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NYC Hazards: Earthquakes

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused when two blocks of earth slip past each other beneath the surface. Although earthquakes are uncommon in New York City, tremors occasionally occur and residents should be prepared.

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.

Download the Ready New York Earthquake Guide
For more tips on earthquakes, download the Ready New York Earthquake Safety Guide brochure.

In the event of an earthquake:
  • Drop, Cover and Hold On:
    • Drop to the floor.
    • Take cover under a solid piece of furniture or next to an interior wall. Cover your head and neck with your arms.
    • Hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture and be prepared to move with it. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
  • 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.
  • If power is out, use a flashlight and turn on a battery-operated radio for more information. Do not use candles or open flame as a source of light.
  • If you smell gas, leave immediately and call 911. If gas is leaking and you know how, turn off the source of gas at the outside main, and call the gas company from outside your home.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors carefully, as items may have shifted inside.
  • Clean up spills of hazardous or flammable liquids immediately.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks, which often follow an earthquake.
Earthquake Preparedness Tips for Seniors & People With Special Needs

Before an Earthquake
  • 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.
During an Earthquake
  • If you are confined to 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 able, seek shelter under a sturdy table or desk. Stay away from outer walls, windows, fireplaces and hanging objects.
  • If you are unable to move from a bed or chair, protect yourself from falling objects by covering up with blankets and pillows.
  • If you are outside, go to an open area away from trees, telephone poles and buildings and stay there.
Learn more from the California Department of Health: Be Prepared California


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.

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.

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.

Preparedness for Homeowners and Building Owners
Get information on how to prepare buildings for weather emergencies, natural disasters, and power outages

More Resources
Track recent earthquake activity in the northeastern U.S.
Learn more earthquake safety tips (NYC Department of Health)