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Home > About NOVA > Emergency Preparedness > Campus Emergency Procedures > Hazards > Earthquake


An earthquake cannot be forecasted; therefore it is best to be prepared at all times. Earthquakes can seriously damage buildings and their contents; disrupt gas, electric and telephone services. Aftershocks can occur for weeks following an earthquake. In many buildings, the greatest danger to people in an earthquake is when equipment and non-structural elements such as ceilings, partitions, windows and lighting fixtures shake loose.


  • If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. Stay calm and take precautions to protect yourself from potential debris.
  • DROP to the floor.
  • COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture.
  • HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Do not use a doorway except if you know that it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • Do NOT use elevators.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking.
  • If you are outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, overhangs, trees, and power lines to a clear area such as a large open public area or field.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings or trees.

After the Earthquake

Once the shaking stops:

  • Exit the building when safety permits and move to the designated assembly area. Direct students and visitors.
  • Use emergency exit route information posted throughout the building to determine the quickest route out.
  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Only use the telephone for emergency calls.
  • Be aware that utilities such as gas, power and water lines may be damaged. If you know of damaged utilities, report the issue.
  • Wait for instructions from wardens, officials, police and/or security guards.


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