Table of Contents
Step 2: Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan
The information in this booklet is valid, but for the most updated information, navigate to Our Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety Page.

Will everyone in your household do the right thing during the violent shaking of a major earthquake? Before the next earthquake, get together with your family or housemates to plan now what each person will do before, during and after.

Once the earthquake is over, we will have to live with the risk of fire, the potential lack of utilities and basic services, and the certainty of aftershocks. By planning now, you will be ready. This plan will also be useful for other emergencies.

Tsunami Watch

Does your community:

  • have plans to notify you if a tsunami warning is issued?
  • have a designated evacuation zone and posted tsunami hazard signs?
  • practice evaluation drills?
  • conduct tsunami education and awareness campaigns?

Your community can do all of the above and more if it has been recognized by the National Weather Service as TsunamiReady. The TsunamiReady program sets guidelines for adequate tsunami readiness, including the ability to receive and send out tsunami warnings, designation of tsunami hazard zones and evacuation routes, and outreach programs that address both natural and official warnings. Find out if your community is recognized as TsunamiReady at If it isn’t, find out what you can do to encourage your community to gain this recognition.

Plan NOW to be safe during an earthquake:

  • Practice “drop, cover, and hold on.” (See Step 5)
  • Identify safe spots in every room, such as under sturdy desks and tables.
  • Learn how to protect yourself no matter where you are when an earthquake strikes.

Plan NOW to respond after an earthquake:

  • Keep shoes and a working flashlight next to each bed.
  • Get a fire extinguisher for your home. Your local fire department can train you and your family to use it properly.
  • Teach everyone in your household to use emergency whistles and/or to knock three times repeatedly if trapped. Rescuers are trained to listen for such sounds.
  • Identify the needs of household members and neighbors with special requirements or situations, such as use of a wheelchair, walking aids, special diets, or medication.
  • Take a Red Cross first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training course. Learn who else in your neighborhood is trained.
  • Know the location of utility shutoffs and keep needed tools nearby. Know how to turn off the gas, water, and electricity to your home. Only turn off the gas if you smell or hear leaking gas.
  • Install smoke alarms and test them monthly. Change the battery once a year, or when the alarm emits a “chirping” sound (low-battery signal).
  • Work with your neighbors to identify who has skills and resources that will be useful in an emergency, and who may need special attention (children, elderly, disabled, etc.)
  • Check with your city or county to see if there is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in your area. If not, ask how to start one.

Am I at risk?

Find out if your home or business is at risk for earthquakes, tsunamis, and related hazards. Earthquakes can occur everywhere in California which means all Californians live with an earthquake risk. In addition to the shaking caused by earthquakes, other things can occur such as landslides, surface fault ruptures and liquefaction – all of which may cause injury or property damage. In addition, some areas within California are vulnerable to tsunamis should an earthquake occur off the coast. Use signs and maps to find out which areas are hazardous. On the open coast areas 100 feet or more in elevation and low areas more than two miles inland are safe.

Visit to create a map of the hazards you may face in your community, and contact your local city or county government for further details on how to be prepared where you live. Then quickly create a plan to reduce your risks.

Plan NOW to communicate and recover after an earthquake:

  • Select a safe place outside of your home to meet your family or housemates after the shaking.
  • Designate an out-of-area contact person who can be called by everyone in the household to relay information. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio with the Public Alert feature to notify you of tsunamis and other hazards.
  • Provide all family members with a list of important contact phone numbers.
  • Determine where you might live if your home cannot be occupied after a disaster.
  • Know about the earthquake plan developed by your children’s school or day care. Keep school emergency release card(s) current.
  • Keep copies of essential documents, such as identification, insurance policies, and financial records, in a secure, waterproof container, and keep with your emergency supplies kits. Include a household inventory (a list and photos or video of your belongings).
  • You may have to take additional steps, especially if someone has a disability or other access and functional needs. Register with your local fire department for assistance so needed help can be provided.

The Great California ShakeOut each October is an opportunity to practice your plan. Be sure to share your plan with people who take care of your children, pets, or home.