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Earthquakes strike without warning, rattling even those of us with the steadiest of nerves. Common advice is to drop or stay low during earthquake tremor, but there are other things you can do before, during and after an earthquake to protect yourself, your family and your home.

How to Prepare Before an Earthquake

Although you can't avoid an earthquake, you can try to limit the injuries or damage it causes with some simple steps:

  • Have a licensed contractor check your chimney(s), roof and wall foundations for stability. Make sure your home is bolted to the foundation.
  • Secure your water heater(s) with approved water heater strapping.
  • Anchor heavy furnishings, appliances and bookcases to the walls and floors.
  • Store heavy items or glassware in lower cabinets, and closet shelves.
  • Know where your gas, electrical and water main shut-off valves are located. Install a seismic gas shut-off device.
  • Keep heavy shoes and gloves underneath your bed to protect yourself from broken glass and debris left on the floor after an earthquake.
  • Consider removing large trees that could fall onto your home or other property.
  • Prepare and maintain a first aid kit and handbook for your entire family.
  • Maintain an emergency supply kit that will sustain you and your family for a 72-hour period. This kit should include flashlights, a portable radio, extra batteries, canned food, an ABC-rated fire extinguisher, bottled water, cash, blankets, clothing and toiletries.

What to Do During an Earthquake

If you have a plan ahead of time, it's easier to stay calm during an actual earthquake. Review the following tips on how to stay safe and make sure everyone in your family understands them so that if the time comes, you all know what to do.

  • If you're indoors, don't try to go outside. If outdoors, stay in open areas away from buildings, power lines, trees and other potential hazards.
  • Stay away from windows and glass furniture.
  • Move to an inner wall or hallway.
  • Duck under a heavy desk or table.

What to Do after an Earthquake

Just because you think an earthquake is over, it may not be. Aftershocks can continue over a period of hours, days or even weeks after an earthquake. Take precautions to ensure it's safe before you leave your house, car or other building. These are additional tips for enhancing your and your family’s safety after an earthquake:

  • Check yourself and family members for injuries and try to tend to them as best you can.
  • Be cautious when opening cabinets.
  • Turn off all appliances and the main electrical circuit breaker, if safe to do so.
  • If you smell gas or notice a broken water line, turn off service at the appropriate valve.
  • Look for any structural damage to your home. If you think it's unsafe, evacuate until you can have it checked by authorities or a structural engineer.
  • Clean up any broken glass or spills to prevent injuries from cuts or slips. Do not clean up hazardous spills – leave that to professionals.
  • Check for fires and/or other household hazards.
  • If you’re a Chubb policyholder and suffered damage because of an earthquake, click here to begin the claims process.

Chubb is the marketing name used to refer to subsidiaries of Chubb Limited providing insurance and related services. For a list of these subsidiaries, please visit our website at www.chubb.com. Insurance provided by ACE American Insurance Company and its U.S. based Chubb underwriting company affiliates.  This document is advisory in nature and is offered for informational purposes only as a resource to be used together with your professional insurance advisors in maintaining a loss prevention program. The information contained in this document is not intended as a substitute for legal, technical, or other professional advice, nor is it intended to supplant any duty to provide a safe workspace, operation, product, or premises. No liabilities or warranties are assumed or provided by the information contained in this document. Chubb, 202 Hall's Mill Road, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889-1600.