Earthquake: What to do after the shaking stops

August 23, 2011

What’s the first thing to do after an earthquake? Be prepared for aftershocks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency advises these actions after an earthquake:

Expect aftershocks. The second wave can be less intense, FEMA says, but can still do damage in the hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.

Get out the old-school battery-powered radio. Listen for the latest emergency information.

Stay off the phone. Make only emergency calls.

Look out for falling objects when you open cabinet or closet doors.

Stay away from debris. Don’t go into damaged areas, and go home only when authorities say it’s safe.

Watch for tsunamis. Seismic sea waves can occur in coastal areas. Stay away from the beach.

Help your neighbor. If you can, provide first aid especially to children, the elderly and seriously injured people. Don’t move the injured unless they’re in immediate danger. Call for help.

Clean up hazardous spills. Immediately wipe up potentially dangerous liquids such as medicine and household cleaners. Leave the area if you smell gas or chemical fumes.

Check the chimney. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.

Check for gas leaks. If you smell or hear gas leaking, open a window and leave the building. If you can, turn off the main valve and call the gas company. (The gas must be turned back on by a professional.)


Check your power. If you smell a burning odor of it you see sparks, turn off your electricity (fuse box or circuit breaker). Don’t step in water.

Check sewage and water lines. If you think there’s damage, don’t flush the toilet or use the sinks. Need water? Melt ice cubes.

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