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Guide to Surviving an Earthquake

Every region of the Golden State holds earthquake risk. Most of us live within 30 miles of an active fault. Earthquakes can cause landslides, turn soil to liquid, and shake houses off their foundations.

The 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes that hit Southern California were felt as far away as Sacramento, Las Vegas and Arizona. It is easy to forget that California is earthquake country because the magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 quakes were the largest to strike in twenty years. But we live in earthquake country—and it’s a matter of when, not if, the next damaging earthquake will strike.

Prepare today for your family’s safety and recovery from a devastating earthquake. Find out ways to survive an earthquake.

See Your Local Earthquake Risk

How can you survive an earthquake?

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes strike without warning, at any time of year, day or night.

Follow these earthquake survival tips before the next big one:

  • Create an earthquake safety plan. Discuss with your family what to do, where to meet if separated, and how you will communicate when an earthquake strikes. Check work, childcare and school emergency plans.
  • Practice DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON with all members of your household.
  • Don’t rely on doorways for protection. During an earthquake, get under a table or desk. Hold on until shaking stops.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home.
  • Create an emergency survival kit that provides you and your pets with three days of nonperishable food and water, medicines, emergency radio and first aid materials. Keep in a reachable place.
  • Identify an out-of-the-area friend or relative that family members can check in with by texting.

Know what to do before an earthquake

The key to being safe during an earthquake is preparation. Top earthquake survival tips at home include:

  1. Create an earthquake safety plan for you and loved ones, including pets.
  2. Identify safe places in each room of your home.
  3. Practice drop, cover, and hold on with each member of your household.
  4. Make or purchase an earthquake safety kit. Make sure to have water and snacks available in each room of your home.
  5. Find out if your home is in need of earthquake retrofitting and eligible for a grant.
  6. Identify and fix potential earthquake hazards in your home.
  7. Protect your home investment and bounce back from a devastating earthquake with the best choices of earthquake insurance from CEA. Whether you are a homeowner, mobilehome owner, condo-unit owner or renter, buy peace of mind with affordable and flexible earthquake insurance now.

Prepare your home BEFORE an earthquake. Decrease your risk of damage and injury from an earthquake by identifying possible home hazards.

A seismic retrofit involves strengthening your home’s foundation to make it more resistant to shaking. CEA offers earthquake home insurance premium discounts for houses and mobilehomes that have been properly retrofitted. Find out about grants to help for retrofits under the Earthquake Brace + Bolt Program, and the CEA Brace + Bolt program.

Learn about Brace + Bolt Grants

Know what to do during an earthquake

When a major earthquake strikes near you, you may get a warning of 10 or 15 seconds, which isn’t very much time. Be prepared with emergency plans and supplies. Sign up for the MyShake app today.

Remember earthquake survival tips to Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

  • Drop to the ground. Grab your emergency kit.
  • Cover. Get under your dining room table or desk. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Hold On. Stay inside and in place until shaking stops. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
Image: Drop, COver and Hold On during an earthquake

The things you do before the quake may have the largest impact on your actual survival.

  • If you’re outside get away from buildings which can collapse. Stay in an open area like a field where there are no trees, buildings or power lines.
  • If you’re driving when an earthquake strikes, pull over to a large open area that’s not under trees or power lines. Stay in the vehicle. Don’t drive during an earthquake as roads and bridges can buckle.
  • If you’re at school, work or any area with an elevator, and the shaking has stopped, when you leave don’t take the elevator. Take the stairs.

It’s not enough to be prepared physically when the ground shakes. It’s also important to be financially prepared. Find an affordable earthquake insurance policy to protect you when the big one hits.

Know what to do after an earthquake

Imagine you and your family have survived a major earthquake. Remember many injuries occur after an earthquake. Aftershocks—following large quakes—can cause damage in their own right. Follow this list of earthquake survival tips at home:

  • Check yourself and others for injuries. Provide first aid for anyone who needs it.
  • Call 9-1-1 for seriously injured people.
  • Listen to the radio for important information and instructions.
  • Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage.
  • If you smell gas, open all the windows and doors, leave immediately, and report it to the authorities.
  • Check for cracks and damage to the roof and foundation of your home.
  • Be careful around broken glass and debris.
  • Stay away from beaches, in case of tsunamis.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings and areas.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both to your house and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Avoid smoking inside buildings.
  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution.
  • Expect aftershocks. Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On during aftershocks.
  • Avoid driving to keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Be aware that items may fall out of cupboards or closets when a door is opened.
  • Chimneys can be weakened and fall easily. Do not walk under them.

Is your house at risk of earthquake damage?

Millions of Californians face earthquake danger based on the location of their homes. California is earthquake country with nearly 16,000 known faults and more than 500 active faults. Most of us live within 30 miles of an active fault risk.

Find out about faults in your area by visiting the CEA risk map for each county. This information will help you survive an earthquake.

Then learn about your home’s structural risks, to see the steps you can take to seismically strengthen your house and to learn the benefits of retrofitting. Make your home more resistant to earthquake damage by assessing its structure, contents and need for loss of use and other earthquake insurance coverages.

Earthquake safety preparation requires your understanding of the potential structural threats to your home in case of an earthquake. Avoid financial disaster with CEA’s loss of use coverage if your house sufferers extensive damage with CEA affordable earthquake insurance policies.

Do you need earthquake insurance?

How will your family survive a major earthquake and protect the financial investment in your home if you experience earthquake damage? Without earthquake insurance, you place yourself at risk of losing everything or sustaining damages to your personal property that you cannot afford to repair.


  • Having to pay your mortgage for a house that you cannot afford to rebuild.
  • Footing the bill for temporary accommodations.
  • Trying you get life back in shape after an earthquake all on your own.

CEA earthquake insurance not only helps repair damages. Loss of use coverage covers the costs of temporary shelter and additional living expenses so that families can get back on their feet quicker.

It’s not enough to be prepared physically when the ground shakes. It’s also important to be financially prepared. Find an affordable earthquake insurance policy to protect you when the big one hits.

Earthquake Insurance Premium Discounts

Strengthening your home’s foundation will make it more resistant to shaking. CEA offers earthquake home insurance premium discounts for houses and mobilehomes that have been properly retrofitted. Find out about grants to help pay for retrofits under the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program, and the CEA Brace + Bolt program.

For more information about foundation anchors, including which method to use, visit Earthquake Brace + Bolt.

Get an earthquake insurance estimate!

CEA offers the best choice of California earthquake insurance policies, select deductibles from 5%-25%.

We’ve made earthquake insurance easy to buy. Contact your home insurance agent to discuss adding a separate earthquake policy to your home or renter’s insurance.

Add the coverage today, no need to wait until your home policy comes up for renewal.

CEA works with 25 residential insurance companies that serve the majority of California homeowners.

Get Your Earthquake Insurance Estimate

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Calculate Your Earthquake Insurance Premium