Earthquake & Tsunami Preparedness

Earthquake Program

Other Earthquake Links


A tsunami is a series of waves that can be dangerous and destructive. They can be caused by underwater disturbances or earthquakes. When you hear a tsunami warning, move at once to higher ground and stay there until local authorities say it is safe to return home.

What can I do today? Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. A rapid rise or fall in coastal waters and a large earthquake are both signs to an approaching tsunami. Know the location of your local evacuation site. Most coastal communities have a designated area on high ground that the community will meet, ie: a school. Know your community's warning siren or method of letting people know a tsunami is coming. DO NOT go to the water to watch the tsunami come in!

Tsunami Links

Drop Cover and Hold Drill

No matter where you are, know how to protect yourself and your family during an earthquake. Practice taking cover as if there were an earthquake and learn the safest places in your home and work. Practice getting out of your home and check to see if the planned exits are clear and if they can become blocked in an earthquake. Practice turning off your electricity and water. Know how to turn off the gas, but do not practice this step. In the event of an earthquake, once you turn off your gas, only your utility company should turn it back on for safety reasons.

  • DROP: DROP down on the floor.
  • COVER: Take COVER under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture. If that is not possible, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors or tall furniture.
  • HOLD: If you take cover under a sturdy piece of 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.

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Emergency Supplies Checklist

Stocking up now on emergency supplies can add to your safety and comfort during and after an earthquake. Store enough supplies for at least 72 hours.


  • Water -- 1 gallon per person per day (a week's supply of water is preferable)
  • Water purification kit
  • First aid kit, freshly stocked
  • First aid book
  • Food
  • Can opener (non-electric)
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Portable radio, flashlight and spare batteries
  • Essential medications
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses
  • Extra pair of house and car keys
  • Fire extinguisher -- A-B-C type
  • Food, water and restraint (leash or carrier) for pets
  • Cash and change
  • Baby supplies: formula, bottle, pacifier, soap and baby powder, clothing, blankets, baby wipes, disposable diapers, canned food and juices.

Sanitation Supplies

  • Large plastic trash bags for waste; tarps and rain ponchos
  • Large trash cans
  • Bar soap and liquid detergent
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Feminine hygiene supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • Household bleach

Safety and Comfort

  • Sturdy shoes
  • Heavy gloves for clearing debris
  • Candles and matches
  • Light sticks
  • Change of clothing
  • Knife or razor blades
  • Garden hose for siphoning and firefighting
  • Tent
  • Communication kit: paper, pens, stamps


  • Plastic knives, forks, spoons
  • Paper plates and cups
  • Paper towels
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Camping stove for outdoor cooking (caution: before using fire to cook, make sure there are no gas leaks; never use charcoal indoors)

Tools and Supplies

  • Axe, shovel, broom
  • Adjustable wrench for turning off gas
  • Tool kit including a screwdriver, pliers and a hammer
  • Coil of 1/2" rope
  • Plastic tape, staple gun and sheeting for window replacement
  • Bicycle
  • City map

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Preparing Your Family

When preparing for an earthquake, plan on having enough supplies to get you and your family through at least the first 72hours. After a major earthquake, there's a good chance that traditional emergency response teams will be too busy to take care of you and your family. You need to prepare your home and neighborhood.

The Family Plan

  • Stock up on at least a three-day supply of food, water, clothes, medical supplies and other necessary equipment for everyone in your family. Make sure everyone knows where to find them. (See the information sheet on emergency supplies in this packet.)
  • Decide where and when to reunite your family should you be apart when an earthquake happens.
  • Choose a person outside the immediate area to contact if family members are separated. Long distance phone service will probably be restored sooner than local service. Do not use the phone immediately after an earthquake.
  • Know the policies of the school or daycare center your children attend. Make plans to have someone pick them up if you are unable to get to them.
  • If you have a family member who does not speak English, prepare an emergency card written in English indicating that person's identification, address and any special needs such as medication or allergies. Tell that person to keep the card with him/her at all times.
  • Conduct Earthquake: Drop, Cover & Hold drills every six months with your family.
  • Know the safest place in each room because it will be difficult to move from one room to another during a quake.
  • Locate the shutoff valves for water, gas and electricity. Learn how to shut off the valves before a quake. If you have any questions, call your utility company.
  • Make copies of vital records and keep them in a safe deposit box in another city or state. Make sure your originals are stored safely.
  • Before a quake occurs, call your local Red Cross chapter and Office of Emergency Services to find out about their plans for emergency shelters and temporary medical centers in case of such a disaster.
  • Establish all the possible ways to exit your house. Keep those areas clear.
  • Know the locations of the nearest fire and police stations.
  • Take photos and/or videos of your valuables. Make copies and keep them in another city or state.
  • Include your babysitter and other household help in your plans.
  • Keep an extra pair of eyeglasses and house and car keys on hand.
  • Keep extra cash and change. If electricity is out, you will not be able to use an ATM.

General Tips

  • Stay away from heavy furniture, appliances, large glass panes, shelves holding objects, and large decorative masonry, brick or plaster such as fireplaces.
  • Keep your hallway clear. It is usually one of the safest places to be during an earthquake.
  • Stay away from kitchens and garages, which tend to be the most dangerous places because of the many items kept there.

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Tips for Preparing Children

Children need to be prepared for an earthquake as much as adults, if not more.

Infants and Toddlers

For infants and toddlers, special emphasis should be placed on making their environment as safe as possible.

  • Cribs should be placed away from windows and tall, unsecured bookcases and shelves that could slide or topple.
  • A minimum of a 72-hour supply of extra water, formula, bottles, food, juices, clothing, disposable diapers, baby wipes and prescribed medications should be stored where it is most likely to be accessible after an earthquake. Also keep an extra diaper bag with these items in your car.
  • Store strollers, wagons, blankets and cribs with appropriate wheels to evacuate infants, if necessary.
  • Install bumper pads in cribs or bassinettes to protect babies during the shaking.
  • Install latches on all cupboards (not just those young children can reach) so that nothing can fall on your baby during a quake.

Preschool and School-age Children

By age three or so, children can understand what an earthquake is and how to get ready for one. Take the time to explain what causes earthquakes in terms they'll understand. Include your children in family discussions and planning for earthquake safety. Conduct drills and review safety procedures every six months.

  • Show children the safest places to be in each room when an earthquake hits. Also show them all possible exits from each room.
  • Use sturdy tables to teach children to Drop, Cover & Hold.
  • Teach children what to do wherever they are during an earthquake (at school, in a tall building, outdoors).
  • Make sure children's emergency cards at school are up-to-date.
  • Although children should not turn off any utility valves, it's important that they know what gas smells like. Advise children to tell an adult if they smell gas after an earthquake.

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Tips for the Physically Challenged

Before an Earthquake

  • Set up your home, apartment or workplace so that you can quickly get under a sturdy desk, table or other safe place for protection. Identify doorways that do not have doors in which you can take cover.
  • Maintain a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names and numbers of doctors, pharmacists and family members with you at all times.
  • Keep extra medication with your emergency supplies.
  • Keep extra emergency supplies at your bedside and by your wheelchair.
  • Have walking aids near you at all times. Place extra walking aids in different rooms of the house.
  • Put a security light in each room. These lights plug into any outlet and light up automatically if there is a loss of electricity. They continue operating automatically for four to six hours, and they can be turned off by hand in an emergency.
  • Have a whistle near you to signal for help.
  • Find two people you trust who will check on you after an earthquake. Tell them your special needs. Show them how to operate any equipment you use. Show them where your emergency supplies are kept. Give them a spare key.

During and After an Earthquake

  • If you are in bed or out of a wheelchair, stay where you are and cover your head and neck.
  • If you are in a wheelchair, stay in it and go into a doorway that doesn't have a door. Cover your head and neck with your hands.
  • Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days.
  • Turn on your portable radio for instructions and news reports. For your own safety, cooperate fully with public safety officials and instructions.
  • Prepare for aftershocks.
  • If you evacuate your home, leave a message at your home telling family members and others where you can be found.

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Tips for the Elderly

Before an Earthquake

  • Eliminate hazards. Make it as easy as possible to quickly get under a sturdy table or desk for protection.
  • Anchor special equipment such as telephones and life support systems. Fasten tanks of gas, such as oxygen, to the wall.
  • Keep a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names and numbers of doctors, pharmacists and family members. Make sure you have this list with you at all times.
  • Keep an extra pair of eyeglasses and medication with emergency supplies.
  • Keep walking aids near you at all times. Have extra walking aids in different rooms of the house.
  • Put a security light in each room. These lights plug into any outlet and light up automatically if there is a loss of electricity. They continue operating automatically for four to six hours, and they can be turned off by hand in an emergency.
  • Make sure you have a whistle to signal for help.
  • Keep extra batteries for hearing aids with your emergency supplies. Remember to replace them annually.
  • Keep extra emergency supplies at your bedside.
  • Find two people you trust who will check on you after an earthquake. Tell them your special needs. Show them how to operate any equipment you use. Show them where your emergency supplies are kept. Give them a spare key.

During and After an Earthquake

  • If you are in bed or sitting down, do not get up.
  • If you are standing, Drop and cover or sit down. You could be thrown to the floor if you are standing.
  • Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days.
  • Turn on your portable radio for instructions and news reports. For your own safety, cooperate fully with public safety officials and instructions.
  • Prepare for aftershocks.
  • If you evacuate, leave a message at your home telling family members and others where you can be found.

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Tips for Apartment and Mobile Home Managers

You shouldn't depend on your tenants to know what to do in an emergency. It will be up to you to get them and your building ready for an earthquake.

More importantly, you will want to prepare people to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours after an earthquake.

  • Consult local building codes to ensure that buildings meet current seismic safety standards. It is advisable that "Prior to purchase or installation, people check with their local building department or authority having jurisdiction to determine if seismic bracing is approved or if any permitting or inspection is required" .
  • Develop an emergency plan before an earthquake that includes guidelines for storing water and food, obtaining first aid training, appointing floor or area leaders and conducting drills. Encourage tenants to develop their own emergency plans as well.
  • Encourage mobile home tenants to better secure their homes by installing structural support bracing systems, leaving wheels on homes, rather than removing them, and securing awnings. A list of state-certified bracing systems is available from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
  • Organize teams that will be responsible for first aid, search-and-rescue, communications and firefighting.
  • Provide tenants with a white flag or a distinguishable sign to post that will indicate which of them haven't been seriously injured.
  • Practice Earthquake: Drop, Cover & Hold drills in your complex or park.
  • Hold meetings to discuss these plans and provide information to your tenants.

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Organizing Your Neighborhood

After an earthquake or other disaster, emergency response agencies could be overburdened and might not be able to get to your neighborhood immediately. You and your neighbors or coworkers may need to take the initial emergency response actions and take care of others for at least 72 hours. Past earthquakes have thrust many untrained people into positions of providing first aid and rescuing people. You need to be prepared!

If a response team has not been organized in your neighborhood or workplace, form one now. Joining and forming a community response team can greatly improve your chances of surviving an earthquake and can improve the self-sufficiency of your neighborhood.


  • Learn simple firefighting techniques.
  • Learn basic search-and-rescue skills.
  • Learn to assess yourself, your family and coworkers for injuries.
  • Learn to assess your home and workplace for hazards or damage.
  • Learn to assess your community for hazards, needs and available resources.

Contact your local police and fire departments, city/county Office of Emergency Services, American Red Cross chapter or community college to arrange for speakers and training workshops. Response teams should arrange to participate in annual earthquake exercises sponsored by local government and businesses.

Inventory Your Neighbors' Skills

As part of the community response team planning process, teams should conduct an inventory of the skills and resources available at home, work and community. You should have this information on hand before an earthquake for efficient, effective responses. Identify people who:

  • Have medical, electrical, child care, leadership, firefighting and survival skills.
  • Own chain saws, citizens band radios, four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles and water purifiers.
  • Are willing and able to be a runner/bicycler to deliver messages if telephone lines are down.
  • Every home or office has people with special needs. Your neighborhood response team should work with these individuals in advance to determine what extra assistance or supplies they may require after an earthquake or other emergency. Some of the people who may require special assistance include:
  • Physically Challenged

    • Deaf or hearing impaired
    • Blind
    • Limited mobility -- wheelchair-bound
    • Persons who require a special oxygen supply
    • Persons with significant medical conditions


    • Children who spend time alone at home
    • Non-English speaking

    Store Supplies

    In addition to the water, food and other supplies that everyone needs to stock, members of the community response team should store tools. Items such as the following should be stored in a central and easily accessible location.

    • Gloves and goggles
    • Adjustable wrenches
    • Hard hats and vests
    • Flashlights with extra batteries
    • Axes and crowbars
    • Ropes

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Tips for Pet Owners

When preparing your home for an earthquake, don't forget to include your pets on the list. They will depend on you even more after an earthquake to take care of them and their needs.

Before an Earthquake

  • Store enough food and water to last for 72 hours, preferably for one week. Prepare a shelter or evacuation kit for your pet, including an unbreakable dish, veterinarian records, a restraint (leash or pet carrier) and medication with instructions.
  • Keep your pet's ID tag up-to-date.
  • Make sure nothing can fall on your pet.
  • Arrange for a neighbor to take care of your pet if you are not able to get home after an earthquake.

During and After an Earthquake

  • Do not try to hold onto your pet during the shaking. Animals will instinctively protect themselves and hide where they're safe. If you get in their way, even the nicest pets can turn on you.
  • Be patient with your pets after a quake. They get stressed just like people and need time to readjust. They may disappear for some time, but they generally show up again when things have calmed down.
  • If you have outdoor pets, you should keep them indoors until the aftershocks have subsided and they have calmed down.
  • If you must evacuate your home, leave your pet secured in a safe place. Pets will not be allowed at shelters. Be sure to leave plenty of clean water and food. If possible, visit your pet daily until you can return home.

For more information regarding People for Emergency Preparedness Planning for Animals (P.E.P.P.A), contact: Lorelei Lamere, D.V.M. * P.O.Box 772751 * Eagle River, AK 99577

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How to Secure Your Furniture

Secure the contents of your home or office to reduce hazards. You should secure anything heavy enough to hurt you if it falls. Here are some steps you can take to secure your possessions.

Secure Tabletop Objects

  • TVs, stereos, computers, lamps and chinaware can be secured with buckles and safety straps attached to the tabletop (which allows for easy movement of the units when needed) or with hook and loop fasteners glued to both the table and the unit.
  • Glass and pottery objects can be secured with nondrying putty or microcrystalline wax.

Secure Items in Your Kitchen

  • Use child-proof latches, hook and eye latches or positive catch latches, designed for boats, to secure your cabinet doors.
  • Make sure your gas appliances have flexible connectors to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Secure your refrigerator to prevent movement.

Anchor Your Furniture

  • Secure the tops of all top-heavy furniture such as bookcases and file cabinets to the wall. Be sure to anchor to the stud, not just to the plasterboard. Flexible fasteners such as nylon straps allow tall objects to sway without falling over, reducing the strain on the studs.

Protect Yourself from Broken Glass

  • Replace your windows with ones made from safety glass or cover them with a strong shatter-resistant film. Be sure you use safety film and not just a solar filter.

Secure Overhead Objects

  • Ceiling lights and fans should be additionally supported with a cable bolted to the ceiling joist. The cable should have enough slack to allow it to sway.
  • Framed pictures, especially glass-covered, should be hung from closed hooks so that they can't bounce off. Only soft art such as tapestries should be placed over beds and sofas.

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How to Strap Your Water Heater

If you strap your water heater and fit it with a flexible gas supply line, you will reduce the risk of a fire or explosion from a gas leak after an earthquake. If your water heater does not have a flexible gas supply line, contact a licensed plumber to install one.

These instructions are for installing a water heater restraint for a water heater on a straight wall using the conduit method:

  • Mark the water heater 9" down from the top and approximately 4" up from the top of the controls. Locate the wood studs in the wall on both sides of the water heater.
  • Using a stud finder or other appropriate methods, locate the closest stud behind and to one side of the water heater.
  • Transfer the marks on the water heater horizontally to the adjacent wall where the stud identified in step 2 was located.
  • Drill a 3/16" diameter -3" deep pilot hole at the marked location for the x 3" long lag screws.
  • Measure around the water heater and add 2" to that measurement. Cut 2 pieces of 1 1/2" x 16 Gauge metal strap to the above measurement. Measure 1 1/2" from each end of the strap and bend outward to an approximate right angle. Drill a 3/8" hole in the bent ends to accommodate a 5/16" x 3/4" bolt and nut and mount loosely on the water heater. The bolt/nut should be on the front of the unit.
  • Using a straight stick, place the end at the hole in the wall with the side of the stick against the side of the tape around the tank. Measure the distance from where the stick touches the water heater to the hole in the wall. Add 1 1/2" to this measurement and cut 1/2" diameter conduit to this length. Repeat this for each piece of conduit. There may be two different measurements for the conduit due to the location of the studs.
  • Using a hammer or vise, flatten 1" at each end of the 4 pieces of conduit. Be sure to flatten both ends of each piece of conduit in the same plane.
  • With the conduit in a vise, drill a 3/8" hole in one end of each conduit approximately 1/2" from each end. Measure 1" from the end and bend up approximately 45 degrees. This angle will have to be corrected slightly as the work progresses. Hold the conduit on the wall with the hole in the conduit over the hole in the wall, and mark the other end on the metal straps around the water heater and on the conduit. Take down the conduit and drill a 3/8" hole at the mark for the bolt through the flattened end of the conduit. Repeat for the conduit on the other side.
  • Remove the straps around the tank and drill a 3/8" hole at the locations indicated by the conduit. Loosely secure the straps to the tank and place a 5/16" x 3/4" bolt through the hole in the strap. Place the conduit on the bolt protruding from the strap and place a washer and nut on the bolt and tighten. Tighten the straps around the tank at the correct locations. Position the opposite end of the conduit at the hole in the wall and insert the lag screw with the washer and tighten. Do not drive the lag screw with a hammer. It may be easier to do one side of the tank at a time because positioning the tape can be difficult.
  • Heater Safety Straps - If the water heater is not positioned within 1" of the wall, secure a 1" drywall (sheetrock) step spacer behind the water heater to reduce the gap and to prevent excessive movement. This is normally one (or more) piece(s) of of drywall within 9" of the top of the tank mounted to the rear wall studs. Two small pieces of drywall are than fastened to the the first piece(s) to form a cradle behind the tank. If the tank does rock, even with the strap on, it will strike the sheetrock and not the wall - less damage to the wall and less to the tank.
  • Repeat the above procedure for the rest of the conduits.

This is only one method of securing your hot water heater. There are now commercial pre-engineered products available at your local building product supply store the accomplish the same task.

NOTE: The 1/4" x 1" bolts referred to in the above are known as 1/4" x 1" round head machine screws with a nut.

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