Earthquake Preparedness

As a California resident, earthquakes are a part of daily life. The vast majority go unnoticed but unfortunately large earthquakes have and do shake San Luis Obispo County.  There are steps you can take to prepare your family and reduce damage to your house.

Before An Earthquake

  • Eliminate home hazards:
    • Bolt bookcases to the wall
    • Install latches on cupboards
    • Strap the water heater to wall studs
    • Store breakable items such as china and bottles in low closed cabinets.
  • Create and practice a disaster plan and kit
  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with your family
  • Identify ‘safe’ places, such as heavy tables, in each room. Make those known to family members.
  • Know how to use your fire extinguisher.
  • Consult a professional on how to secure your home, such as bolting the house to its foundation.

During An Earthquake

  • If indoors, stay there. Drop to the ground, get under a desk or table and hold on.
  • If you are unable to Drop, Cover and Hold on, get as low as possible, protect your head and neck, and move away from windows or other items that can fall on you.
    • If you are in a wheelchair lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Always protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
  • If you are in bed, stay there, pull the covers and pillows over your head and hang on.
  • If outdoors, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls and power lines.
  • If in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outside walls. Get under a table. Do not use elevators. 
  • If you are trapped under debris, do not light a match. Cover your mouth with a piece of clothing and try to remain still. Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous dust. Shout only as a last resort.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside your car until the shaking is over.

  • After An Earthquake

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move. Then exit the building.
  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly and people with access and functional needs. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after and earthquake.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Be aware of possible tsunamis. These are also known as seismic sea waves. If a tsunami warning is issued assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.
  • Use the telephone for emergency calls only.
  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
  • Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.
  • Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency by visiting
  • Inspect utilities.
    • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noises, open a window and quickly leave the building. Only turn gas off if you suspect a leak. Turn the gas off at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn the gas off for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
    • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, of if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
    • Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks. Don sturdy footwear and protective clothing.
  • If you evacuate, leave a message at your home telling family members and others where you can be found.

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