The DomiDocs Guide to Earthquake Preparedness

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprises is to be educated.” – James P. Carse

Education and being prepared are key when it comes to keeping you and your family safe during a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

Are you ready for this?

Every day, yes daily, the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, CO, identifies approximately 50 earthquakes, translating into 20,000 earthquakes annually across the US, any one of which could easily become the nation’s latest natural disaster.  Besides general geological changes including the shifting of tectonic plates, an increasing number of earthquakes are being picked up by today’s super-sensitive seismic equipment.

Earthquake stats.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identified that annual earthquake losses (capital and income) across America constitute $4.4 billion, noting that 84% of these losses are expected to happen in Washington, Oregon, and especially California, with its more than 500 active fault lines where most residents live within a 30-mile radius thereof.

While many Americans have become somewhat complacent while waiting for the ‘big one’ to happen along the West Coast, experts agree that a large portion of the central US is at high risk when it comes to having a disastrous earthquake, notably along the New Madrid Seismic Zone spanning Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Earthquake categories defined.

The Modified Mercalli (MM) Intensity Scale assigns a value to a specific geographic location after an earthquake has occurred based on its observed effects and damages. More commonly referred to, the Richter Magnitude Scale (below) is based on recordings by seismographic equipment where a whole-number jump indicates a tenfold increase in earthquake wave amplitude.

Earthquake Magnitude Category Likely Damages Historical Examples Sustained Damages
<1.0 - 2.9
Generally not noticed by people, but are detected by instruments
No Damage
3.0 - 3.9
Felt by people
No Damage
4.0 - 4.9
Noticed by many, breakage of objects
2011: Honolulu, HI
Evacuation, but no notable damage
5.0 - 5.9
Damage to weakened structures
2021: California - Nevada border
Rock slides caused massive boulders to hit cars traveling along highways
6.0 - 6.9
Moderate damage in populated regions
1994: Northridge, CA
This 6.7 magnitude earthquake resulted in 60 deaths; 9,000 people injured; with 125,000 temporarily homeless
7.0 - 7.9
Serious damage extending to large areas, loss of life
1906: San Fransisco, CA
This 7.8 magnitude earthquake resulted in an estimated 700 deaths, with damages reaching $400B in today's dollars
8.0 - 8.9
Severe destruction over vast areas, including loss of life
1964: Prince William Sound, AK
This 9.2 magnitude earthquake led to devastating landslides, tsunamis, and liquefaction (essentially where ordinarily solid soil acts like a liquid). Loss of 139 lives.

Is there an earthquake season in America?

According to the USGS, there isn’t an earthquake season as there’s a general equal distribution of those sudden, rapidly shaking incidents throughout the year, during all weather patterns, and at all times of the day or night.

How DomiDocs can help you navigate through a storm.

The keys to helping you weather any natural disaster are always going to be the same: knowledge and organization. It basically comes down to homeowner responsibility and doing your due diligence to protect both your family and your home before a disaster strikes. Use the secure, award-winning DomiDocs homeowner platform to:

  • upload a detailed home inventory list itemizing your home’s contents including receipts, photos, and videos of your home’s current condition
  • store and catalog your proprietary household paperwork using the Insurance Document Bundle feature where your insurance policies are listed to show the company, coverage, cost, and start- and end-date of each, displayed with a calendar timeline for quick reference when needed. Besides for your own use, you can share with your insurance agent at the touch of a button if need to file an insurance claim
  • work your way through our comprehensive DomiDocs New Homeowner Guide offering best use instructions to help prevent homeowner claims.


The basics of earthquake preparedness:

Before an earthquake, take the time to:
Determine your personal earthquake risk.
Do you know if you live in an earthquake-prone zone? Have you ever checked to see how close are you to a fault line? Government websites in earthquake-prone zones offer interactive fault maps so you can determine your risk.
Know the signs of an earthquake.

Two scenarios are likely during an earthquake:
1. you may be jarred by an initial violent jolt, followed by shaking where you may find it difficult to stand up or move around
2. you may hear a rumbling or roaring sound that increases in intensity; this can be accompanied by a gentle rolling sensation that then turns more violent.

Develop an evacuation plan.

Every member of your family needs to know what your homeowner evacuation plan is. Where will you go? How will you get there? What optional evacuation routes will you have if your initial choice is blocked? Where will you stay? Knowing these basics in advance can help stem panic during an actual natural disaster situation. Have a to-go bag in place with all the supplies you’ll need, including items for your pets. If you’ll need assistance in traveling, you’ll need to confirm with someone in advance. And be sure to follow any evacuation orders that have been issued. As a family, discuss how you can help your neighbors during a natural disaster by checking in or helping them evacuate as well.

Assemble disaster supplies for your family members and your pets.

The American Red Cross recommends gathering 2 emergency supply kits:

  1. A Go-Kit: with a 3-day supply of items you can carry with you, including chargers for your devices (cell phone, wheelchair, CPAP, etc.) and backup batteries; as well as non-perishable food, water, and medications. Cash is also important to have on hand as ATMs may not be working/accessible. 
  2. A Stay-at-Home Kit: with a 2-week supply of the above items.

NOAA recommends adding the following to round out your emergency disaster supply kits, where applicable:

  • masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer
  • non-prescription medicine such as antacids, anti-diarrhea, and pain relievers
  • contact lens solution/prescription eyeglasses
  • baby bottles, formula, wipes, diapers, and diaper rash cream
  • feminine hygiene supplies
  • sleeping bags/blankets
  • a change of clothing for each family member, including sensible footwear
  • fire extinguisher
  • matches in a fireproof container
  • mess kit with plates, utensils, cups, and paper towels
  • activities for kids like puzzles, games, or books
Review/update your homeowner insurance policy.
It’s estimated that 40% of Americans can’t find an important household document when needed, so the first step is to upload your vital household documents to our user-friendly digital platform, so there’s easy access 24/7/365. Secondly, reassess your homeowner policy to ensure you have the best coverage to fit your needs. Compare the cost and coverage that you have in place, to what else is available from your current insurer and other companies. If there have been any major additions to your home and/or contents in the last year, it’s time to review your homeowner insurance policy to ensure it’ll cover your new additions. Do you have earthquake insurance coverage for your home? According to Rocket Mortgage, “Annual earthquake insurance premiums can range from $800 – $5,000, and policy deductibles can be as high as 10 – 20% of your coverage limit.”
Make your home disaster-resistant.
Depending on where you live across America, insurance companies may reward your efforts in making your home disaster-resistant by offering discounted homeowner insurance premiums. Strengthen structural areas of connection in your home including support beams, posts, plates, and joists; and exposed framing in basements, garages, porches, and deck covers on patios. Keep your roof and chimney in good shape as loose tiles and bricks can easily cause roof damage during an earthquake; reinforcing the ceiling around the chimney with 3/4” plywood can help protect your family from falling bricks. Upgraded plumbing systems can lessen the risk of water damage from an older broken pipe. Anchor heavily laden bookshelves securely to walls; the same goes for any items that can topple over including artwork on walls, heavy mirrors, cabinet doors, and standing clocks; essentially anything that’s near where you sleep or sit should be secure. Wrap your water heater and attach it to the wall studs.
Have supplies on hand to make emergency repairs.

Such supplies can include plastic sheeting, tarps, sandbags, and/or plywood, plus the necessary tools to apply these to your home like a staple gun and/or duct tape.

Before an earthquake, consider adding these to your emergency repair toolbox:

  • gloves
  • an ax
  • a broom
  • a shovel
  • rope
Complete a written disaster plan.
Now that you’ve got everything in place, there’s no better way to solidify it than by making a written plan, which should include regularly practicing your escape route, and maintaining your disaster prep plan supplies by replacing expired items. Ensure your plan includes a contact list, with at least one contact who lives outside the impacted area; share your disaster plan with family and friends. Register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website so friends and family will know you are okay.
Take the time to emergency life-saving skills.
The American Red Cross recommends that adults and kids around the age of nine learn first aid and CPR skills., the American Red Cross, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following:

When an earthquake is happening:
Common deaths and injuries during an earthquake are due to heavy falling objects and collapsing building materials.
Expect aftershocks; use the Drop, Cover, and Hold On method (below) to protect yourself and your family. Try to stay as still as possible; don’t go running about your home trying to find someone or do something you think may help, which could end up causing personal injuries in the end.
Double-check your emergency supplies including bottled water, plus battery-operated flashlights and a radio.
Monitor local news reports and emergency alerts.
Shut off your electricity, gas, and water utilities. If you smell gas, get out quickly and move as far away as possible, while paying attention to any obstructions or possible falling debris, including fallen power lines, trees, or streetlights. Don’t return home until officials say it’s safe to do so.
Have your fire extinguisher charged and ready to go as small fires within buildings are common hazards after experiencing an earthquake.
If you’re in a damaged building, go outside and move away from the building, while using stairs to exit, if applicable, as elevators can be damaged or the power may be out. Know that earthquakes routinely cause sprinkler systems and smoke alarms to go off in buildings. Do not enter a damaged building even if it may be to help another.
If you become trapped, cover your mouth with your shirt for protection and use a whistle instead of shouting. Bang on a pipe or wall, or text for help using your cell phone if service is available.
If your personal earthquake risk has identified tsunamis, get to higher ground or go inland immediately and stay until the shaking stops. Know that floodwaters can contain raw sewage, debris, and chemicals, so stay away.

Shelter safely in your home away from walls, windows, and doorways (contrary to the old adage, as doorways aren’t safer than any other part of your home) by using the Drop, Hold On, and Cover theory:

  • drop to your hands and knees (securely lock a wheelchair)
  • cover yourself by crawling underneath a solidly built table or if you’re in bed, curl up or face down while covering your head and neck with a pillow
  • hold on to the table or desk to help brace yourself during the violent shaking

If you’re driving, pull over, stop, and set the emergency parking brake; ensure your seat belt is securely fastened, and avoid stopping near power lines, overpasses, and bridges, if possible. If a power line falls onto your vehicle, shelter in place, and do not attempt to get out.

The Problem with Insurance Companies

When you’re in the midst of a dealing with a natural disaster, there’s no doubt you’ll also be dealing with your insurance company. DomiDocs CEO and Founder, William McKenna, advises to never accept your insurance company’s first settlement offer as chances are it’ll be a low-ball offer they’re just hoping you’ll take without question. Many attorneys agree that the initial offer by an insurance company should immediately be rejected.

Never accept an insurance company’s first settlement offer: McKenna himself was initially offered a $13,500 settlement offer for damages sustained to his home’s roof by a sudden, unexpected microburst. By providing his documentation already stored in the DomiDocs Homeowner Platform, McKenna’s settlement was increased to $201,000, proving true the immeasurable value of DomiDocs.

What should you do? Access your personal profile on the DomiDocs home management platform, and submit your documented receipts, photos, and videos to your insurance adjuster with just one click. Take the time to factor in missed wages, medical bills (current and future), vehicle repairs, and any other losses that occurred before accepting any settlement offers.

DomiDocs has your back! Whether it’s wildfire preparedness, How To File an Insurance Claim, or mental health tips in The DomiDocs Guide: What to Do After a Hurricane Hits, we’re here for every step of your homeowner journey.

DomiDocs HomeLock™ can provide you with an extra layer of protection by digitally locking your home against virtually all homeowner fraud, including title & deed theft. Why? Because property fraud is the fastest growing crime in America! Visit HomeLock™ today to watch our introduction video, and when you sign up, you’ll receive your comprehensive 7-year home history report and scan free of charge.