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Schools, day care centers and colleges should prepare for a major damaging earthquake. In such an event, school administrators and teachers will have to be self-sufficient – relying on their own resources – to protect and care for the student population and the immediate surrounding communities until outside assistance is available.

In California the education code requires public and private schools K-12 to develop emergency plans and to conduct “drop, cover and hold” drills. New Jersey’s school children and their families should focus on earthquake safety and preparedness measures. Some of these measures include:

  • Conducting a school drill to test emergency plans and procedures. Make sure you test communications systems, evacuation plans, search and rescue activities and first aid techniques. (For planning assistance, contact your city or county Office of Emergency Management.)
  • Securing and anchoring school equipment and furniture–including bookshelves, cabinets, computers and typewriters–that may present a threat during an earthquake.
  • Encouraging all school staff and students to prepare an earthquake emergency plan for their families.
  • Sending information home for parents on the school’s emergency policies and procedures.
  • Updating information on “emergency notification cards.”
  • Conducting in-service training workshops on first aid, shelter management, damage assessment and other related topics for school staff.
  • Dedicating a special class or school assembly to the effects of earthquakes and the importance of proper preparation.
  • Displaying preparedness information at high traffic areas in your school.
  • Conducting a hazard hunt in classrooms and offices.
  • Assembling emergency kits which include important safety information and first aid supplies.

For all-hazard school planning guidance, visit the NJOEM Family and Community Preparedness Page.
The NJOEM website also contains information on additional disaster-related websites for school officials.


If a major earthquake struck in your area today, you might be without direct assistance for up to 72 hours. Are you prepared to be self sufficient? Is your family? Your neighbor hood?

Individual and Family Preparedness

  • Know the safe spots in each room–under sturdy tables, desks or against inside walls.
  • Know the danger spots–windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces, tall furniture.
  • Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself and your children in safe locations.
  • Learn first aid and CPR ( cardiopulmonary resuscitation) from your local Red Cross Chapter or other community organization.
  • Decide where your family will reunite if separated.
  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Choose an out-of-state friend or relative whom family members can call after the quake to report whereabouts and conditions.

Securing Your Home

  • Learn how to shut off gas, water and electricity in case the lines are damaged.
  • Check chimneys, roofs, and wall foundations for stability. Make sure your home is bolted to its foundation. Call a licensed contractor if there are any questions.
  • Secure water heaters and appliances that could move enough to rupture utility lines.
  • Keep breakable and heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Secure hanging plants and heavy picture frames or mirrors (especially those hanging over beds).
  • Put latches on cabinet doors to keep them closed during shaking.
  • Keep flammable or hazardous liquids such as paints, pest sprays or cleaning products in cabinets or secured on lower shelves.
  • Maintain emergency food, water and other supplies, including medicine, first aid kit and clothing.

Neighborhood and Community Preparedness

  • Suggest that local organizations of which you are a member undertake a specific preparedness program or acquire special training to be of assistance in the event of a damaging earthquake.
  • Organize a neighborhood earthquake preparedness program.
  • Conduct training for neighborhood residents in preparedness, first aid, fire suppression, damage assessment and search and rescue.
  • Develop self-help networks between families and neighborhood through a skills and resource bank which includes a listing of tools, equipment, materials and neighborhood members who have special skills and resources to share.
  • Identify neighbors who have special needs or will require special assistance.
  • Have neighbors agree to hang a white flag out after the quake if everything and everyone is OK.

For more information on Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), visit the NJOEM Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) page.


Be Aware of Your Environment

The safest place in the house:

During an earthquake, stay away from heavy furniture, appliances, large panes of glass, shelves holding heavy objects, and masonry veneer ( such as the fireplace). These items tend to fall or break and can injure you. Usually, a hallway is one of the safest places if it is not crowded with objects. Kitchens and garages tend to be most dangerous. Also know the safest place in each room. It will be difficult to move from one place to another during a severe earthquake.

Exits and alternative exits:

Always know the possible ways to exit your house and workplace in emergency situations.

Location of shutoff valves:

Know the location of the shutoff valves for water, gas and electricity and how to operate the valves. If you are not sure, contact your utility company.

Make Special Provisions for -

Older adults, persons with disabilities, those requiring medication, or people on special diets. Persons with limited mobility will likely have even more difficulty moving around after an earthquake. Make sure they are included in neighborhood emergency plans. Be sure to store several days supply of medication or special provisions if needed.

Persons with limited English proficiency. People who cannot speak English often rely on their family or friends for information. If they are separated during an earthquake, they may need help. Prepare emergency cards written in English indicating identification, address and any special needs.

For Pet Owners -

After an earthquake, you should be concerned with your own safety before taking care of your pets. Storing extra food and water for pets is always a good idea. Keep them in a secure place at home after an earthquake. If you are evacuated, they will not be allowed at the emergency shelter.

For more information on Pets and Disaster, click here [pdf - 156k].

Identify Community Resources

Police and fire - Know the locations of the nearest police and fire station.

Shelter and medical care - After a damaging earthquake, emergency shelters and temporary medical centers will be set up in your community. Contact your local Office of Emergency Management to find out the plans for your area.

Community plans - Know your neighbors and their skills; you may be able to help each other after an earthquake. Also know where to go to help your community after a disaster. It may be days before outside emergency assistance arrives. It is important to help each other.

Family Reunification

Plan to reunite - Make a plan on where and how to reunite family members. Choose a person outside the immediate area to contact if family members are separated. Long distance phone service will probably be restored sooner than local service. Remember, don’t use the phone immediately after an earthquake, and make phone calls only for emergencies.

Plan for children - Know the policies of the school or daycare center your children attend. Make plans to have someone pick them up if, after an earthquake, you are unable to do so.

Plan Recovery Tasks - There will be many things to take care of after an earthquake. Make a plan for your family, friends and neighbors assigning specific responsibilities to each person. Remember that it may be difficult to get around after an earthquake, so each person’s task should be related where he or she may be.


The following steps should be taken by owners or mangers:

  • Consult local building codes to ensure that your building meets current seismic safety standards.
  • Develop an emergency plan for your building or mobile home park. This plan should include measures for storing food and water, obtaining first aid training, appointing floor or area leaders, conducting drills and other such activities.
  • Encourage mobile home residents to better secure their homes by leaving wheels on homes rather than removing them, installing structural support bracing systems and securing the coach’s awnings. A list of state certified bracing systems is available from the State Department of Community Affairs.
  • Provide tenants with information on how to secure furniture and other household items. Also provide them with information on what to do during and after an earthquake.
  • Encourage tenants to develop individual family plans for shutting off damaged utilities, reuniting family members and evacuation, if necessary.
  • Identify residents with special needs–such as mobility impaired, non-English speaking, elderly, or hearing and sight impaired–and make sure their needs are addresed in your emergency plans.
  • Organize teams that are responsible for first aid, search and rescue, communications and firefighting. Compile a list of resources and skills available among your tenants.
  • Provide tenants with a white flag or some other distinguishable sign to be posted after an earthquake if no one in the apartment or mobile home has suffered serious injuries.
  • Practice earthquake drills in your complex or park.
  • Find out and inform your tenants where the nearest mass shelter area is located.
  • Organize a meeting at which a local emergency and disaster planner can provide information on earthquake preparedness.



Develop a “partner” system with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Plan how you will help each other in an emergency. If you live alone, you may wish to give your “partner” a key to your home. Make a list of your medications, allergies, special equipment, names, addresses and telephone numbers of your doctor, pharmacy, family members, friends and any other important information. Give a copy to each partner and keep a copy with you at all times.


Eliminate hazards in your home wherever possible. Securely anchor medical equipment, heavy appliances, bookcases, hanging plants and other items. Place heavy objects on low shelves. Move beds away from windows.

Check hallways, exits, doorways and other areas and remove hazards and obstructions which may impede your safe exit after an earthquake. Install security night lights to provide emergency lighting if power is interrupted. Gather emergency supplies.

Assemble a 72 hour emergency supply kit, which includes water, any special diet foods, sanitary aids, cooking and eating utensils, flashlight, radio, blankets, a change of clothing and a whistle for signaling for assistance. Include a well stocked first aid kit with extra prescription medications and an extra pair of glasses. Store extra batteries for hearing aids, wheelchairs and other battery-operated equipment. Keep a mini-survival kit in your vehicle.

Special Tips

If you are deaf or hearing-impaired, keep a battery-operated television on hand, with fresh batteries, for receiving emergency information if power is out. Store flashlight, pencil and pad for communicating. Arrange for hearing friends or coworkers to relay information broadcast by radio. If you are blind or have impaired vision, keep extra canes in strategic areas around your home. Plan alternate evacuation routes from home and office. Store extra pet food and supplies for your service animal.

For comprehensive information about disaster preparedness for people with disabilities click here.

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