29+ Earthquake Survival Hacks That Are Worth Knowing


| LAST UPDATE 02/27/2023

By Daria Appleby

Earthquakes are just one type of natural disaster that can happen at anytime. The effects are hazardous, so it is vital to be prepared to protect everyone as much as possible. Here are some of our essential hacks.

What Is an Earthquake?

According to National Geographic, the definition of an earthquake "is a sudden shaking of Earth's surface caused by the movement of rocks deep underneath." While most are unnoticeable, others can cause severe damage.

Earthquake Tips Guide SafetyEarthquake Tips Guide Safety
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Earthquakes are measured by magnitude on a scale from 1 to 10. A microearthquake, around 2.0 or less, there is usually no movement felt at all, while 2.5 - 5.4 is mediocre and can cause minor damage. However, while any magnitude over 6.1 may cause more damage in populated areas, 7.0 - 8.0 can completely destroy a community.

Historical Damage

In the past decade, multiple earthquake disasters have occurred worldwide. In 1960, Chile experienced a magnitude of 9.5, and again in 2010, with an 8.8. In 2011, a 9.0 hit Japan followed by aftershocks, a tsunami, and an estimated 10,000 deaths. Recently, more devastating news spread worldwide after Turkey was struck.

Kahramanmaras earthquake turkey syria
Kahramanmaras earthquake turkey syria
Toshiharu Kato/Japanese Red Cross/IFRC via Getty Images

On February 6th, 2023, Turkey was rocked with a magnitude of 7.8. Although there have been higher magnitudes in the past, the quality of construction in southern Turkey - near the Syrian border - resulted in more damage and fatalities than ever imagined. The country then underwent several aftershocks, causing further damage.

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The Aftermath

According to Reuters, there has been an estimated $20+ billion worth of damages. These damages caused the lives of thousands of citizens, where currently, the death toll stands at over 50,000. However, the numbers seem to be rising as days pass and emergency services continue to take action.

Turkey Earthquake Aftermath DeathTurkey Earthquake Aftermath Death
Rami Al Sayed/AFP via Getty Images

There has been more focus on how to prepare effectively. While this isn't the first severe earthquake, the alarming death toll, and city destruction have opened the eyes of many. From buildings and bridges collapsing, disruption to local services, flash floods, fires, and tsunamis, essential notes should be taken for the future...

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Identify Hazards

While there is no way to predict when exactly an earthquake will strike, there is no harm in preparing for the worst-case scenario. Earthquakes occur suddenly, with no warning, and sometimes more violently than ever expected. That being said, it might be worthwhile to check your home for any potential hazards.

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@tzuchiusa via Instagram

Checking and planning in advance can help reduce the danger of serious damage or even life loss. Whether this might be a sharp object, a heavy piece of furniture against the wall, or overhead lighting, it is a good idea to look into repairing or reinforcing its structures. In the case of movement, be sure they do not fall easily.

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Identify Safe Places

As we work our way around our homes checking for any hazardous objects, this is also the perfect opportunity to check for the safest places for security. Whether this is indoors or outdoors, it is vital to know where the nearest exits are - or the most protected area in the home is.

Earthquake Safe Spaces DoorwayEarthquake Safe Spaces Doorway
Inside Edition via YouTube

It is said, if an earthquake is to occur, to protect ourselves by getting under a table. If there is no heavy desk nearby, it is also recommended to stand against an inside wall. However, make sure these areas are far away from sharp objects, heavy furniture, or even glass. Stay inside, hold on, protect the head, and avoid the doorway.

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An Escape Plan

Identifying hazards in your home is a start, but the next steps take a little more time and preparation. If in the case of a high-magnitude earthquake, creating an evacuation plan is highly useful. By ensuring all family members or roommates are aware of the possible risks and the most responsible plan, this puts us at more ease.

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@earthquakekitcanada via Instagram

From emergency apps to evacuation plans and kits, discussing in advance helps to reduce fear if in the case family members or friends are separated during the event. This applies even more if younger children are involved. Pick a safe place in the home to gather and even try practice runs, as they will benefit all for the foreseeable.

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The Escape Kit

Preparing is never a waste of time. As natural disasters can happen anywhere and at any time, there is no harm in creating an earthquake survival kit, including a list of emergency necessities. When creating this kit, ensure it is in an accessible area and stored inside something mobile such as an earthquake bag, a box, or a backpack.

Earthquake Safety Survival KitEarthquake Safety Survival Kit
@victoriahuelse_ via Instagram

What can be found in these kits? From three days of water supply (at least 1 gallon) to three days of nonperishable foods, including a can opener. Ensure an efficient first-aid kit is supplied, along with flashlights, batteries, electric appliances, prescribed medications, whistles, glasses, copies of personal documents, and cash.

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Food & Water

When it comes to preserving food and water, as previously mentioned, one gallon of water should be a sufficient amount to hydrate multiple family members for at least 3 days. Food and water are vital, especially when forced to escape from our homes. A small dose of comfort, such as food and water, can go a long way in calming nerves.

Earthquake Kit Food WaterEarthquake Kit Food Water
@rebeccachapa via Instagram

Preserving basic perishables is essential. Sometimes buying necessities overrides shopping for our favorites. The best foods to keep safe are ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, juices, coffee, milk, soup, salt, pepper, sugar, granola bars, cookies, dried fruit, and cereals. This way, all cravings should be satisfied.

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First Aid Kits

First aid is undoubtedly essential, whether it is preparing for a natural disaster or owning one in any household or office space. Not only do first aid kits apply some ease to specific situations, but they are essential when it comes to reducing infections and preventing serious injuries. A variety of supplies can go a long way.

First Aid Earthquake KitFirst Aid Earthquake Kit
NBC Bay Area via YouTube

A few of the essential items include: bandages in all sizes, tape rolls, gauze pads and rolls, scissors, foil blankets, examination gloves, a flashlight, instant cold and hot packs, antiseptic cream, aspirin, allergy and prescribed medicine, burn cream, tweezers, alcohol pads, cotton swabs, eye wash, and a list of insurance companies.

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Tools & Appliances

Tools and appliances aren't the easiest necessities to have inside escape kits. However, some are vital and may come handier than we believed. In times of emergencies, certain tools can aid broken appliances and save situations. Whether the water or gas systems are broken or are in need of warm water, these tools should help.

Earthquake Essential Tools GuideEarthquake Essential Tools Guide
@annevrichards via Instagram

Vital tools include: flashlights with extra batteries in every room, fire extinguisher, duct tape, work gloves, matches in waterproof containers, knives, pliers, and scissors, local maps, manual can opener, dust mask, water purification tablets, sterno, water-resistant/waterproof tarp for shelter and protection from debris.

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Staying Connected

Once escape plans and kits are confirmed and organized, it's time to start thinking about how to communicate with our nearest and dearest in case of an unfortunate event. If separated, decide on a plan and space to reunite once the shaking stops. This way, one can be sure to know everyone is okay by the end of the earthquake.

Earthquake Rescue Phone HotlineEarthquake Rescue Phone Hotline
Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills via YouTube

Be aware of everyone's whereabouts. Whether this is a daily routine, place of work, school, and even out-of-state relatives, make sure to know key addresses and phone numbers in the case of an emergency contact. Family contact is vital. Thankfully, if there is signal on our phones, group chats are a great way to know everyone is safe.

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High-Rise Buildings

One of the key elements of staying safe if inside, and especially in a high-rise building, is to hold on. Due to the quality of construction, high-rise buildings are typically safe and can maintain their structure during minor rumbles. Don't think that the height of the building is immediately dangerous but know where the safest place is.

High Rise Buildings EarthquakeHigh Rise Buildings Earthquake
@hikaru.manatsu.mako via Instagram

While it is possible to feel side-to-side movement, this is a natural response due to the occurring event. Do not use an elevator, as the electricity may fail, but if you are already inside, take a chance by banging against the metal so someone will hear. While on a high floor, move away from the windows, drop, cover, and hold on.

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Tall or Small Buildings

Since the 90s, houses have been built to be more equipped for hazardous events. According to The Media Line, Professor Bruria Adini spoke about the safety precautions in the Middle East following the Turkey disaster. She informed, "If you are in a one or two-story building and you can, get out and try to get away from other buildings."

Buildings Earthquake Safety GuideBuildings Earthquake Safety Guide
@charlieyin0201 via Instagram

She continued, "If you can get out, that is the best option. Often buildings have a delayed collapse, and the safest place is the parking lot of such buildings that are stronger than the building itself and can sustain the collapse." More so, many Middle Eastern buildings have bomb shelters which should provide substantial protection.

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Stopping Stampedes

Feeling trapped when there are hundreds of people can be frightening, especially in the likelihood that an earthquake was to happen. Similar to how one would react if they were indoors, it's important to stay low, cover our heads, and hold on to something stable. If possible, stay away from additional surrounding objects.

Crowded Areas Earthquake SafetyCrowded Areas Earthquake Safety
@raisingroneys via Instagram

Falling debris and internal shelves can easily fall, so make sure there is something cushioned to protect the head from any damage or injuries. Most importantly, do not rush. Others will most likely run for the exit and, in that case, will form a barricade of people, which will only put one at risk of more injuries.

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Is Under the Table Safe?

This tip is extremely emphasized. No matter how old or modern a house or inside space is, doorways will not be stronger depending on the quality of the building. Doorways have no protection, and flying objects can come cause injuries from any direction due to the movement. In that case, it is safest to find the nearest table.

Earthquake under table safeEarthquake under table safe
@nickissober via Instagram

Most earthquake-related injuries and fatalities are caused by flying objects. No matter the size, this can range from televisions to lamps, bookcases, cabinets, and glasses that will ultimately fall to the ground and break into sharp pieces. Remaining under a table will not assure 100% protection, but it will avoid the majority of dangers.

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In a Moving Vehicle

It might be difficult to detect the movement of an earthquake if you're moving in a car or even a large truck or bus. While some cities have alarms to notify citizens, this isn't always the case. Of course, it is likely that with enough movement, an earthquake is recognizable. With that in mind, it is vital to stop the car in a safe place.

Moving Vehicle Safety EarthquakeMoving Vehicle Safety Earthquake
Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills via YouTube

Turn on the radio for any emergency information and move the car to a curb but away from any wires, overhead passes, and poles. With the parking brake set, stay put until the shaking stops. Once it's safe to drive again, watch out for hazards created by the quake, such as potholes, rising water, road breakage, or collapsed bridges.

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Supplies for the Car

For those who spend majority of the time in the car, some essentials should be carried at all times, just in case. Whether you are driving to run errands, commuting to work, going for a thoughtful drive, or simply enjoying the outdoors, an emergency earthquake kit for the car is most definitely needed.

Earthquake Car Survival KitEarthquake Car Survival Kit
Tactical Rifleman via YouTube

Whether this is during a drive or evacuating home, these are the recommended car supplies: 1/2 a full tank of gas, 3-day water, and nonperishable food supply, extra clothing and shoes, small first-aid kit, solar blanket or sleeping bag, flashlight, and batteries, trash bags and toilet paper, Swiss army knife, and a mini fire extinguisher.

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Outside Protection

In the sudden event of an earthquake occurring and inside protection is out of the question, stay outside. Just because you are outside doesn't mean there are exterior hazards that can fall and cause injuries. Unlike other cases, while being inside, stay away from the walls of buildings and instead find an open space.

Earthquake Outside Safety GuideEarthquake Outside Safety Guide
Underworld via YouTube

If buildings are effected by the shaking, the falling debris is the greatest danger, along with falling trees, telephone poles, and the buildings themselves. To avoid being hit by a collapsing object or building, stay out in the open, get down low onto the floor, and stay there until the shaking stops.

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In a Stadium or Theater

Stadiums and theaters have both indoor and outdoor risks. In that case, ensure the top tips for surviving and protecting oneself throughout an earthquake in these spaces are understood and recognized. Firstly, do not leave until the shaking is over. Large spaces, as such, include more hazards that are out of sight.

Earthquake Stadium Safety DrillEarthquake Stadium Safety Drill
@dobs7er via Instagram

Protect your head and neck with your arms or in any way possible. The large surface area of the spaces will make it more difficult to find something to barricade our heads with, so be vigilant and wise. Once the shaking is over, walk out of the arena or theater safely, as anything can fall at any moment.

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Near the Shore

Being on a beach or near a shore sparks more dangers in the case of an earthquake. While the same drop, cover, and hold on tip applies here, there are external factors to watch out for. If possible, move towards land by two miles (3 kilometers) or move above sea level by at least 100 feet. Do not wait for any official warning.

Earthquake Beach Evacuation GuidelineEarthquake Beach Evacuation Guideline
Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills via YouTube

If severe shaking occurs for 20 seconds or longer, it is vital to evacuate to somewhere raised in the likelihood that a tsunami will erupt, triggered by the quaking. If you can escape the shore location easily, walk quickly in an orderly fashion rather than drive to avoid traffic and other hazards that can disrupt evacuation.

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Unable To Drop, Cover, and Hold On?

Some cannot access the same safe spaces as easily as others, such as those in wheelchairs, who cannot move from their bed or chair independently. Don't panic. For those in a wheelchair, lock the wheels securely and remove any items that aren't secured tightly to the chair. For protection, try to find a pillow nearby or even use your arms.

Earthquake Disability Safety GuideEarthquake Disability Safety Guide
Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills via YouTube

The main objective is to prevent injuries from falling or flying objects from any direction. If there is no shelter or table nearby, move away from windows, fireplaces, hanging objects, and outer walls. If outside, move towards an open space away from trees, buildings, and anything likely to fall from movement.

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Different City, Different Risks

While the Middle East has productively designed buildings over time with more structure and sturdy shelter rooms, other global areas worldwide have also adapted to reoccurring incidents. California, for example, is fairly used to their earthquakes throughout the year - and each region holds risks.

Natural Disasters California EarthquakeNatural Disasters California Earthquake
Inside Edition via YouTube

Whether it be California or another state, find local risk by visiting CEA risk map for each country. This way, you should be given crucial information about preparing, guidance, and local faults in surrounding areas to avoid injuries. Share the knowledge with as many people as possible to spread awareness.

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Power in Numbers

Another vital cause for action is not to panic, which will delay the fight or flight response while trying to escape or find a safer area. Adini says, "Work with them to answer their most immediate needs. Help each other focus on things they can do, even little things, to help improve their situation."

Earthquake Rescue Team SurvivalEarthquake Rescue Team Survival
Global News via YouTube

She continues, "At this point, humans go into survival mode, and their mental capacity is decreased. From that moment on, a person may look the same, but they operate in a completely different matter." With this in mind, rushing to the nearest exit as a mass group is never the answer. If stuck under rubble, it is vital to remain calm.

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Preparing Our Pets

Don't think pets are left to struggle alone if an earthquake was to occur. Pets are a part of the family and a crucial part of any escape plan. With that in mind, our four-legged friends should have their own personal emergency kits due to specific and unique needs, as opposed to human needs.

Animal Rescue Pets EarthquakesAnimal Rescue Pets Earthquakes
Reuters via YouTube

Consider the following items: leashes and carriers for transport, food and water for ten days, cat litter and trash bags, disposable gloves, bowls, treats, toys, blankets, medications and records, photographs, information on behavior, and vet contact information. It also might be useful to add a microchip or an ID tag on its collar.

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Earthquake Insurance

It can be heartbreaking to ever think about losing a lifetime of belongings and memories. However, in the worst-case scenario, a backup plan is a great way to prepare and reduce stress. While most homeowner policies do not usually cover earthquake damage, consider a separate insurance policy to protect yourself, your finances, and your family.

Earthquake Home InsuranceEarthquake Home Insurance
FOX 11 Los Angeles via YouTube

Earthquake insurance policies vary for different house types, so it is beneficial to look into this before making any irrational decisions in the heat of the moment of protecting your house. Not only will it provide reassurance if an event was to occur, but it will also give peace of mind about how much things are worth.

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If Stuck Under Rubble

In big cities, rescue workers will race against time to save as many lives as possible. Experts conclude the first 72 hours are "critical." Keeping a smartphone or cellphone with us is crucial for emergency signals and communication with others. Sending regular messages can further help track a device, even once the battery has died.

Stuck Under Rubble Earthquake SurvivalStuck Under Rubble Earthquake Survival
KPRC via YouTube

Whether it is shouting or knocking on whatever is nearest should help attract attention to be found. Due to powerful aftershocks, the amount of rubble can affect the temperature underneath. Creating fire or light is usually impossible, so stay close to something or another to stay warm. Look for light and aim to move toward it.

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After an earthquake, aftershocks are extremely common. According to Japan Meteorological Agency, it is "a series of smaller earthquakes will follow continuously around the epicenter of the first earthquake." While they are usually less violent, they have the potential to shake harder than the initial earthquake and cause more damage.

Aftershock Earthquake GuidelineAftershock Earthquake Guideline
Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills via YouTube

Expect more movement with aftershocks and only return home when told it is safe to, as further damage can happen whilst making it on the route. If an aftershock occurs, drop, cover, and hold on. Remember to reach out to family members to make sure everyone is safe, check for injuries, and, if needed, call emergency services as soon as possible.

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Cleaning & Repairing The Home

It can be emotionally distressful when returning home and seeing the amount of damage that has been done. It is important to wear protective clothing that covers the legs, arms, and wearing sturdy shoes to make sure nothing broken can injure you in the cleaning process.

Earthquake Aftermath Cleaning SootEarthquake Aftermath Cleaning Soot
Angela Brown Cleaning via YouTube

Avoid touching soot, and clean up spilled medication or anything highly flammable immediately. Basic cleaning supplies include sponges, gloves, buckets, mops, brooms, and heavy-duty trash bags. Dispose of anything that has come into contact with floodwater, and be patient when contacting services to fix the water or electrical damage.

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Disaster Relief

Following an earthquake, hundreds of families experience trauma and loss. Whether this is their home, friends, or family members, it is crucial to aid those who experienced the horror. There are many disaster resources where people can contribute professional help, aiding families to return to normality as quickly as possible.

Earthquake Disaster Relief TurkeyEarthquake Disaster Relief Turkey
CBS News via YouTube

Charities like Save The Children and Doctors Without Borders have used the power of social media to aid support. The recent tragedy in Turkey and Syria left thousands homeless without food, water, and supplies. Lots of donations have been raised while Meta activated a Safety Check feature to let users know they are safe or even trapped under debris.

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One World, United

Developers across the world have used their technological talents to design websites for crisis assistance. Students from Middle East Technical University in Ankara started Afetbilgi.com just 30 hours after the earthquake struck. The website was designed to gather a range of sources and hosts to aid the disaster.

Open Source Software Turkey EarthquakeOpen Source Software Turkey Earthquake
Burak Kara via Getty Images

According to Context, "The hub, which was started by 5 college students and has grown to a team of 25, hosts links for temporary accommodation, food distributors, blood and stem cell donations, and veterinary services." 14 million requests have been made with 1 million visitors. Slowly but surely, hope will be restored.

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