How’s It Shaking: How to Make Your Home Earthquake Safe

living room with a white and blue wall with a lamp knocked over and a mess on the floor

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

You probably like to keep your feet on solid ground, but in some parts of the US, that is an issue. Recent studies found California has a heightened risk for the next big earthquake, meaning more than 3 million homes could be damaged as a result.

If you’ve been putting off making your earthquake kit and securing your home – now might be the time to shake a leg. Here’s how to prepare your home for an earthquake and even the next “big one.”

Make your earthquake kit

a woman in thick boots on a wet pavement jumping on double-yellow lines
Have your boots ready.

Most major weather events require the same treatment – three days of supplies for every member of your family. This includes a gallon of water per person, per day, and non-perishable food. In addition, your disaster supply kit should include these imperative items:

  • Nonelectric can opener.
  • Cell phones.
  • Solar chargers.
  • Batteries.
  • Medicines (know how to store them safely, especially if they need refrigeration).
  • Flashlights.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Cash and credit cards.
  • Toiletries and personal hygiene supplies.
  • Protective gear.
  • Blankets.
  • Sturdy shoes or boots.

Keep your survival kits where you’ll be spending most of your time if an earthquake does, in fact, strike. Also, check it frequently to ensure you have everything you need. (We know you raid the kit whenever you’re out of band-aids, too.)

How to earthquake proof a home

a person turns on a circuit breaker
Call a licensed electrician to check your home system.

Or get it as close as it can be. Secure your shelves or bookcases to the walls, and place heavier items on the lower shelves. Any bottled foods and glass should always be stored in closed cabinet doors, as should dangerous chemicals.

Decorate your home with heavy pictures and mirrors away from sitting areas, and check that your electrical wiring and gas connections are safe. (Not sure? Call a licensed electrician or natural gas professional to inspect your home and any questionable fixtures.)

Also, repair any structural damage to your ceilings and foundations, so your home is ready to shake, rattle, but hopefully not roll. Also, brace the overhead light fixtures, and secure your water heater wall with straps bolted to the foundation. Not sure how to complete any of these tasks? Contact a home professional who will take care of these projects for you.

Find your safe space

an office desk with a seat, a computer, and other electronics
A sturdy desk can protect you during an earthquake.

You’ll never know where you’ll be when the rumbling begins, so find where it’s the safest during an emergency – under sturdy furniture, against an inside wall but away from any heavy items that could fall on you. Do the same outside – check for safe areas in your yard.

Find your earthquake natural gas shut off valve – or install one

You don’t want your gas lines to erupt. That’s why you should install an earthquake shut-off valve or a seismic natural gas shut-off valve. This device attaches to your house line near the gas meter and cuts off the gas to your line the moment it feels shaking higher than 5.1 in magnitude.

The good news is – homes built in California after 2000 are required to have an earthquake natural gas shut off valve. If you don’t know where yours is – locate it today, just in case.

Learn more about gas safety in 5 Burning Questions (and Answers!) About Gas Fireplaces and Warning Signs of a Gas Leak in Your Fireplace.

Actually, know where all your connections are

a red round valve that shuts off the water to the home
Know where to shut off your water.

If you don’t have an automatic shut-off valve, you should know where your natural gas, electricity, and water shut-off valves are – not just in case of spontaneous rumbling. You may have to manually turn off the gas and other utilities in case of all types of damage to your home, whether that be shaking, flooding, and more. Not sure where your valves are? Call a professional to help you locate them and show you how to turn each off.

Always have a family plan

a computer, cup of coffee, cell phone, and notepad on a table
Prepare your family.

Since no one knows when the “big one” (or “small one”) will hit, formulate an earthquake plan for home communication. We doubt you always keep your cell phone charged, and even if you do, cell towers could lose power (making your cell phone into a very expensive brick).

Generally, calling long distance is easier during a natural disaster, so ask an out-of-state family or friend to be your family’s contact person. Memorize the phone number, just in case.

Plus, have a plan to reunite for times when your family members may be apart, such as work or school hours. This way, you and your children know where to go in case of an emergency.

Contact your insurance agent

a person holds a cell phone to her ear
Do you need earthquake coverage?

Earthquake insurance isn’t part of a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, so if you’re not sure if you’re covered, give your agent a call. Most earthquake insurance policies have higher deductibles, so if your walls come tumbling down, you may need to put a bit more out with your claim.

Then drop, cover, and hold on

Here’s where you put all your emergency preparedness to good use. Get on the ground and get under a heavy table or desk. Always cover your head and neck. If you can’t get to a sturdy piece of furniture, then wait in a corner or against an inside wall, away from heavy pictures or mirrors.

After the shaking stops –

a band-aid over a crack in pavement
Be safe after the rumbling stops.

Ensure it’s safe to exit and then do so, staying away from buildings and keeping to open spaces. (Avoid fallen power lines.) Remember that the earthquake you think might be the “big one” might actually be a foreshock, and a bigger quake could be on the way. Be prepared and always stay someplace safe.

Get in the know

Certain neighborhoods offer courses that teach you how to secure your home and family in the case of natural disasters, including earthquakes. Check to see if yours does and gain valuable skills and knowledge about how to prepare for an earthquake and other disasters.

Be prepared

two cell phones in front of an affluent blue home with the vipHomeLink dashboard up on the screens
vipHomeLink can help!

Keeping your family safe during an emergency starts with knowing what to do and when to do it. vipHomeLink can help. Our home management app helps homeowners ready their homes for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and sharknados.

Our expert-backed vipTIPs give you critical home information, and our personalized reminders help you keep up with home maintenance. This way, your home can be the haven it should be when you need it to be.

Be prepared for what’s coming with the help for vipHomeLink. Subscribe today.

Stay safe!

Advertiser Disclosure:

Any offers that appear on the vipHomeLink site, in our content, vipTIPs or other recommendations are for the convenience and benefit of our users. vipHomeLink may receive compensation from any purchases that are made by our users. This compensation is paid by the seller and will not impact the prices that are offered. This compensation arrangement may impact which offers appear and which sellers are featured on our site.If you elect to use or purchase services from third parties, you are subject to the third parties’ review of your information and to their terms and conditions and privacy policy. vipHomeLink does not endorse, warrant or guarantee the products or services available through the vipHomeLink offers (or any other third-party products or services advertised on or linked from our site), whether or not sponsored.

Latest vipPosts


Valuable Homeowner Content
Delivered to Your Mailbox