How to Prepare For and Survive Earthquakes (Full Tutorial)

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

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

The Valdivia Earthquake of 1960, which occurred in Chile caused the life of around 5700 people and an estimated 2 million people were left homeless.

So, it’s always a good practice to stay away from buildings and heavy objects.

This article gives you a comprehensive guide to what an earthquake is, how to prepare and survive earthquakes, and how to sustain it after it’s 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. It is when tension is built up in the corners of the plates. 

A sudden slip or a fault occurs to release this tension, which sends waves of energy through the adjoining landmasses.

Sometimes these waves travel smoothly and with less intensity. However, when the pressure builds up, i.e., when an earthquake occurs.

There can be prior warnings about an upcoming earthquake in ways named foreshocks, miniature versions of natural earthquakes.

Damage caused by the earthquake.
Source: Bloomberg

Aftershocks are tremors that are felt after the primary wave has passed. The area on which the epicenter of the earthquake lies is the worst hit. 

Global warming leads to the heating of Earth’s core, the movements of the tectonic plates have become unpredictable, which has led to frequent major earthquakes in many regions worldwide.

An earthquake can also cause tsunamis and massive tidal waves if they occur at the sea.

The Richter scale is used to measure the magnitude of an earthquake, and it is categorized as dangerous if it measures above 6. 

Some of the major earthquakes in the history of the world are :

  • Great Alaska Earthquake – 9.2 (1964)
  • Indian Ocean Earthquake – 9.1 (2004)
  • Tohoku Earthquake – 9.1 (2011)
  • Kamchatka Earthquake – 9.0 (1952)
  • Maule Earthquake – 8.8 (2010)

How to Prepare for an Earthquake?

An earthquake is often more than not arrives unannounced. This is the reason why it is all the more challenging to ready for it beforehand.

Two things that you should do to be prepared to face an earthquake. They are listed below. 

Check your Building 

The primary threat in case of an earthquake is posed by the house’s structure that one resides in.

When an earthquake occurs, the major blow has to be faced by the buildings. That’s why taking continuous and proper care of your building is a crucial task.

Determine how safe buildings are after an earthquake
Source: PHYS

Here is a list of things you should do to make sure you are doing it correctly –

  1. Make sure you’re not living in damaged buildings, and 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 in buildings wherever necessary as it will help you to survive an earthquake.
  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 Earthquake Safety Kit

A safety kit is of utmost importance. It is what you will need during and after such a disaster.

Earthquake Safety Kit

It should also include things that will be important for the survival of yourself and your family. It should consist of the following –

  1. The first thing should be an adequate supply of food and water, depending on the number of members in your family. Also, ensure you store the necessary quantity of clean water for use in the toilet. 
  2. Store dry food that is non-perishable.
  3. You must have a comprehensive first aid kit that should include the necessary regular medication that a family member might need. 
  4. Charge your regular devices and power backup devices to the fullest extent.
  5. Include flashlights and extra batteries in the emergency kit.
  6. Gather all the essential sanitary products such as toilet paper, soap, sanitizer, etc., and make sure you do not run out of them. 
  7. Collect all the warm clothes and blankets to keep yourself and your family warm if power lines cut.
  8. You might want to include a whistle in the emergency kit to put to use when stuck somewhere.

Safety Tips to Survive Earthquakes

The most important thing that you should do is to avoid panicking. It would be best if you were motivated to survive earthquakes.

Save yourself during an earthquake

If you are indoors, you have to follow these steps to survive an earthquake –

Drop, Cover and Hold


As soon as you feel the tremors, drop to the ground on your knees, and cover your head.


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

Covering yourself under a sturdy table or desk or any furniture will prevent you from falling objects during an earthquake.

Moreover, it would be best if you’re away from windows and broken glass.

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 to protect them.

In the case of children, make sure to carry them with you and never leave them out of your sight.

If the child can take care of themself, you must educate your family on the rules that they should go to an open area in an emergency. 

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

One of the many mistakes people make is getting out of the building and unable to handle earthquakes.

However, it’s advisable to stay inside the building because any movement can prove more dangerous.

If you stay outside, the first thing to do is to move away from buildings. Next, find an area away from tall buildings or tall trees around.

Once you find it, get down on your knees, protect your head and neck 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.

For instance, you’re sitting in a car, and some trees fall on it, then you won’t be able to clear the trees to get out of the car quickly.

It is almost next to impossible to navigate a car properly during such disasters. The safest thing is to stay away from a car and save your life from an accident that might occur. 

What Should be Your Post-Disaster Plan After Survive an Earthquake?

The time after an earthquake might feel both physically and emotionally disturbing.

You may survive an earthquake, but a massive earthquake 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 essential to know the conditions of the emergency areas and the relief procedures that the concerned authorities have undertaken. Sometimes, you might come across a crucial warning, so you should have a battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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 earthquakes. 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 considerable amount of dust from the debris around. 
  4. Once you are safely out of danger, check for injuries throughout your body. It is crucial because if you leave some wound unattended, it might get worse. Go for an examination once you are safe, as hidden damage can cause to your life. 
  5. If you live near a coast, you should check for a warning and announcement of an incoming Tsunami. It is essential so that you can evacuate while there’s still time. 
  6. It would help if you stayed away from sites that have been destroyed. Also, 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.
  7. Claim insurance. It would be best to claim home insurance that covers earthquakes, especially in regions prone to these natural calamities. In case you haven’t applied for insurance yet, then you should do it at utmost priority.


A major earthquake damage can be extremely devastating in nature.

It is essential to be well informed and well prepared for earthquakes. Therefore, whenever you feel confused, follow the strategy of drop cover hold.

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 members to safety in case you face one someday.

If you want more help on preparing and surviving earthquakes, let us know in the comment section below.

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.

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