Earthquakes: What can you do?

On 16 April 2016, Ecuador experienced a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake that resulted in over 600 deaths. According to the IRIS research consortium, an earthquake over 7 in magnitude occurs more than once a month on average worldwide. Not all lead to this extent of devastation, but with all natural disasters — particularly earthquakes — come indiscriminate risks.

As part of My Travel Risk’s travel advice we offer precautions when we know you’re visiting a seismically active region. For the sake of brevity, this will usually come in the form of a simple but earnest sentence: ‘know what to do in the event of an earthquake’. This post will dig a little bit deeper around what this means and what steps one should take when you visit a region where earthquakes occur or find yourself in one.


  • Be aware of places you could take shelter during an earthquake. Beneath sturdy furniture and against an interior wall are the safest places to be.
  • Make sure that loose objects are packed away or are firmly secured in position. Often injuries are caused by falling or unstable items.
  • Prepare an emergency plan including contact details and a meeting place for travelling parties or family members. This will prove useful after an earthquake has occurred.


  • Drop down. Lower yourself on to your hands and knees. This process prevents you being knocked down by the earthquake.
  • Take cover. When inside, ideally you should take cover underneath a table or a desk. If are unable to find immediate cover, hold something, like a book or a pillow over your head. At the very least, cover your head and neck with your arms. If you’re outside move away from electricity lines or buildings that could injure you with falling debris. If this is not possible, move into a building and find cover. If you’re in bed when the shaking starts, cover your head with a pillow.
  • Stay put. Remain in place until you feel all shaking has come to a stop.
These three steps are the main principles behind staying safe during an earthquake.

Taking these precautionary steps into consideration will minimise your risks of getting hurt during an earthquake. For more resources on the subject, the CDC and National Geographic offer some more tips. You can monitor worldwide earthquake activity on the USGS site.

(Remember: If you are in a coastal area, be aware of the threat of a tsunami following an earthquake. Follow tsunami warnings here, here and here.)

The My Travel Risk platform is a great tool for advice specific to any destination and tailored to your unique profile.