An image of earthquake damage to a building.

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused when two blocks of earth slip past each other beneath the surface. Although NYC does not sit on a major fault line, earthquakes can and have affected our area, and residents should be prepared.

Before an Earthquake

  • Identify safe places in each room of your home. A safe place can be under a solid piece of furniture and away from windows, hanging objects or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Prepare your home by securing bookcases and other top-heavy objects to the wall, and store large and heavy items on lower shelves.
  • Do not hang large pictures or mirrors above sofas or other places where people may sit or sleep.
Note that after an earthquake your utilities may be disrupted. Learn how to shut off the source of natural gas to your home if you smell a leak.

Additional Considerations

  • Write down any specific needs, limitations and capabilities that you have, and any medications you take. Make a copy of the list and put it in your purse or wallet.
  • Find someone (a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative or co-worker) to help you in case of an emergency. Give them the list. You may wish to provide a spare key to your home, or let them know where they can find one in an emergency.
  • Read ShakeOut's Earthquake Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities and Other Access or Functional Needs

What to Do During an Earthquake

  • Drop, Cover and Hold On:
    • Drop to the floor.
    • Cover your head and neck with your arms. Take additional cover under a solid piece of furniture or next to an interior wall. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects and you likely will not be able to remain standing.
    • Hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture and be prepared to move with it. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
  • If you use a wheelchair, try to get under a doorway or into an inside corner, lock the wheels and cover your head with your arms. Remove any items that are not securely attached to the wheelchair.
  • If you are outside, go to an open area away from trees, telephone poles and buildings and stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If you are unable to move from a bed or chair, protect yourself from falling objects by covering up with blankets and pillows.

What to Do After an Earthquake

  • Move carefully after the quake, watching for items that may have fallen or broken. Put on sturdy shoes before investigating further to prevent potential injuries from broken glass.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks, which often follow an earthquake.
  • Do not use candles or open flame as a source of light. If power is out, use a flashlight and turn on a battery-operated radio for more information.
  • If you are trapped by debris, 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.
  • Inspect utilities. If you smell gas, leave immediately and call 911.
    • If you know how, turn off the source of gas at the outside main, and call the gas company from outside your home.
  • Clean up spills of hazardous or flammable liquids immediately.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors carefully, as items may have shifted inside.


Tsunamis, also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called "tidal waves"), are a series of enormous waves created by an underwater disturbance, such as an earthquake, landslide, meteorite, or volcanic activity. A tsunami can move hundreds of miles per hour in the open ocean and smash into land with waves as high as 100 feet or more.

Earthquake-induced movement of the ocean floor most often generates tsunamis. If a major earthquake or landslide occurs close to shore, the first wave in a series could reach the beach in a few minutes, before a warning can be issued. Areas are at greater risk if they are less than 25 feet above sea level and within a mile of the shoreline.

Tsunami waves can be very destructive. Other hazards include flooding, contamination of drinking water, and fires from ruptured gas lines or tanks. A tsunami can strike anywhere along most of the U.S. coastline. The most destructive tsunamis have occurred along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.

What to Do During a Tsunami

  • Turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning if an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area.
  • Move inland to higher ground immediately and stay there. If there is no high ground, find a strong, multi-story structure, like a parking garage, and go to the highest level.
    • CAUTION - If there is noticeable recession in water away from the shoreline this is nature's tsunami warning. Move away from the shore immediately.

What to Do After a Tsunami

  • Stay away from flooded and damaged areas until officials say it is safe to return.
  • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to boats and people.

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