11. What should be done in the case of an earthquake?

The first essential rule is “know the seismic history of your area!” as very often people are not even aware of living in an at-risk area. Consequently, the knowledge of the risks of an area is the first safety measure for people.


Seismic hazard includes ground shaking and possible damage or collapse of the buildings in which we live, study, work. After an earthquake, infrastructure and lifelines can suffer disruptions and key public services (schools, hospitals, government buildings) might no longer function.

Before an Earthquake

  • Be aware of Emergency plans established by local and national authorities;
  • Prepare your emergency bag: some water and food, battery radio set, warm clothes and shoes, battery light, copy of the emergency plan.

During an earthquake

  • don’t run outdoors: stay under a bed, a table or close to a bearing wall of the building in which you are;
  • stay away from large objects (e.g. furniture, heavy lights) which can fall on you; stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture;
  • stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside; people leaving buildings are exposed to falling debris, collapsing walls, flying glass and other falling objects;
  • check if somebody requires special assistance such as children, old people, people with disabilities, injured persons;
  • if you are outdoors, stay far from buildings, pillars, trees, etc.;
  • if in a car, stop it quickly in a safe area and stay inside: don’t stop near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires and avoid roads, bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

After an earthquake

When you’re at home:

  • Be aware of aftershocks: these secondary shockwaves (which can occur in the first hours, days, weeks or even months after the main quake) are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to already weakened structures.
  • Open cabinets cautiously as objects can fall off the shelves;
  • Switch off, if you can, the gas and electricity and leave the area if you smell gas or any other chemicals.
  • Go outdoors slowly, taking care of the risk of debris and objects falling;
  • Don’t take the lift.

If you are trapped under debris:

  • Do not light flames (matches, lighters).
  • Do not kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a protection (clothing, handkerchief).
  • Tap on a pipe or wall to give indications to search and rescue teams for locating you; shout only as a last resort as you could inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

When you’re outside:

  • Once in a safe place, listen to the latest emergency information on a battery-operated radio or on television.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Stay away from damaged areas: return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Stay away from the beach as coastal areas can be exposed to tsunamis; a series of dangerous waves can be on the way, especially when a tsunami warning is issued by local authorities.
  • Help injured or trapped persons: call for help and provide them first aid when necessary but do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Check with authorities if the state of emergency is finished and follow their instructions to go back to the affected area.
Earthquake risk education in general leads to an enhanced perception of risk, better understanding of protective measures and less fear of a hazard. Source: http://drh.edm.bosai.go.jp