Earthquakes strike without notice, so you should prepare early. For families, this means putting together a plan by knowing what to do before, during, and after the earthquake. You must identify the potential hazards on time to reduce the loss of life or damage to property.

Many injuries happen when the earth shakes and items fall. Therefore, you should do an inventory of your house and identify anything that can fall. And if you have bookcases, make sure they are well fastened.

How to plan ahead

You should store glass items in closed cabinets and hang heavy items away from beds or other areas where people can sit. If there’re signs of structural defects, you should repair the deep cracks and ceilings. You may want to get expert advice on this area.

Another precaution is to identify safe places both indoors and outside. In an event of an earthquake, experts recommend that you hide in places like under sturdy furniture or an inside wall. When in the open, you should stay away from trees, buildings, electrical lines, or elevated expressways.

Next, contact your local management office and read the information on how to protect your family from earthquakes. Teach your children to call the fire department and police. They should also know how to tune the radio station and get information. Needless to say, you must teach them how to turn off the gas, water, and electricity.

Experts also recommend that you ensure you have disaster supplies at hand. The earthquake disaster preparedness checklist includes:

During an earthquake, you can survive on your own. Once you assemble your emergency supply kit, you should let all members of the family know where it is. The kit should have all the supplies the family need for at least three days. You can also have smaller kits in your car and office.

Develop an emergency communication plan

What happens when one member of the family is separated from the others? Let’s assume you’re at work and the kids are at school. You can choose an out-of-state relative to serve as the contact person. Since it’s always easier to call for a long-distance after an earthquake, make sure everyone in the family knows the address and phone number of that person.

During an earthquake

Whether you’re at home, school, work or traveling, you should take cover immediately. Another cautionary measure is to move as little as possible. This is because most injuries (fractures, sprains, and head injuries) happen when people move around. And because large earthquakes are actually foreshocks, you must minimize your movements.

If you’re in the house, drop, cover the head, and hold to a sturdy piece of furniture. What if there’s no furniture around? Move to a corner in your building or on the floor and cover your head with arms. Avoid getting close to windows as they can shutter.

No matter what happens, you should stay inside until all shaking is over. When you drop onto your hands and knees, you can crawl and take shelter at the safest point. This position also ensures you don’t get knocked down. The most dangerous area to be is the exterior walls of the buildings, so you should avoid that.

If the earthquake happens when in bed, get out and lie on the floor. Make sure your arms are as close to the head as possible. It’s unlikely likely you’ll be injured by fallen objects when you stay where you are.

In a moving car

You should stop your car immediately. Don’t stop under bridges, buildings, trees, or places with utility wires. Also, avoid ramps that may have been damaged by the earth quake. Listen to the car radio for instructions and wait to be rescued. If you’re on a bus, stay on your seat in a crouched position and cover your head.

If you’re outside

Move away from streetlights, buildings, and utility wires. And once you get to the open, stay there until the shaking stops. Since the greatest danger is on the outside buildings, you may want to avoid the exterior walls. People get injured when the walls collapse.

Staying safe after an earthquake

If you’re trapped under debris after an earthquake, don’t light a match. Instead, move around and try to kick off the dust. If possible, cover your mouth with a clothing/handkerchief and tap on a pipe so that rescuers can locate you. Avoid shouting as it can cause you to inhale the dust.

After an earthquake

Once the earth quake is over, you should get to a safe location. Check yourself and those people close to you if they are injured. Sometimes, you may not notice the injury due to shock. Take a look at the disaster supply kit and then help others. Make sure you follow the emergency earthquake plan that you prepared to reconnect with the family members. Put on sturdy clothing and shoes to prevent injury from broken glass and debris. If you suspect your home is not safe, do not re-enter.

Depending on the nature of the damage, you can choose to leave. Just take the emergency kit and post a message stating where you can be found. Avoid wasting food and water just in case the supply is interrupted. And unless you’re sure there’s no gas leak, don’t light matches or switch on the lights. Make sure you leave everything as it is and wait for emergency services. If tap water is available, fill a bathtub in case the supply cuts off. What about the pets? Just take them to a pre-identified shelter.

While ground shaking is the major source of an earthquake, the secondary effects can be destructive. There could be flooding in low-lying areas, saturated sandy soils, or tsunamis washing over the coastlines. Because the aftershocks can come any time, you should keep everything that can injure you away.

If you have a portable radio, turn it on and pick up an emergency broadcast. Never turn on the TV to reduce the risk of electrocution. If there is minor damage to your home, you can ask a professional to help you ensure the house is securely anchored to the foundation. You may also want to strengthen the exterior features like the decks, canopies, sliding glass doors, porches, and garage doors.

The most important thing is to prepare before the disaster strikes.