Surviving an Earthquake

I’ve experienced probably a half dozen earthquakes in my life so far.  Earthquakes occur with more frequency than most people imagine.  Often the shockwaves are too small to be felt.  The first earthquake I felt was during high school.  I was asleep and something started shaking my bed.  It woke me but, as it quickly stopped, I thought maybe a heavy truck driving by had disturbed my sleep and went back to bed.  The next morning the news was full of stories about the unusual occurrence of an earthquake along the East Coast of the United States.

EarthquakeDuring my professional career I have dealt with the aftermath of several more serious earthquakes.  One time in Greece my wife and I were at the doctor’s for a routine checkup prior to the birth of our son, and a 6.o earthquake hit.  A 6.0 quake does not sound very big, but if you are close to the epicenter, it can be deadly.  The office was below ground level.  The people in the waiting room panicked.  They started attempting, all at once, to get out the windows (some forgetting their wives were still there).  My wife and I crouched down, waited for the shaking to stop, then exited the building rapidly.

We later learned that over 140 people nearby had been killed and several hundred buildings slightly closer to the epicenter, 20 miles away, collapsed.

The odds of being in some sort of major earthquake, for those living in the United States (excluding California) probably remain low.  Nevertheless, even relatively small earthquakes, such as the one my wife and I experienced, can cause injury or death.

If one does occur, here are some things to remember:


  1. Drop and hold on. If you are in bed, either roll to the floor or stay in bed, curled up into the fetal position.  If you can, cover your face with your pillow to protect yourself from flying glass or objects.
  2. Stay away from windows.
  3. Stay inside until the shaking stops, then leave the building using the quickest means possible.

Remember, don’t panic.  In many buildings the fire alarm and sprinkler systems may activate, even if there is no fire, due to the shaking.


  1. Find a clear spot and drop to the ground. Curl into the fetal position.
  2. Stay away from buildings, trees, and power lines.
  3. If in a car, pull over and park until the shaking stops. If on a bridge or under an overpass, move out quickly and pull off the road once you clear the bridge or overpass.

In the major earthquakes I have experienced, communication was difficult.  Cell phone towers can get damaged or overloaded after an earthquake, so communication by phone may be impossible.  Radio and TV transmitters may be damaged, too.  Without reporting, unsubstantiated rumors tend to induce panic.

[quote_left]”Survival in any emergency situation increases if you, at a minimum, do not panic.”[/quote_left]If you are lucky enough to be at a location that has a robust emergency response plan, follow the instructions of those familiar with the immediate response drills and assembly point locations.

Do not go back inside your hotel or residence until someone in authority says that it is safe.  Structural damage may not be visible to the untrained eye.

Remember, there will be aftershocks that can be as dangerous, and sometimes as strong, as the original seismic wave.

Survival in any emergency situation increases if you, at a minimum, do not panic.  Think about what you may have been taught or read in an article like this one, and react appropriately.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bill Gaskill

Mr. Gaskill has over 20 years of extensive international experience with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, followed by 10+ years in the corporate sector.During his career at State, he developed and led comprehensive security programs in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America.He was Chief of Security at five U.S. Embassies:Tel Aviv, Athens, Lima, Nicosia and Lome.He has worked in more than 144 countries and has an extensive network of global contacts.His areas of professional expertise include risk assessments, physical security, access control, guard force operations and management, counter terrorism, investigations, foreign security liaison, personal protection and Emergency Plans and Preparations.

As Vice President of a Security Fusion Center, Bill has provided risk management advice and direction to major Fortune 100 defense industry, ultra high net worth and other clients.

As Global Director for Security, Alem International, Bill planned and directed all facets of the security and risk mitigation strategies for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that took place in over 34 countries.

Bill was commissioned as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in the US Army immediately after college.

Mr. Gaskill has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ancient History with a math minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance.He has professional fluency ratings in Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French, and has a working knowledge of Russian.
Bill Gaskill

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