Public Safety

Register to Get Earthquake Ready and Survive

Students practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On as part of the Great California ShakeOut.

A recent swarm of seismic activity late last month on the southernmost end of the San Andreas Fault had scientists on alert for a larger quake. Fortunately, the threat did not take form, but it was a reminder that we live in earthquake country and that a rupture on a fault line is unpredictable.

The best way to survive and reduce your chances for injury, should a significant earthquake rattle the region, is to know what to do before an earthquake strikes. Every member of your family should be prepared for an earthquake. Learn the key steps to take: Drop, Cover, and Hold On, and practice at least once a year as part of the Great California ShakeOut drill so the reaction becomes automatic. A quick, practiced response can help in the stressful and frightening seconds after a quake hits.

The Great ShakeOut earthquake drill will take place two weeks from today, on 10/20 at 10:20 a.m. The annual event, held on the third Thursday of October, promotes earthquake preparedness. Participants take part in the mass earthquake drill wherever they are: at home, work, school or in the community. The earthquake drill can also be planned for any day and time of the year if that time and day isn’t convenient. The main point is to help families, individuals and organizations prepare to survive.

Residents, businesses, schools and other organizations can participate simply by going to the website and registering. So far, 9.4 million people have registered in California and more than 870,600 have registered in San Diego County. Globally, 17.3 million are registered for ShakeOut.

During an earthquake, the most important thing to do is to protect your head from items that might fall in the shaking. Drop, Cover and Hold on under a sturdy table or desk. If you are not near a table or desk, drop to the ground and move away from any hanging fixtures, windows, glass, or furniture that could topple over and cover your head with your hands. For tips on what to do if you are outside or in a moving car, check out this helpful list provided by Earthquake Country Alliance.

Before an earthquake, hold your own drill at home with your family or organize one in your office. Remember, your participation in the drill doesn’t absolutely have to take place exactly at 10:20 a.m. on 10/20. It can be done before customers enter the building or after closing—that still counts. If taking part in the drill would be too disruptive to your office, look around your workspace and figure out where the safest places would be to take shelter in the event of an earthquake.

Visit for information on how to hold a drill for schools, businesses, and homes, as well as posters, audio and video resources, and specific safety recommendations for people with disabilities or other access and functional needs.

Before an earthquake, check your home for hazards, such as items that could fall from above. The goal is to secure breakables with wax or putty or rearrange them on a lower shelf; and to secure tall bookcases, televisions, wall art, or hanging mirrors with straps or special hanging hardware to prevent them from falling. All of this equipment can be found at most home improvement stores.

Before an earthquake, create a personalized family disaster plan and emergency kit. Be sure to consider medications, and special dietary needs for family members such as seniors, infants and pets, when creating your kit. You can find a list of emergency supplies on or in Spanish at These items should be stored in case of a major disaster, including wildfires, that requires you to survive without assistance for a minimum of three days.

After an earthquake, it is important to be ready to seek cover again in the event of an aftershock. Check yourself and others for injuries. Assuming there are none, walk around the home or building and make sure there are no fires which can sometimes ignite after an earthquake from ruptured gas lines. While walking around, be sure to sniff for gas as well. If the odor of gas is detected, the main gas line must be turned off. Once the gas line is off, only utility crews are allowed to turn it back on. If possible, check on your neighbors.

To learn more about how to prepare for an earthquake, visit or and click on the earthquake symbol, or visit


Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact