Emergency Action Planning: What to Do Before and During an Earthquake

When you have just seconds to react to protect yourself, having a plan and knowing what to do can make all the difference. Start by creating an earthquake preparation plan – or emergency action plan. The plan should tell practice employees exactly what to do in case of an earthquake, including the best strategies to survive the quake itself. For more information on what to do during an earthquake, visit OSHA’s Earthquake Preparedness and Response page.

The plan also should address the following questions:

  • Facilities: Is the structure sound enough to withstand a mild to moderate earthquake? Is all necessary maintenance up to date? Is a backup power supply available? Does the facility meet all accessibility guidelines in the event of a needed evacuation?
  • Human Resources: Are employees trained in first aid – and do they have access to medical supplies? Does the practice have other emergency supplies like blankets and bottled water on hand, if needed? Has the practice established employee reunification procedures – or determined a meeting point in the event of an earthquake?
  • Communication: Does the practice have a plan in place for notifying employees – or their family members – in the event of an emergency? Does this plan include multiple modes of communication in the event that some are unavailable? Has the practice established protocols for communicating with first responders and critical infrastructure providers?

But simply having a plan isn’t enough. To truly be prepared, employees should receive regular training that exposes them to real-life scenarios and engages them in an in-depth discussion about how to respond in the face of a disaster.

The workplace training session also should include FEMA’s “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” method:

  • Drop to your hands and knees to avoid falling. Casualties and injuries occur when people fall while trying to walk or run during an earthquake.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris and walls. If possible, crawl for cover under a desk or table. If not, consider moving to an interior wall or corner nearby. Avoid glass, windows, and outside doors and walls. Never stand under anything that can fall, including light fixtures or loose, unstable equipment.
  • Hold on to something sturdy and remain in place until the shaking stops.

The workplace training sessions should be held at regular intervals to ensure the lessons become second nature to employees. For more information on earthquake preparedness and training, visit FEMA’s Earthquake resource page and download their Prepare Your Organization for an Earthquake PlaybookFor more information on how to create an emergency action plan, check out OSHA’s Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool.