Preparing for an Earthquake: What You Can Do to Stay Safe

PHOTO: Seen here is a map that shows probability of peak ground acceleration for earthquakes in the continental U.S.
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With images of Japan's disastrous earthquake and tsunami filling the news, a troubling new report shows that the United States is unprepared for a major quake here at home.

Thirty-nine of 50 states include areas with a moderate to high risk of a quake. The map on this page from the U.S. Geological Survey shows areas where earthquakes could occur, the darker colors corresponding to more intense, dangerous ground shaking.

For more maps from the USGS and the latest information on quakes, click here.

Experts say that there are steps everyone should take to be prepared and stay safe during and after a quake. Here are ten tips to keep in mind:

1. Have an Emergency Kit You may be on your own after a quake, as emergency services like police and firefighters may be unable to help. The USGS recommends a fire extinguisher, backup medications, a first-aid kit, crescent and pipe wrenches to turn off gas and water lines, flashlights and a portable radio, among other supplies. Be sure to have enough water for each family member for two weeks, at least 1 gallon per person per day.

Map shows earthquake-prone areas in darker colors. Credit: USGS

2. Prepare Your Home If you live in an earthquake-prone area, examine your house and secure hazards that could fall during a quake. You can tether bookshelves to walls, secure shelving and latch cabinet doors to reduce the danger that objects could fall on you and your family.

3. Know Your Surroundings Know where gas, electric and water lines can be shut off, and how to do it. Plan a meeting place for your family Know where nearby police and fire stations are if you need help.

4. Subscribe to Alert Services Many communities now send text messages or emails to subscribers about local emergencies. Check with your local government to sign up for alerts relevant to you.

5. Plan for Your Pet Consider having extra food and water on hand for your pet, just as you would for other family members.

Tips to Stay Safe in an Earthquake

6. If You're Inside During a Quake Key things to remember: drop, take cover and hold on. Experts say you shouldn't head for the doorway, unless you live in an old house. Most modern homes are equally strong everywhere. The best thing to do is duck and cover underneath a strong piece of furniture, and avoid staying out of the kitchen where heavy appliances could fall.

7. If Outside During a Quake If you are outside when an earthquake occurs, stay in the open, away from buildings, power lines and other hazards that may fall on you.

8. If Driving During a Quake If you are driving during a quake, stop safely, taking care to stay away from buildings, trees, overpasses and other debris that could fall on your vehicle.

9. After a Quake, Beware of Gas Leaks Do not use matches, lighters or other ignition sources unless you're sure there are no gas leaks. Be sure to turn off any open gas lines or other utilities.

10. After a Quake, Expect Aftershocks Once a quake seems over, stay alert. Aftershocks are typically less violent, but they can still do plenty of damage to structures that are already weakened.

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