What are Earthquakes?

An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock. Initial mild shaking may strengthen and become extremely strong within seconds. Additional earthquakes, called aftershocks, may occur for hours, days, or even months. Most are smaller than the initial earthquake, but larger magnitude aftershocks can also occur. Earthquakes can cause power outages or tsunamis. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning.

Why Prepare?

Massachusetts is located in a moderate earthquake zone. Although these quakes typically cause only insignificant or mild damage, larger earthquakes are possible, and could cause serious damage to buildings and public infrastructure. Because of this, it is important to know some simple safety rules if the ground begins to shake.

During an earthquake, drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your arms and, if possible, a sturdy piece of furniture, and try to hold on until the shaking stops.
During an earthquake, drop to the ground, cover your head and neck with your arms and, if possible, a sturdy piece of furniture, and try to hold on until the shaking stops.

Before an Earthquake

  • Be informed by receiving alerts, warnings, and public safety information before, during, and after emergencies. Download the Massachusetts Alerts app
  • Create and review your family emergency plan.
    • Identify safe places to take cover (such as under a sturdy piece of furniture) in your home, office, or school.
  • Practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On;” and participate in the Great Northeast Shakeout each October.
  • Assemble an emergency kit.
  • Prepare your home for possible emergencies.
    • Fasten bookcases, hutches, and freestanding shelving to walls. Place large, heavy objects, as well as fragile objects, on lower shelves.
    •  Know where your electricity, gas, and water switches and valves are located and how to shut them off.
  • Make a record of your personal property by taking photos/videos of your belongings. Store these records in a safe place.

During an Earthquake

The steps you should take during an earthquake depend on your location.

If You Are Inside

  • Stay inside. Do not get in a doorway — this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you might not be able to remain standing.
  • Drop, Cover, and Hold On
    • Drop down to the ground so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down.
    • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect you from falling debris. If possible, crawl under a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture for additional protection. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and other items that could fall.
    • Hold on to any sturdy item you can until the shaking stops.

If You Are Outside

  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

If You Are in a Vehicle

  • Pull to the side of the road and stay inside until the earthquake is over. Do not stop under overpasses or power lines.

After an Earthquake

  • Continue to monitor media for emergency information.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • If you are trapped, try calling or texting for help. Try tapping on a pipe or wall or using a whistle to help rescuers locate you.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies including downed power lines and gas leaks.
  • Call 2-1-1 to obtain shelter locations and other disaster information.
  • Stay away from downed utility wires. Always assume a downed power line is live.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and areas until authorities deem them safe.
  • Check your home for damage:
    • If you believe there is a gas leak, go outdoors immediately, and do not turn electrical switches or appliances on or off.
    • Check chimneys for visual damage and have a professional inspect the chimney for internal damage before lighting a fire.
    • If your home or property is damaged, take photos or videos to document your damage, and contact your insurance company.
  • If your power is out, follow our power outage safety tips.
    • Report power outages to your utility company.
    • Use generators and grills outside because their fumes contain carbon monoxide. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working as it is a silent, odorless, killer.
  • If phone lines are down, use social media or texting to let others know you are OK.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.

More Information