Saint Louis University

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If you are indoors:

  • Drop to the ground; take cover by creating a bridge or barrier for yourself with sturdy furnishings or a table or other piece of furniture; cover your head with your arms and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch against an interior wall or interior building corner.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures, overhead computer equipment, bookshelves or furniture.
  • If you are in bed when an earthquake strikes, stay there until the shaking stops.  Hold on and protect your head with a pillow.  If you are under a heavy light fixture or some other type of object that could fall on you, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Once outside, look for a safe place with no overhead power lines, or other overhead hazards.

If you are outdoors:

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects.

If you are in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near buildings, trees, utility wires, or on or under overpasses or bridges.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If you are trapped under debris:

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing if possible.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

What to do after an earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks.  Shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.  They can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
  • Listen for instructions from the University or the Department of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, or other professional 1st responders. Pay close attention to information provided via the Emergency Notification System. If you have a battery-operated radio or television, listen for the latest emergency information from local, state and federal agencies.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.  Cell towers may be down and circuits may be overloaded.  Activate your emergency out-of-area contact plan for you and your family. 
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall out of cabinets, off book shelves or other types of stands or furniture.
  • Stay away from damaged areas, broken windows and downed power lines.  Remain at a safe distance away from these areas unless otherwise instructed by a professional 1st responders.  Do not return to any building unless the building has been deemed safe by professional personnel.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbors, particularly those with special needs.
  • Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately if you can do so without injuring yourself. Leave the area if you smell natural gas, gasoline or fumes from other chemicals.
  • Remain alert and prepared to act.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members are trained to assist 1st responders during an earthquake.  There are CERT members in most buildings on campus, follow their direction if they are the only responders on scene.  


 Modified from FEMA information