Consider the recent earthquakes in California, Oregon, and Washington your wake-up call to create a family earthquake safety plan. Since earthquakes strike with no notice, you’ll be glad you’re prepared. Here are 6 steps to take when creating your earthquake plan.

1. Be honest about the potential for an earthquake

Find out if you live in a high-risk area and talk to your family members about the fact that an earthquake is indeed a possibility. Give them the facts about how an earthquake can happen without warning, which makes it even more important to be prepared with a family plan.

2. Talk to family members about what to do

The website Ready.gov advises that people “drop, cover, and hold on.” Here’s what to do:

  • Drop onto your hands and knees.
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms. If possible, crawl under sturdy furniture for more protection. (Take the time to find safe spaces in your home during your planning.) If that’s not available, crawl next to an interior wall, but stay away from the windows in case the glass should break. Note: while people used to believe they should stand under a doorway, the American Red Cross cautions that it isn’t any sturdier than other parts of your home.
  • Hold on to the legs of the furniture if available while the earthquake rolls through the house.

3. Prep your home

Bolt furniture, heaters, and gas appliances to the wall. Remove mirrors or heavy shelves from above beds and couches to prevent falling injuries. And of course, for an extra layer of protection, you can add earthquake insurance since it requires a separate policy from homeowners insurance.

4. Create a communication plan

In our best-laid plans, families are together when the earthquake happens and everyone’s able to ride it out together. Realistically, though, you could be scattered at home or school or even in the car. Phone lines could also be down or otherwise overloaded with local calls, so it’s best to have an out-of-state person as your contact. Instruct everyone to check in with them to relay their location and condition. And remember, sometimes it’s easier to text than to make a call.

5. Prepare a kit

You’ll want to have basic supplies ready, just as you would for any emergency. Here’s a list of what to include in your kit, such as food, water, medical supplies, and more. It’s wise to make mini kits to keep in cars, at school, and at the office. The good news is that these kits are equally useful for other extreme weather events or if the power goes out.

6. Know what to do when it’s over

The danger isn’t over once the earth stops shaking — there might be aftershocks, so teach your family to stay where they are. If you’re in a damaged building, go outside when you can, taking care to steer clear of other buildings and power lines.

If you’re trapped, bang on the wall, send a text if you can, or otherwise make noise to alert others. It’s important to attract attention and that can be difficult by simply yelling.

Once you’re safe, register on the American Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” website to let others know you’re okay.

Safe and smart | Home safety

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about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.