Earthquakes aren’t common in the Washington area, but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Here are tips to make sure you’re prepared in case another temblor hits and what to do in its aftermath.


1. Secure your belongings. Televisions, computers, bookcases, furniture, unsecured cabinet doors, water heaters, mirrors, picture frames and other hazards could fall and cause damage, injury or death. Straps and buckles, bracing kits and earthquake putty can help keep items in place.

Rebecca Callahan of the American Red Cross describes what items are needed for a preparedness kit and what to do in an emergency. (Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

2. Come up with an evacuation plan and locate a safe place to reunite with family or housemates.

3. Identify an out-of-state contact person.

4. Assemble a first-aid kit and emergency supplies, including water, non-perishable food, a flashlight with extra batteries and a portable radio.

5. Keep copies of essential documents, such as IDs, insurance policies and financial records, in a secure, waterproof container.

6. Know how to turn off the gas, water and electricity in your home.


1. Drop, cover and hold on. Drop to the floor and take cover beneath a sturdy desk or table. Hold on and be prepared to move with the object until the earthquake is over.

2. Avoid exterior walls. Windows and building facades are often the first things to collapse. Whether you’re inside or outside, avoid these areas.

3. Do not huddle under a doorway unless you know for sure that it is strongly supported.

4. Do not exit a building until the shaking has completely stopped. If you are outdoors, stay there and move away from anything that could fall or collapse.

5. Do not use elevators.

6. If in a moving vehicle, stop and stay inside. Avoid buildings, trees, overpasses, utility wires, bridges and ramps.


1. Once the shaking stops, check for injuries and damage that require immediate attention.

2. Communicate: Call your out-of-state contact, reunite with loved ones at the predetermined reunion spot, and use your portable or car radio for additional information and safety advisories. Use the telephone for emergencies only.

3. Contact your insurance provider to report damage and begin the claims process.

4. Be prepared for aftershocks, which can continue for several days or weeks.

Sources: FEMA; Southern California Earthquake Center