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Ready Marine Corps

Emergency Preparedness Program

Brought to You By Your Marine Corps Emergency Management Team

A Marine takes shelter beneath a desk in this image.

An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock as it releases strain that has accumulated over a long time. If the earthquake occurs in a populated areas, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage. While earthquakes are often believed to be a West Coast occurrence, all 50 states and five U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes at any time of year.

121018-D-RS000-001 Photo by Rochelle Smolinski

How To Prepare
  1. Register to receive emergency alerts through the Marine Corps Enterprise Mass Notification System (eMNS) or local emergency alert systems.
  2. Know earthquake terminology.         
  3. Minimize home hazards by bolting or strapping shelves, bookcases, china cabinets, other tall furniture, and the water heater to studs in the walls and by placing large, heavy, or breakable objects on lower shelves.
  4. Identify a safe place in every room of your home where nothing can fall on you, such as under a table or against an inside wall.
  5. Make an evacuation plan.
  6. Make an emergency communication plan.
  7. Practice earthquake drills, especially “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!
  8. Build an emergency kit that includes sturdy shoes to protect you from possible broken glass.
What To Do If There Is An Earthquake
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  • Stop as soon as you can, away from buildings, overpasses, utility wires, or anything that could fall.
  • Stay in the vehicle. 
  • Proceed very slowly once shaking stops. 
  • Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake, and anticipate traffic light outages.
  • Do not run outside. There may be falling debris.
  • If possible, DROP to the ground, take COVER under a table or sturdy piece of furniture, and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. 
  • If you are not near any sturdy furniture, crouch in an inside corner of the building where there is less of a chance of things falling on you.
  • Stay away from windows, light fixtures, unstable furniture, or anything that could fall.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and you are absolutely sure it is safe to go outside.
  • The electricity may go out, so don’t use elevators.
  • Move away from buildings, street lights, and utility wires, or anything that could fall.
  • Once in an open area, stay there until the shaking stops.
  • Statistics show that the most injuries in earthquakes are caused by falling debris. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls.
What To Do When The Shaking Stops
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  • Do not light a match for light. There may be gas leaks in the area.
  • Do not move around or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a hand­kerchief or piece of clothing to reduce dust inhalation. 
  • Tap on a pipe or use a whistle to help rescuers find you. Shout only as a last resort as it will increase dust inhalation.


  • Check yourself and others for injuries.
  • Follow your command’s protocols for personnel accountability and contact your command’s designated Point of Contact to check-in and report your location and situation.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires.
    • Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Inspect utilities—check for gas leaks, look for electrical system damage, and check for sewage and water line damage.
    • Turn off gas, power, or water if you suspect a leak.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Stay tuned to the radio and eMNS alerts for further information and instructions.
  • Expect aftershocks, which can come minutes, hours, or days after an earthquake.
    • If an aftershock happens, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Be very careful of falling debris in homes or outdoors. 

Set your own course through any hazard: stay informed, make a plan, build a kit.
Live Ready Marine Corps.

During an earthquake, drop, cover, and hold on.

Where to Find Additional Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes/

Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov)http://www.ready.gov/earthquakes


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