How many times have you been asked this question in reference to a major earthquake like Loma Prieta in 1989, or the famous 1906 San Francisco Earthquake?  There are also many, many online references that can help you answer this basic question of readiness. Here are suggestions from the American Red Cross:

Prepare a home Earthquake plan:                                                                                                       Choose a safe place in every room – under a sturdy table or desk or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you.
Practice DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON at least twice a year. Drop under a sturdy desk or table, hold on, and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm. If there’s no table or desk nearby, sit on the floor against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. Teach children to DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON 

  • Choose an out-of-town family contact.
  • Eliminate hazards, including:
    Bolting bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs
  • Installing strong latches on cupboards
  • Strapping the water heater to wall studs
  • Take a first aid class from your local Red Cross chapter. Keep your training current.
  • Get training in how to use a fire extinguisher from your local fire department.
  • Inform babysitters and caregivers of your plan.

 Prepare a disaster supplies kit for home and car:                                      

Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries
At least three gallons of water per person, preferably more
Canned food and can opener
First aid kit
Essential medications
Tools and instructions to shut off utilities
Sturdy shoes and work gloves
Sanitation supplies
Fire extinguisher                                                                                                                                       Keep essentials, such as a flashlight and sturdy shoes, by your bedside.

Know what to do when the shaking begins:

DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit. Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place (as described above). Stay in the car until the shaking stops.

Identify what to do after the shaking stops:

Check yourself for injuries. Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
Check others for injuries. Give first aid for serious injuries.
Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Turn off the gas if you smell gas or think it’s leaking (remember, only a professional should turn it back on).
Listen to the radio for instructions.
Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON!
Inspect home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.

Plan and get ready:

Earthquakes can happen in most states…anytime…without warning. Reducing hazards and knowing what to do can make a big difference in how an earthquake impacts your household. Adults and children in the household should talk about what you will do when an earthquake happens.

This checklist will get you started in planning. Have various members of the household complete each of the items on the checklist below. Then get together to finalize your Home Earthquake Plan.

Pick one or more ‘safe places’ in each room of your home. Practice DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! in each place.

Write the locations of safe places in each room of your home.
Bedroom:___________________ Bedroom:_________________
Living room:________________ Kitchen:___________________
Other rooms:__________________________________________

Choose an out-of-town relative or friend to be family contact person.
Family contact:_______________ Phone number:_________________

Put together disaster supplies kits.
Location of home kit:_____________ Date assembled:______________
Shoes and flashlight put next to everyone’s bed:___________(date)
Smaller kit put in car:_______________________________(date)

Teach household members how to turn off utilities.
Location of gas and water valves and electrical switches and turnoff tools:_______________________________________

Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets.
Secure water heater to wall studs with two steel straps.
Bolt bookcases, china cabinet, and tall furniture to wall studs.
Secure items that might fall (TV, books, computers, etc.).

And remember…when an earthquake, hurricane, fire, flood, or other emergency happens in your community, you can count on your local American Red Cross chapter to be there to help you and your family. That’s been the role of the Red Cross for more than 100 years.

For more information, ask for the following brochures from your local Red Cross chapter or emergency management office:

Your Family Disaster Plan (ARC4466)
Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit (ARC4463)