How to Prepare for and Survive Earthquakes

With climate change in action, natural disasters have become very common. Earthquakes, tornados, storms, floods etc occur at regular intervals and often arrive at very short notice. 

Preparation to save yourself and survive for any sort of calamity is a task that has to be undertaken well before there is any sign of its arrival. 

In this article, we give you a comprehensive guide to what an earthquake is, how to prepare before it, how to survive during it and how to sustain it after it’s all over.

What is an Earthquake?

The tectonic plates that form the base of the landforms are continuously moving at a slow pace. This is a natural form of movement that occurs irrespective of any other phenomenon. However, there are times when the edges of these plates get stuck due to friction. This is when tension is built up in the corners of the plates. 

To release this tension, a sudden slip or a fault occurs which sends waves of energy through the adjoining landmasses. Sometimes these waves travel smoothly and with less intensity. However, when the pressure builds up that is when an earthquake occurs.

There can be prior warnings about an upcoming earthquake in ways named foreshocks which are miniature versions of real earthquakes. Aftershocks are tremors that are felt after the main wave has passed. The area on which the epicenter of the earthquake lies is the worst hit. 

With the heating of the Earth’s core due to global warming, the movements of the tectonic plates have become unpredictable and this has led to frequent earthquakes in many regions around the world. Earthquakes can also cause tsunamis and massive tidal waves if they occur at the sea. The magnitude of an earthquake is measured on the Richter Scale and an earthquake is categorised as dangerous if it measures above 6. 

Some of the major and most devastating earthquakes in the history of the world are – Great Alaska Earthquake, 9.2 on the Richter scale (1964), Indian Ocean Earthquake, 9.1 (2004), Tohoku Earthquake, 9.1 (2011), Kamchatka Earthquake,9.0 (1952) and Maule Earthquake, 8.8 (2010).

How to prepare for an Earthquake?

Earthquakes often more than not arrive unannounced. This is the reason why it is all the more difficult to prepare for it beforehand. There are two things that you should do to be prepared to face an earthquake. They are listed below. 

Check your building 

The major threat in case of an earthquake is posed by the structure of the house that one resides in. When an earthquake occurs the major blow has to be faced by the buildings. This is why taking continuous and proper care of your building is a crucial task. Here is a list of things you should do to make sure you are doing it correctly –

  1. Make sure your building abides by all the rules to make it earthquake resistant. If you rent an apartment, ask your landlord to make the necessary changes. 
  1. Hire a professional to check the structure and make improvements wherever necessary.
  1. You can install the following to improve the strength of your house – foundation bolting, reinforced chimneys and cripple wall bracing. 
  1. If you reside in a mobile home, make sure you get an earthquake-resistant bracing system. 

Build a safety kit

A safety kit is of utmost importance. It is what you will need during and after such a disaster. This kit should also include things that will be important for the survival of yourself and your family. It should include the following –

  1. The first thing should be an adequate supply of clean drinking water, depending on the number of members in your house. Also, ensure you store the necessary quantity of clean water for use in the toilet. 
  1. Store dry food that is non-perishable.
  1. You must have a comprehensive first aid kit which should include the necessary regular medication which might be needed by a member of the family. 
  1. Charge your regular devices and power back-up devices to the fullest extent.
  1. Include flashlights and batteries in the kit.
  1. Gather all the sanitary products that are essential such as toilet paper, soap, sanitiser etc and make sure you do not run out of them. 
  1. Collect all the warm clothes and blankets to keep yourself and your family warm in case there is a power cut. 
  1. Have plenty of cash handy.
  1. You might want to include a whistle in the kit to put to use when stuck somewhere.

What should be done during an Earthquake?

The most important thing that you should do is to avoid panicking. You should be motivated to survive. If you are indoors, you have to follow these steps –


As soon as you feel the tremors, drop down on the floor, on your hands and knees.


Immediately find a cover such as under a table or a bed or any furniture that can cover you entirely. 

Hold On 

Now, you have to patiently wait where you are. 

In case you have pets and small children at home, you might need to be more careful. In the case of children, make sure to carry them with you and never leave them out of your sight. In case the child is able to take care of themself, you must educate your family on the rules that they should follow in an emergency situation. 

In the case of your pets, the best possible way is to tie them up somewhere safe and be near them at all times, so in case there is a chance of anything going wrong, you can release them and take them with you. 

One of the many mistakes that people make is to get out of the building. It’s not advisable to leave the building because any sort of movement can prove more dangerous.

If you are outside the first thing to do is to run away from buildings. Find an open space that does not have any tall buildings or tall trees around. Once you find it, get down on your knees and wait till the wave passes. You might also want to enter a building, especially if you are in a city and cannot find an open area. Once you’re in you can use the Drop, Cover and Hold On technique. 

In case you are driving when an earthquake hits, you need to get out of the car immediately. It is almost next to impossible to navigate a car properly during such disasters. The safest thing is to let go of the car and save your life from an accident that might occur. 

What should be your post-disaster plan?

The time after an earthquake might feel both physically and emotionally disturbing. Massive earthquakes can lead people to lose their homes, families, and pets. After the waves have passed by, here are the things you can do to cope with the situation –

  1. Keep a constant check on the local radio station or the television. It is important to know the conditions of the adjacent areas and the relief procedures that have been undertaken by the concerned authorities. 
  1. If you are in a building that has faced damage, leave it at once with the basic things you need. Do not re-enter the building until you get permission from the authorities who will check if it is safe for you to enter after assessing the damage. 
  1. If you are stuck in debris and cannot get out, do not try to do so. Try to cover your mouth with a piece of cloth to reduce the amount of dust inhaled. If you have a whistleblow on it to lead the rescuers your way. Stay calm and don’t let the anxiety get you. Help will arrive if you are patient enough to survive. If you don’t have a whistle look for a pipeline and tap on it to send out signals. Shouting should be your last resort because it drains out energy and makes one inhale a huge amount of dust from the debris around. 
  1. Once you are safely out of danger, check your body thoroughly for any injury. This is crucial because if you leave some wound unattended it might get worse. Go for an examination once you are safe to make sure there is no hidden damage caused to your body. 
  1. In case you live near a coast, you should check for announcements of an incoming Tsunami. This is essential so that you can evacuate while there’s still time. 
  1. You should stay away from sites that have been destroyed. Remember no to light a fire near the area because there can be unattended gas leaks which can, in turn, prove to be more dangerous.
  1. Once everything gets a bit better, you should hire a professional to do a thorough examination of your residence. This is important because there might be damages that do not meet the eyes of a normal person. Such damages, if kept unattended can cause long term problems. To avoid such things in the future you should seek professional help to assess damage and repair if a need occurs. 


Earthquakes can be extremely devastating in nature. The Valdivia Earthquake of 1960, which occurred in Chile caused the death of around 5600 people and caused massive destruction to property and infrastructure. It is important to be well informed and well prepared for an earthquake. 

Now that you know what all you should do before, during and after an earthquake, we hope you will be able to lead yourself and your family to safety in case you face one someday.

Article by:

Eric Birch

Eric Birch is a survival specialist trained in the U.S. military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program. When he’s not ferociously learning new survival tactics, he enjoys the great outdoors, and/or cheering on one of his favorite sports teams.

Email Author

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.