An earthquake can be a frightening event. If you are not prepared, it can be even more terrifying.

Though the earthquakes we experience in the Lake Tahoe and Northern Nevada areas are generally mild, being prepared is the key to staying safe in an emergency situation. Here’s some basic tips to help you feel prepared knowing what to do if an earthquake strikes!

What to do when an earthquake starts

If you are indoors:

  • Drop to the ground
  • Take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture
  • Hold on until the shaking stops

If you are outdoors:

  • Move to an open area away from buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • Stay put until the shaking stops. Do not try to run or drive during an earthquake.

If you are in a car:

  • Stop the car and stay inside.
  • Avoid stopping near or under bridges, overpasses, or power lines.
  • Proceed cautiously once the shaking has stopped. Avoid roads and bridges that might have been damaged by the quake.

If you are in a high-rise building:

  • Do not use the elevators. They could become stuck or malfunction.
  • Use the stairs to evacuate the building.
  • If you are trapped, stuff towels or clothes in cracks around doors to keep out smoke and fumes. Hang a sign out the window to alert rescuers.

What to do after an earthquake

After an earthquake has stopped, it is important to assess the damage and be careful of aftershocks. Additional steps you can take following an earthquake include:

  • Check for injuries and provide first aid if necessary.
  • Check for damage to your home or workplace and make repairs as needed.
  • Be aware of potential gas leaks and other hazards. If you smell gas, open all the doors and windows to ventilate the area, then turn off the gas at the main valve.
  • Do not use candles, lanterns, or any other type of open flame indoors. Use flashlights instead.
  • Stay away from damaged buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • Be aware of aftershocks. After an earthquake, there is often a series of smaller earthquakes called aftershocks. These can be just as dangerous as the main quake, so it is important to stay alert and be prepared for them.

How to help others after an earthquake

If you are able, there are a few things you can do to help others after an earthquake:

  • Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or have young children.
  • Help people who are injured. If you have first aid training, provide care. If not, comfort the person and wait for medical help to arrive.
  • If you see a fire, call the fire department. Do not try to put it out yourself.
  • Do not go into damaged buildings. Wait for trained personnel to assess the damage and make repairs.
  • Be patient. The earthquake may have caused damage to roads and other infrastructure, making it difficult to get around.

Additional Resources

For more information on earthquake safety, visit the website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at

Or the website for the California Earthquake Authority at:

Both of these websites have a wealth of information on how to prepare for and stay safe during an earthquake!

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