What Do I Do?

Drop, Cover and Hold On is the official advice. Crawl under a sturdy table and avoid going outside. DO NOT run to other rooms. DO NOT stand in a doorway. You probably won’t be able to stand up if you tried.

Artwork may fall from the walls and bookshelves may tip over. Let it go. Keep your head down.

Door frames in modern homes are no stronger than any other part of the house, and doorways do not protect you from falling objects, say experts. If you tried to leave an office building, more injuries are generally caused by falling glass, concrete and debris.

Many of Portland’s residential homes built before 1976 have vulnerabilities to earthquakes and the damage may result in them being unusable or in need of costly repairs. Modern seismic codes were developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

If you’re on the coast and it’s 3am, RUN, don’t walk to high ground if you feel a big quake. Don’t wait for a warning siren. There isn’t much time. Roads could become jammed. Round up your loved ones and get out of there the best way you know how. A Tsunami may be coming in minutes. Better safe than sorry.


1. If you live in an apartment building or other multi-household structure with many levels, consider the following:
– Get under a desk and stay away from windows and outside walls.
– Stay in the building (many injuries occur as people flee a building and are struck by falling debris from above).
– Be aware that the electricity may go out and sprinkler systems may come on.
– DO NOT use the elevators.

2. If you are in a crowded indoor public location:

– Stay where you are. Do not rush for the doorways.
– Move away from tall shelves, cabinets and bookcases containing objects that may fall.
– Take cover and grab something to shield your head and face from falling debris and glass.
– Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
– DO NOT use elevators.

3. In a moving vehicle:

– Stop as quickly as safety permits, and stay in the vehicle.
– Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses or utility wires.
– Then, proceed cautiously, watching for road and bridge damage.

4. If you become trapped in debris:

– Do not light a match.
– Do not move about or kick up dust.
– Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
– Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a – last resort—shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

5. Stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering or exiting buildings.


1. Be prepared for aftershocks.
2. Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately. Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
3. If the electricity goes out, use flashlights. Do not use candles, matches or open flames indoors after the earthquake because of possible gas leaks.
4. Wear sturdy shoes in areas covered with fallen debris and broken glass.
5. Check your home for structural damage.
6. Check chimneys for visual damage.
7. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids.
8. Visually inspect utility lines and appliances for damage.
– If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave. Shut off the main gas valve. Stay out of the building. If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
– Switch off electrical power at the main fuse box or circuit breaker if electrical damage is suspected.
– Shut off the water supply at the main valve if water pipes are damaged. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
9. Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
10. Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
11. Listen to news reports for the latest emergency information.
12. Stay off the streets. Watch for fallen objects, downed electrical wires, weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.

Family Plan
Here’s a Family Plan for the big shake:

  • Sit down with your family and/or friends to discuss what to do. Imagine different times of day and scenarios—particularly who will be on what side of the river.
  • Set up at least two places to meet: one outside of your home, the other outside of your neighborhood.
  • Designate a contact—outside of Portland. Make them your communications hub. Phone lines within and into the city will be jammed. Outbound calls, particularly to other regions of the country, should be easier to make. Texting often goes through when voice can’t.
  • Know your evacuation routes! Portland’s emergency planners have developed hazard maps for every neighborhood that include evacuation routes, hospital locations, and other emergency services.
  • Have family documents organized and ready to grab and go. That means Social Security cards, insurance information, passports, and birth certificates.
  • Get some bikes. Fuel might be tight for days, even months.

To prepare for and respond to emergencies, Ready.gov has lots of information available in many languages, including ESPAÑOL.

The Scouts may have the best advise: Be Prepared. Survival Guides instruct everyone to have a Basic Disaster Supplies Kit, with 2 weeks of supplies, a First Aid Kit and a gallon of water per day per person.

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