state prone to earthquakes, you can click here to check your state's earthquake probability. If you notice that you're currently residing in an earthquake-prone state, there are many things you can do around your home that will help reduce the risk of damage to your home, your belongings, and your family.

Before an Earthquake

  • Objects attached to the ceiling, such as fans and chandeliers, should be braced to prevent falling down and causing damage.
  • Do not store heavy items on high shelves when possible. This will prevent damage to items should they fall off shelves with lighter objects falling and heavy object remaining low to the ground.
  • Items that can tip over (dressers, bookshelves, filing cabinets, etc.), more often than not, can be fastened in some way to the wall.
  • Heavy appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves can be bolted to the floor or secured to the wall.
  • Just like with a flood, any cracks in your walls and foundations should be fixed as soon as possible. An earthquake could widen pre-existing cracks and end up costing you more in the long run.
  • Specify areas in your home that are safe during an earthquake and make sure each family member knows where to go when one strikes.

After an Earthquake

  • If you can safely exit the building, it's important to get outside as soon as possible. There is no way for you to know how damaged the foundation is, so you should assume your house is at risk of collapsing and evacuate as soon as possible.
  • DO NOT enter your home if you smell gas, the floodwaters are deep around your home, there is fire damage to your home, or until the proper authorities have deemed it safe to enter.
  • Once safely outside, listen to your AM/FM radio for updates on the situation and when help will arrive. Do NOT try to medically assist anyone unless you are trained and comfortable doing so.
  • If you are not authorized to return to your home, you should find a designated shelter in your area. FEMA has provided a text message system to easily find this information. Simply text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA).
  • Once you are notified that it is safe to return to your home, it is time to begin cleaning up the aftermath of the earthquake. Keep in mind that items may have broken and shifted, so take great care while cleaning your home.
  • Gas leaks, electrical damage, and sewage/water line damage must be fixed immediately. Check for possible damage and call a professional to come and fix the issue as soon as possible. If there is a gas leak, open a window, turn the gas off and leave your home immediately while you wait for a professional to arrive.

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