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What Should You Do After an Earthquake?

The Ongoing Threat: Preparing for Aftershocks, Landslides, and Post-Earthquake Hazards

Experiencing an earthquake can be frightening, but with preparation you will know what to do after an earthquake.

The threat doesn’t end once the earthquake is over. Aftershocks, landslides and other earth movement can cause items to shift, fires to start, tsunamis to form, and more. Even a minor earthquake can cause pipes to snap and objects inside your home to shift.

Find current information after an earthquake from the USGS Hazard Program.

Essential Post-Earthquake To-Do List for Safety and Recovery

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

  • 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. Wear closed-toed shoes.
  • Stay away from beaches, in case of tsunamis.
    • Do not enter damaged buildings or areas.
    • Clean up any potentially harmful material spills. Wear proper protective gear.
    • Take pictures of the damage, both to your house and its contents, for insurance claims.
    • Avoid smoking or lighting matches inside buildings.
    • When entering buildings, even if they appear safe, use extreme caution.
    • Expect aftershocks. Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On during aftershocks—just like you did during the earthquake.
    • 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. Use caution.
    • Chimneys can be weakened and fall easily. Avoid walking near or under them.
Image: Steps to Take After an Earthquake

Get Your Earthquake Emergency Kit

We recommend people keep a pair of closed-toed shoes and a flashlight near their beds in case an earthquake happens in the middle of the night.

It’s also a good idea to have your larger earthquake safety kit close by. This will allow you to provide needed first aid, have access to water, and grab additional flashlights.

Here is what happens after an earthquake:

  • Expect, and be prepared for, aftershocks.
  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On during aftershocks.
  • Emergency messages will be transmitted to your cell phone.
  • Stay in place (as long as it is safe to do so).

Prepare for a major earthquake today by preparing your earthquake safety kit.

What you do BEFORE an earthquake will help you survive and recover.

Assess & Document Damage

If an earthquake has damaged your house, you will want to file your claim. Remember, CEA participating residential insurance companies (PIs) handle CEA policies on our behalf. That not only includes helping you purchase your policy and accepting payments, they are also the ones who will work with you on your claim. So if you have damage and you have a CEA earthquake insurance policy, call your PI right away to begin your claim.

You will also want to document the damage to your house or personal belongings by taking pictures before you clean up.

And, keep a written record of everyone you talk to regarding your claim, and receipts for any work completed.

Remember that all CEA policies offer Emergency Repairs coverage, so that you can take immediate steps to secure your property. If you have Loss of Use coverage, your additional living expenses—if you have to live elsewhere because of an earthquake—will be covered. This coverage never has a deductible!

It’s also possible you will be eligible for federal assistance. If there is an earthquake disaster and a presidential disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is among the first government agencies on the ground. FEMA offers shelters and assistance.

What should you do after an earthquake?

  • Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage.
  • Check for cracks and damage to the roof and foundation of your home.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both to your house and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Contact your CEA participating insurance agent to submit a claim.
Image: Communication after and earthquake

Stay in Communication

What happens after an earthquake can affect your ability to communicate with loved ones and emergency responders by phone.

During and immediately following an earthquake, access to communication can be significantly affected due to the risk of wide-spread power outages, downed power lines and swamped cell phone towers.
Here is what to do before an earthquake to prepare:

  • Keep an updated list of emergency contacts and phone numbers.
  • Program emergency contacts into your cell phone.
  • Choose an out-of-state emergency contact that you and your family can get in touch with, in case there are local connection issues and you are not with your family when the quake strikes.
  • Have a variety of cell-phone chargers in your emergency kit.
  • Subscribe to text alert services from local and state governments.

After an earthquake, if you don’t have an emergency, then use text messaging. Don’t call your loved ones. Keep the cell and landlines open for first responders.

Repair & Rebuild

It just takes one earthquake to change everything. Earthquakes occur in California every day. Scientists estimate that a major earthquake of a 6.5 or greater magnitude will occur in the coming years.

What happens after an earthquake depends on how you prepared your family and home. Long after the quake is over, you might suffer long term economic disaster as you repair or rebuild your home, experience power outages, and central business districts are shut down.

With Loss of Use earthquake coverage from CEA, you will be reimbursed for the expenses of living elsewhere due to earthquake damage to your home.

CEA earthquake insurance can help pay to repair or replace your damaged home and your personal belongings.

What to do before an earthquake

Safety during an earthquake and aftershocks is all about what you do to prepare your family and property before the earthquake.

Your earthquake safety plan will provide for you and your loved ones during the shaking and what happens after an earthquake.

  1. Identify safe places in each room of your home.
  2. Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On with each member of your household.
  3. Make or purchase an earthquake safety kit. Make sure to have water and snacks available in each room of your home.
  4. Find out if your home is in need of earthquake retrofitting and eligible for a grant.
  5. Identify and fix potential earthquake hazards in your home.
  6. 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.

Decrease your risk of damage and injury from an earthquake by identifying possible home hazards before the next damaging earthquake.

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.

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 to Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

  • Drop to the ground. Grab your emergency kit.
  • Cover. Get under your dining room table or desk. Cover your face and head with your arm and hold on.
  • Hold On. Stay inside and in place until shaking stops. 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

It’s not enough to be prepared physically when the ground shakes. It’s also important to be financially prepared for the home damage that occurs during the shaking, and what should be done after a quake. Find an affordable earthquake insurance policy to protect your property when the big one hits.

do you need earthquake insurance?

Imagine what happens after an earthquake:

  • Having to pay your mortgage for a house that needs to be repaired or rebuilt.
  • Footing the bill for temporary accommodations.
  • Trying to get your life back in shape with school and work routines.

CEA earthquake insurance can help you recover. Loss of Use coverage helps with the costs of temporary shelter and additional living expenses so that families can get back on their feet quicker. Without earthquake insurance, you place yourself at risk of losing everything or sustaining damages to your personal property that you cannot afford to repair.

Get an earthquake insurance estimate!

CEA has made earthquake insurance easy to buy. Just contact your home insurance agent to discuss adding a separate earthquake policy to your home or renter’s insurance. Be prepared for what happens after an earthquake.

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

CEA works with  20 residential insurance companies that serve the majority of California homeowners.

Calculate Your Earthquake Insurance Premium