Our Community Earthquake Emergency Response Plans

For those of you that don't live in earthquake country, you may be wondering "What are people supposed to do during and immediately after an earthquake?" My wife and I live in a homeowner association that has a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Our association complex has 76 townhomes, and CERT has divided our complex into 4 neighborhoods. Each of these neighborhoods has 4 teams, each with a specific purpose. In the event of an earthquake, people in close proximity will spring into action with predetermined duties.

Each neighborhood has a disaster response plan. The plan includes contact information for all of our neighbors as well as instructions and OK/HELP signage that can be used after an earthquake.


Here is the guidance that our neighborhood disaster response plans include:


During the Earthquake


If Inside a Building:

  1. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
  2. Do not run outside.
  3. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.
  4. Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn't knock you down.
  5. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
  6. If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.
  7. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.

If In Bed:

  1. Stay in bed.
  2. Cover your head and neck with a pillow.
  3. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid. Attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

If Outside:

  1. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  2. Once in the open: Drop, Cover, and Hold On.
  3. Stay there until the shaking stops.

Immediately After the Earthquake


On Your Own:

  1. Attend to your loved ones.
  2. Dress for safety (study shoes, gloves, hard hat).
  3. Check the natural gas or propane at your unit.
  4. Shut off water at the unit main.
  5. Place HELP or OK sign on garage door.
  6. Put your fire extinguisher on the sidewalk.
  7. Go to the gathering site for your neighborhood.

As a Group:

  1. Community members have been assigned to teams as part of the plan. Hopefully, CERT members will be present to head up incident command. If not, form ad-hoc teams (3 to 4 members per team) at the gathering site.
    • Team 1: Listen to the emergency system and walkie-talkies.
    • Team 2: Check on neighbors door to door.
    • Team 3: Ensure that all gas meters are off.
    • Team 4: Aid neighbors displaying the HELP sign.
  2. After completing the team assignment, return to the gathering site for your neighborhood.
  3. After the first 60 minutes, which are very critical, residents from all 4 neighborhoods can then all gather as one big group in the green belt area in the middle of the association to coordinate association-wide activities and resources.

In addition to the designated gathering site, each neighborhood has a designated care center. A neighborhood care center is a place where children, the elderly, and those with a disability can be brought so they are not alone and where they can be given care.

I grew up in the New Orleans, Louisiana area, so I've lived through my share of hurricanes. With a hurricane, people get advanced warning, so they can prepare or depart. With an earthquake, there is no warning. The only option is to plan in advance and be ready to put those plans into action at a moment's notice. Our neighborhood disaster response plans from our Community Emergency Response Team are a way to make that happen.

Emergency response is alive in the lab.