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Earthquakes

ALWAYS CALL 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

Information on this page will help you understand environmental dangers related to earthquakes, what you can do to prepare and recover. It will also help you recognize possible environmental hazards and learn what you can do to protect your and your family’s health. General, non-emergency information about earthquakes, from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Prepare for an earthquake

Drinking water and food: Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and usually without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake.

  • Make a kit of supplies. Keep at least a 3-day water supply per person -and don't forget pets. 
  • Prepare food supplies for an emergency. Get a fridge thermometer to be sure of safe storage temperatures if you lose electricity. Freeze extra containers of water ahead of time. Use ice chests in case power is out for more than four hours.

For water and wastewater facilities:

Activities to help facilities plan for emergencies and natural disasters. A variety of tools and guidance for drinking water and wastewater utilities to prepare and respond.

VIDEO: Surviving the Quake.  This video introduces you to earthquake resilience and highlights Earthquake Resilience for Water and Wastewater Utilities.

Planning for disaster debris:

Damage from an earthquake depends on the size, extent, and other factors. Damage debris can include destroyed structures, hazardous waste, green waste, or personal property.

Chemical or fertilizer storage:

Properly designed or modified storage facilities enhance worker safety and minimize the risk contamination.

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Recover after an earthquake

After an earthquake, expect aftershocks. Stay away from damaged areas. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately.

People get sick or die each year from carbon monoxide or "CO" poisoning due to unsafe use of generators.

Indoor air:

Broken gas lines greatly increase the risk of fire, explosion, or poor air quality. If you smell gas, open windows and shut off the main gas line. Notify the utility or other authorities.

Drinking water and food:

  • Boiling water information – To kill all major water-borne bacterial pathogens, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft (1 mile or 1.6 km). Getting and disinfecting water
  • What to do about water from household wells after a flood – Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well.

For water and wastewater facilities:

Suggested activities to help facilities recover from severe weather conditions. Please note, the linked information is written for hurricane recovery but much of it will still apply to earthquake recovery activities.

Pesticides, chemical, and oil spills, hazardous waste:

  • Call the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
  • National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
  • How to Report Spills and Environmental Violations

What to do with disaster debris:

Disasters can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g., trees and shrubs), personal property, ash, and charred wood.

How a community manages disaster debris depends on the type and amount of debris and the waste management options available. Burying or burning is no longer acceptable, except when permission or a waiver has been granted, because of the side effects of smoke and fire from burning; or potential water and soil contamination from burial. Typical methods of recycling and solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills often cannot be applied to disaster debris because of the large volume of waste and reluctance to overburden existing disposal capacity. More about handling disaster debris.

Renovation and rebuilding:

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

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