While earthquakes can occur almost anywhere, Alaska, California, Hawaii, and Oregon are the most earthquake prone states in the USA.



Earthquakes (sometimes referred to as tremors, quakes, or temblors) occur within the earth’s crust and result in the release of seismic waves. When these waves reach the surface of the earth, they can result in violent shaking.

The energy released by an earthquake is measured with a device called a seismometer. Seismometers determine the magnitude of an earthquake. Earthquakes with magnitudes of 3.0 or less are usually imperceptible, while earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.5 or higher can result in significant damage over large areas.

About 500,000 earthquakes occur each year but only about 1 in 5 can actually be felt. Small earthquakes occur constantly in earthquake prone areas like Alaska and California.

Seismologists determined long ago that small earthquakes occur much more frequently than larger earthquakes. According to the Gutenberg-Richter Law, it is 10 times more likely that a 3.0 magnitude earthquake will occur than a 4.0 magnitude earthquake. Likewise, it is 10 times more likely that a 4.0 magnitude earthquake will occur than a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. With that said, there are about 18 large earthquakes measuring 7.0 to 7.9 each year across the globe and usually 1 great earthquake measuring 8.0 or greater.

While earthquakes cannot be predicted to a precise degree, historical data allows seismologists to determine the frequency and magnitudes of earthquakes ever a longer period of time and within a given area. For example: Seismologists warn that a magnitude 8.0 or larger earthquake will occur along California’s San Andreas Fault within the next 30 years.

While an earthquake can do great damage to buildings and civic infrastructure, most human injuries and deaths are only indirectly related to the earthquake itself. Most injuries and deaths occur from fire, falling debris, or as a result of a building collapse. It should be noted that building construction and geological conditions greatly influence the damage caused by earthquakes. In countries like the United States, strict building construction codes are enforced in earthquake prone areas, and as a result, earthquakes in these areas have the greatest survival rates and significantly fewer injuries.

A significant earthquake can also result in damage to utilities (electricity, water, gas, telephone, sanitation, and Internet services) and other forms of civic infrastructure (roads and access to emergency services for example). Local businesses, like supermarkets and banks, would most likely be inaccessible or closed following a large earthquake. These services could be impacted for days or even weeks. Many might never reopen.

Earthquakes are most survivable when appropriate preparations are taken. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that individuals be prepared to take care of themselves for a minimum of three days following a disaster. This is how long it can take for emergency services to arrive and provide assistance.


Making your home safe is a critical step in preparing for an earthquake. Most injuries and deaths occur from falling debris, fire, and/or collapsing buildings. Your ability to avoid these situations greatly depends on how well you prepare your home. The following home preparation steps will greatly reduce your risk of injury or death:

  • Identify safe places indoors and around your home (for example: under sturdy furniture, underneath a door frame but away from windows, against an inside wall away from windows or where heavy furniture could fall). These safe areas are the best place to seek shelter in the event of an earthquake. Make sure all of your family members know where these safe places are located.
  • Make sure to create an escape path for each family member. This path should lead from their sleeping location to the safest exit and should be free from the possibility of breaking glass or falling furniture.
  • Fasten shelves securely to walls. Make sure shelving is attached to walls using heavy duty wood screws into the studs, or secure them using appropriate anchor bolts.
  • Fasten large and heavy furniture to the wall using appropriate earthquake straps. This will prevent it from falling on family members during an earthquake.
  • Put large or heavy objects on lower shelves. This makes the shelving more stable and not top-heavy in the event of an earthquake.
  • Store breakable items like glass, fine china, or ornamental items, in closed, low to the ground, cabinets with latches. Not only will this prevent them from falling out, breaking, and causing injury to those stepping on broken pieces, but it could save these items from breaking in the first place.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures, mirrors, and shelving, away from beds, couches, or anywhere people might sit or sleep.
  • Brace all overhead light fixtures.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaking gas connections. These are huge fire risks, which is a major cause of damage and injury due to earthquakes.
  • Secure water heaters by strapping them to wall studs and bolting them to the floor. This is now a building code regulation California.
  • Repair deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Seek professional advice if there are any structural defects.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, flammable products, or any other type of chemical, securely in closed cabinets with latches and be sure to store them on bottom shelves.

These common sense steps will greatly reduce the risk of injury, or even death, for you and your family members.


Being prepared for an earthquake or any other type of disaster requires preparation beforehand. There are three important steps you should complete in preparation for an earthquake. To make this even easier, Essential Packs provides you with a FREE online Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide that takes your step-by-step through the process:

Having the proper emergency preparedness kit, having a plan, and knowing what to do before an earthquake strikes, will greatly improve you and your family’s chances of being safe. Complete the 3-Step Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide today!


Getting an Emergency Preparedness Kit for your home, office (or school), and car(s) is an essential first step in being prepared for an earthquake. Emergency Preparedness Kits from Essential Packs, provide you and your family with the emergency supplies your family needs to last for 3 days (72 hours). Deluxe Kits from Essential Packs are compliant with FEMA's guidelines and include important items like: emergency food and drinking water, flashlights, radios, first-aid supplies, sanitation supplies, emergency blankets, waterproof ponchos, and much more.


Get An Earthquake Preparedness Kit

Before it's too late...

Residential Office School Car
Get a Hurricane Emergency Kits


For additional help on selecting the right kit, visit Step 1 - Get A Kit of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide.


In order to know what to do when an earthquake occurs, you need to create a Family Emergency Plan. Sit down with your family members and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in the event of a disaster or emergency.

To make this easy, Essential Packs provides you with a Family Emergency Planning Document that you can download for FREE. Simply open this PDF document and fill-in the blanks, then, print a copy for each family member, and store one copy in your Emergency Preparedness Kit.

You should update your Family Emergency Plan every six months, as phone number, work locations, and other important information could change.

For more help on creating a Family Emergency Plan, visit Step 2 - Make A Plan of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide.


The final step to getting prepared is to be informed about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. FEMA's In-Depth Citizen's Guide to Disaster Preparedness helps you do this by providing you with comprehensive emergency preparedness information a variety of disasters.

Visit Step 3 - Be Informed of our Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide to download FEMA's comprehensive, 200 page book called, "Are You Ready? An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness".