Before an Earthquake

  • Avoid storing heavy objects on high shelves.
  • Secure bookcases, cabinets, and equipment.
  • Install restraints on laboratory shelves and store glass cylinders in properly designed racks.
  • Be familiar with emergency plans and procedures.
  • Have an emergency kit at home, in the office, and in your car.
  • Practise earthquake response often and participate in annual earthquake drills, such as ShakeOut BC.

For information on what to do before an earthquake, visit Get Informed and Get Prepared.

During an Earthquake

Drop, Cover, and Hold On, and stay in this position for at least 60 seconds. If you are inside, stay inside until the shaking stops. Do not run outside or to other rooms during the shaking.

If indoors or in a classroom

  • Drop down on your hands and knees to protect you from falling — an earthquake can knock you down. Keep clear of windows that could break and large objects that could fall over.
  • Cover your head and neck, or your whole body if you can, under a sturdy table. If you can’t get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, crouch against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • Hold on will help keep you safe during a big earthquake until the shaking stops — you might have to move with it if the shaking shifts it around. Wait 60 seconds after the shaking stops
  • Expect fire alarm and sprinkler systems to activate. Do not evacuate until the shaking has stopped.
  • When evacuating, be careful and watch for falling debris.
  • Proceed to the designated assembly area

If you have mobility challenges or in a wheelchair

  • If you can, follow the Drop, Cover, Hold on procedure.
  • If you are in a wheelchair, move to an inner wall if safe to do so.  Lock the brakes and cover your head with your arms.
  • If available use a blanket or pillow to shield your face from falling debris/glass.
  • When the shaking stops move to refuge areas. If your building doesn’t have a refuge area find a safe location to shelter-in-place until assistance arrives.

If you are outside

  • Stay outside.
  • Find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold on.
  • Move to an open area away from buildings, trees, glass, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold on.
  • Do not enter any buildings until they have been approved for re-entry.

If you are in transit

  • In a car — Pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seat belt fastened until the shaking stops. Avoid overhead structures (i.e. bridges and overpasses). Set the parking brake and stay inside.
  • On a bus — Stay seated until the bus stops. Sit in a crouched position and protect your head from falling debris. Stay inside if it is safe.

AVOID the following in an earthquake

  • Doorways — Doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
  • Windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures. You could be hurt by shattered glass or heavy objects.
  • Elevators — If you are in an elevator during an earthquake, hit the button for every floor and get out as soon as you can.
  • Downed power lines — Stay at least 10 metres away to avoid injury.
  • Coastline — Earthquakes can trigger large ocean waves called tsunamis.

After an Earthquake

  • Stay calm, help others if you are able and be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Assess your immediate surroundings for dangers, especially broken glass.
  • If you are able to remain inside, assess the evacuation route and muster area for potential risks, e.g., falling debris or exposed electrical wires, before proceeding out of the building.
  • If you have to leave your area, take your emergency kit and other essential items with you and proceed to an evacuation route.
  • Once you exit the building, go directly to your building’s designated assembly area. If you have difficulty negotiating the stairs, or if you need assistance in evacuating, go to the designated area of refuge if your building has one.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks! Repeat Drop, Cover, and Hold On each time you experience any shaking.
  • Do not re-enter evacuated buildings until cleared to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Don’t tie up phone lines, if it’s not a life-threatening emergency, use text messages and social media.
  • Don’t drink water from sinks or taps — All plumbed water must be boiled after an earthquake.
  • Follow instructions of first responders and campus response personnel — they will direct you to safety and to emergency resources.


For information on what to do after an earthquake, visit Post Emergency in the Get Informed section.


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