People living in California should already know how to prepare for an earthquake. But the risk of a sudden cracking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth's surface is more widespread than you may think — as last year's quake in the Washington, D.C. area showed. There are 45 states and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes. The area near Memphis, Tennessee and the New Madrid Fault experienced a series of powerful earthquakes in the early 1800s and is considered at high risk for future quakes.

A map of earthquake risk can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's web site.

While the earth may rumble without warning, there are steps you can take to prepare for an earthquake to protect yourself and your family.

How to prepare for an earthquake

  • Pack an emergency preparedness kit that will meet the needs of you and your family for three days. The kit, of course, will be handy in the wake of any natural or man-made disaster. An emergency preparedness kit needs to include food and water for each member of your family for three days, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, can opener, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation. A complete list of recommended items for an emergency kit can be found at, FEMA's emergency preparedness website.
  • If you live in an area at very high risk for earthquake — Southern California, for example — you should pack a smaller emergency preparedness kit for your car.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Identify possible hazards in your home. For example, fasten shelves and large pieces of furniture such as a cupboard securely to walls. Make sure your hot water heater is braced and strapped.
  • Store heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items such as the family china in low, closed cabinets you can latch.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets you can latch. If that's not an option, store the material on bottom shelves.
  • Learn how to turn off the natural gas, water and electricity to your home. Practice it.
  • Consider installing flexible pipe fittings that are less likely to break to avoid gas or water leaks.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on. Have everyone drop to the ground; take cover under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops.
  • Download free publications on earthquake survival preparedness on FEMA's website.
  • Bookmark these disaster information sites on your mobile phone:;;

Have other tips for how to prepare for an earthquake? Leave us a note in the comments below.