Riding out an earthquake safely depends in large part on what you do before the shaking starts. This includes securing the workplace and practicing what to do during, what to do after, and communicating with your employees. Here you’ll find tips on things you can do to prepare and download our checklist to use during your earthquake planning.

Earthquake-proof the workplace

Click for our checklist, Secure cabinets and shelving to the wall. If one of these items tips over, it could land on anything or anyone in the way, causing serious injury.

Secure pictures, mirrors, and other mounted items to walls. Bolt them to the walls or use earthquake “J” clips to keep them from falling off the wall or becoming airborne.

Store heavy, breakable, and hazardous items/materials on low shelves. Keep these items as close to the ground as possible, lowering the risk they could fall on someone.

Secure computer equipment to the desk.  Velcro fasteners and non-slip pads can help you keep this equipment in place and reduce the chance it would fall or become airborne and injure someone.

Keep aisles, doorways, and areas under desks clear. Avoiding clutter in the aisles and doorways helps your employees evacuate the building in the safest possible way, should that be necessary. It also prevents the clutter from moving around or becoming airborne.

Keep areas under desks clear. This creates protective space for employees during an earthquake, as we will cover in the next section.

Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Drop, Cover, and Hold On to ride out an earthquake.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On is considered the safest earthquake response.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On is widely regarded as the safest action to take during an earthquake. Practice this drill at least twice per year.

At the beginning of the drill, everyone should drop to the ground, find cover, and hold on to something. One of the best places to go is under a desk or table. Once under cover you can hold onto a table/desk leg or pull a nearby office chair in front of the opening under the table/desk and hold on to that. Drop, Cover, and Hold On can also be modified for other situations.

Ensure your employees know what to do immediately after

After an actual earthquake, everyone will need to get to safety. Communication between employees may be difficult due to damage, so every employee must know the steps of their evacuation plan.

First, designate yourself or another member of the team as the person who makes the call to evacuate the building. Once the order is given, everyone needs to leave in as orderly a fashion as possible. Be sure to practice your workplace evacuation plan at least twice a year.

Make sure your employees know what to do if they are unable to communicate with the designated person. They should know how to evaluate if they should evacuate, where their nearest exits are, and where to meet.


Make sure you have everyone’s cell phone number so you can call or text anyone that doesn’t arrive at the meet-up location. Also, set up an out-of-state contact that employees’ families can call for information on their loved ones. Phone service is often compromised after an earthquake. The out-of-state contact is a key resource for families to reach out to. Keep this contact updated throughout the emergency.

Be sure to review with your employees what to do is someone gets trapped. Steps include:

  • Do not move or kick up dust.
  • If your mobile phone is nearby, call or text for help.
  • Pound on any wall, pipe, or other material within reach that would make a loud noise.
  • Call out to anyone you may hear in the area.

We know earthquakes happen in California, we just don’t know when or where. Preparing the workplace in advance, helps you better withstand an earthquake should one occur in your area.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.