During and after an earthquake

During and after an earthquake

It is possible that Vancouver could be impacted by an earthquake, so it is necessary to be prepared.

What happens during an earthquake

An earthquake can be a scary experience, with a lot of loud noise and unfamiliar movement. If you know what to expect during an earthquake, you will be less afraid, making it easier to keep yourself and your family safe.


During an earthquake, there may be a loud noise, which may be similar to the sound of a freight train roaring past. The noise could last from a few seconds, to several minutes. Fire and burglar alarms will likely go off, and buildings may creak and groan.


During an earthquake, there might be violent shaking, or some sudden thumps. Light fixtures will sway and furniture will shake and start to move across the floor. Tall, unsupported bookshelves and filing cabinets may fall over and unsecured items like televisions and china may fall from their shelves.

What to do during an earthquake

Earthquakes happen without warning, and may be so strong that you will not be able to run or crawl. You will probably be knocked to the ground.

The best way to protect yourself is to immediately "drop, cover, and hold on."

Many studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes in the U.S. over the past several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects - such as TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases - than to be killed in a collapsed building.

The "drop, cover, and hold on" method is the best way to protect yourself from these kinds of injuries.

How to drop, cover, and hold on

  • Drop - Drop to the ground (before the earthquake knocks you down)
  • Cover - Take cover, by getting under a sturdy desk or table
  • Hold on - Grab the legs of the desk or table, and hold on until the shaking stops

If there is no table or desk near you, do not try to run to another room to get under a table. Instead, stay where you are, cover your face and head with your arms, and crouch in an inside corner of the room.

DO NOT try any of the following methods during an earthquake

  • Do not stand in a doorway - In modern homes, doorways are no stronger than the rest of the building. They also cannot protect you from falling or flying objects.
  • Do not run outside - Trying to run during an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving, which can cause you to fall and hurt yourself on debris or glass on the ground. At the same, glass, bricks, and other building materials may be falling. It is much safer to stay inside and get under a table.
  • Do not follow the "triangle of life" method - The triangle of life is a controversial theory about how to survive a major earthquake. This method advises against taking shelter under a table, and has been discredited by many leading experts.

What to do after an earthquake

  • Be aware of aftershocks, which can occur minutes, hours, or even days after the earthquake
  • Check yourself and others for injuries, and give first aid to anyone who needs it
  • Check your water, gas, and electric lines for damage, and if damaged, shut off the valves
  • Check for the smell of gas, and if you smell gas, open all the windows and doors, leave immediately, and report it to the authorities (use someone else's phone)
  • Turn on the radio for updates
  • Check your hardwired telephone to ensure it has not been knocked off its cradle
  • Do not use the phone unless it is an emergency
  • Stay out of damaged buildings
  • Be careful around broken glass and debris, and wear boots or sturdy shoes to keep from cutting your feet.
  • Be careful of chimneys (they may fall on you)
  • Stay away from beaches, as Tsunamis and seiches sometimes hit after the ground has stopped shaking
  • Stay away from damaged areas
  • If you are at school or work, follow the emergency plan or the instructions of the person in charge
  • Expect aftershocks, which will be less strong than the earthquake, but can cause additional damage

Learn more about earthquakes in Vancouver

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What to do during an earthquake...


Do you know what to do during an earthquake?

Standing in a doorway, running outside, or using the "triangle of life" method are not safe!

To protect yourself, you need to Drop! Cover! Hold On!

Learn how

Emergency safety kits

Emergency safety kit

Did you know there is a 1 in 3 chance of a major earthquake in Vancouver within the next 20-50 years?

Be prepared, by creating emergency safety kits filled with supplies you will need if you are forced to evacuate your home.

Get instructions

Contact the Office of Emergency Planning

Phone: 604-829-4375


Last modified: Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:19:15