Know Your Risk for Earthquakes

Here in California, earthquakes can happen at any time. In Santa Clara County our residents live within a 10-mile radius of a major fault line. The San Andreas Fault runs along the Sonoma Coast through the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Hayward Fault along the hills on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, and the Calaveras Fault runs from the eastern region of our County down through the southern end.

Preparedness measures that we can take include making sure that our homes are secure. Simple, no-cost actions we can take include moving heavy objects down to the floor or lower shelves and not hanging heavy things over our beds and sofas. Low-cost actions include securing our cabinets and drawers have safety latches to keep dishes from falling out, that large appliances and furniture are securely fastened to wall studs or bolted down. Ask for help from your utility company to check gas lines.

Earthquake Outlook for the San Francisco Bay Region (PDF)

Earthquake Outlook for the San Francisco Bay Region

What to do BEFORE-DURING-AFTER an Earthquake

Create your plan, gather supplies, secure your property and review earthquake procedures now to help ensure that you and your family are well-prepared to stay safe when the earth shakes.

    • Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items. Don't be afraid to ask others for help.
    • Move heavy or large items, such as potted plants or large speakers to the floor or low shelves. 
    • Move things that can fall on you away from anywhere you spend a lot of time (bed, couch, desk).
    • Move heavy unstable objects away from doors and escape routes.
    • Secure water heater to the wall studs with two metal straps. (Average cost $20) 
    • Secure (or brace) electronic items such as computers and TVs with straps. (Average cost $15)
    • Hang mirrors and pictures on closed hooks. (Average cost $2 per hook) 
    • Secure top-heavy furniture and appliances to wall studs. (Average cost $12) 
    • Secure small items on shelves with museum wax. (Average cost for tub of wax $10) 
    • Install latches on kitchen cabinets. (Average cost $8) 

    Consider asking for help to complete these tasks:

    • Install flexible connections where gas lines meet appliances. 
    • Secure overhead light fixtures. 
    • Secure free-standing wood stoves or fireplace inserts.

    • Renters and homeowners can protect themselves with earthquake insurance. Without earthquake insurance, you will be responsible for all costs to repair or rebuild your home and replace your personal property. Residential policies do not cover earthquake damage. For more information, contact your insurance agent or go to 
    • If you live in a flood or tsunami zone, consider FEMA flood insurance. Homeowner’s policies do not cover damage caused by flood or tsunami. 
    • Prepare a “grab-and-go” backpack where you keep important documents in a sealed plastic bag, things like: 
      • Copies of identification 
      • Copies of insurance cards
      • Copies of property titles
      • Cash 
      • List of emergency contact numbers 
      • Photos of belongings in your home. This will help you file an insurance claim.

    If you are inside a building:

    • Immediately drop to the ground - cover your head and shoulders with your hands and crawl under a sturdy desk or table and hold on until the shaking stops - remember Drop - Cover - Hold on
    V2_Drop-cover-hold on
    • If no sturdy shelter is nearby, crawl away from windows, next to an interior wall.
    • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
    • Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, such as light fixtures or furniture.
    • Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.
    • If you are in bed: Stay there and Cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

    If you are in a wheelchair:

    • Lock your wheels, bend over, and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

    If you are outdoors

    • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, "Drop, Cover, and Hold On." Stay there until the shaking stops.

    If you are in a moving vehicle:

    • Stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.
    • When the shaking stops, look around. If the building is damaged and there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.
    • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.
    • If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
    • Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
    • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
    • Check for injuries and provide assistance if you have training. Assist with rescues if you can do so safely.
    • If you are near the coast, learn about tsunamis in your area. If you are in an area that may have tsunamis, when the shaking stops, walk inland and to higher ground immediately. Monitor official reports for more information on the area’s tsunami evacuation plans.
    • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.
    • Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks.

    All Content Copyright © 2021, County of Santa Clara, CA