Earthquake Response Instructions


Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

Emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations all agree that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes.

Official rescue teams who have been dispatched to the scene of earthquakes and other disasters around the world continue to advocate use of the internationally recognized “Drop, Cover and Hold On” protocol to protect lives during earthquakes:

DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!), Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and

HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

If there isn’t a table or desk near you, drop to the ground in an inside corner of the building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Do not try to run to another room just to get under a table.

These are general guidelines for most situations. Depending on where you are (in bed, driving, in a theater, etc.), you might take other actions, as described in Recommended Earthquake Safety Actions (PDF | RTF).
Learn about Drop, Cover, Hold On from

The main point is to not try to move but to immediately protect yourself as best as possible where you are. Earthquakes occur without any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl; you therefore will most likely be knocked to the ground where you happen to be. You will never know if the initial jolt will turn out to be start of the big one. You should Drop, Cover, and Hold On immediately!

In addition, studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes in the U.S. over the last several decades indicate that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building. Drop, Cover, and Hold On offers the best overall level of protection in most situations.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. To be ready to protect yourself immediately when the ground begins to shake, practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On as children do in school at least once each year.

Once the shaking has subsided and it is safe to move about check on the safety of others in your block. When you have accounted for everyone move to a common safe area to await further instructions. Be mindful of falling roof tiles.

Doors may become jammed or gas fires may block passage, so it may be necessary to leave by way of the balcony using a fire escape ladder.

Depending on the severity of the quake we may lose water, electrical and gas supply.


DO NOT get in a doorway! An early earthquake photo is a collapsed adobe home with the door frame as the only standing part. From this came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. In modern houses and buildings, doorways are no safer, and they do not protect you from flying or falling objects. Get under a table instead!

DO NOT run outside! Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous, as the ground is moving and you can easily fall or be injured by debris or glass. Running outside is especially dangerous, as glass, bricks, or other building components may be falling. You are much safer to stay inside and get under a table.

In bed: If you are in bed, hold on and stay there,protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.

In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat or drop to the floor between rows and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

In a store: When Shaking starts, Drop Cover and Hold On. A shopping cart or getting inside clothing racks can provide some protection. If you must move to get away from heavy items on high shelves, drop to the ground first and crawl only the shortest distance necessary. Whenever you enter any retail store, take a moment to look around: What is above and around you that could move or fall during an earthquake? Then use your best judgment to stay safe.

Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards.

Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

Near the shore: Drop, Cover, and Hold On until the shaking stops. If severe shaking lasts twenty seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground as a tsunami might have been generated by the earthquake. Move inland two miles or to land that is at least 100 feet above sea level immediately. Don’t wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards.

Below a dam: Dams can fail during a major earthquake. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, you should know flood-zone information and have prepared an evacuation plan.

More information:

Be Prepared for an Emergency.

The following is a kit put together by the American Red Cross, and gives a good indication of what should be easily accessible in case of an emergency.

At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below:

Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)

Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home). Note: you may not have gas or electricity for cooking,

Medications (7-day supply) and medical items including hearing aids(extra batteries), glasses, syringes, etc.

Multi-purpose tool

Sanitation and personal hygiene items

Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)

Cell phone with chargers. Family and emergency contact information

Extra cash

Emergency Blanket

Map(s) of the area

Manual can opener

Additional supplies to keep at home or in your survival kit based on the types of disasters common to your area: Whistle, N95 or surgical masks, Matches, Rain gear, Towels, Work gloves, clothing, hat and sturdy shoes, Plastic sheeting, Duct tape and Scissors, Household liquid bleach, Entertainment items, Blankets or sleeping bags.

When an emergency strikes, be prepared with the 2 Person 3 Day Emergency Preparedness Kit. This family kit contains enough supplies for a family of 2 for 3 days. Including emergency water packets, water containers for 12.5 gallons of water, emergency food rations, an American Red Cross FRX3 radio and other emergency supplies. Canned, easy to prepare foods should be stocked at all times.

Contents of Red Cross Emergency Kit:

1 – Rechargeable FRX3 hand crank, emergency radio with 7 NOAA weather band radio broadcast, USB phone charger8 – 4.2 ounce emergency drinking water with 3 year shelf life

3 – 2.5 gallon collapsible water containers with handle and spigot

4 – 2,400 Calorie Food Bars with 3 year shelf life

2 – LED Flashlights

1 – 78 piece first aid kit

2 – Emergency mylar blankets

2 – Comfort kits

2 – Rain ponchos

2 – Emergency 3-chamber whistle with break-a-way lanyard; 120 decibles.

2 – Procedural breathing masks

1 – Roll of duct tape (2″ x 30 yards)

1 – Hand sanitizer (50mL bottle)

1 – Red Cross backpack to carry contents