Earthquake Safety Tips and Home Preparation for Texas Homeowners

June 17, 2024

The steps you take today towards earthquake preparedness can help reduce your chances of damaging results, ensuring you, your family and property are poised for a swift and effective recovery.


Texas earthquakes

While Texas may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of earthquakes, the reality is that tremors can and do occur. Understanding how to prepare for and respond to these natural events can significantly reduce the risks to your home and family. With the right earthquake safety information and earthquake preparedness steps, you can stand a better chance against unexpected shakes.

Earthquake-prone areas in Texas

Historically, Texas has witnessed significant seismic events, with 17  earthquakes of intensity V or greater centered within the state since 1882. The largest known earthquake occurred August 16, 1931, near Valentine in Jeff Davis County, that was felt within a 400-mile radius of the epicenter.

West Texas: Recognized for experiencing the most frequent and strongest earthquakes, with El Paso facing the highest risk among urban areas.

Texas Panhandle: Exhibits high seismic risk, with earthquakes expected to occur on buried faults between the Amarillo Uplift and the Anadarko Basin.

North Texas and Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex: Minor earthquakes, including induced earthquakes, occur here, with shaking from distant earthquakes presenting the primary hazard.

South Central Texas and Texas Coastal Plain: Earthquakes in these areas may be associated with geological features from the Ouachita orogeny and petroleum production.

Essential Earthquake Preparedness Steps

Securing Your Home and Belongings

To minimize risks during an earthquake, start by securing your home and belongings:

  1. Fasten shelves and cabinets securely to walls to prevent tipping.
  2. Place heavy and large items on lower shelves to avoid falls.
  3. Use latches on cabinets to keep breakable items like glass and china safe.
  4. Attach safety devices such as hooks, earthquake putty, or flexible straps to secure framed artwork, pictures, and lamps.
  5. Strap water heaters, refrigerators, and other large appliances to wall studs or bolt them to the floor.
  6. Ensure electronics like TVs and computers are secured with flexible straps to prevent damage.

Creating an Effective Emergency Plan

Developing a comprehensive emergency plan is crucial:

  • Identify an out-of-state contact for family communication in case local lines are disrupted.
  • Establish a meeting point for family members in case of separation.
  • Practice "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" drills with all household members to ensure everyone knows how to react when shaking starts.

Assembling an Emergency Kit

Your emergency kit should be well-stocked and ready to use:

  • Include basic supplies such as water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food, a flashlight, and a first aid kit.
  • Add personal items like medications, glasses, and important documents stored in waterproof containers.
  • Consider needs specific to your family, such as pet supplies, baby necessities, or a manual can opener.

Identifying Safe Zones and Evacuation Routes

Knowing where to go during an earthquake can save lives:

  • Identify safe places within your home, such as under sturdy furniture or against an interior wall, away from windows that could shatter.
  • Plan and practice evacuation routes from your home and workplace.
  • Learn the location of emergency shelters in your area and keep a list of these addresses in your emergency kit.

What to Do During an Earthquake

Immediate Actions to Ensure Personal Safety

If Inside: Drop to the floor and take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall. Protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid areas near windows, hanging objects, mirrors, or tall furniture.

If Outside: Move to an open area away from trees, buildings, walls, and power lines. Lie down or crouch low to maintain balance. Be alert for falling debris.

If in a Vehicle: Pull over to a safe location, set your parking brake, and stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops. Avoid stopping under overpasses, bridges, or near trees.

General Safety: Do not run outside or to other rooms during shaking. Stay where you are and protect yourself. If there is no furniture nearby, get down next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.

Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones

For Those in Bed: Turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow. Do not leave the bed; staying put reduces the risk of injury.

For Wheelchair or Walker Users: Lock the wheels and remain seated. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a cushion.

For Occupants of High-Rise Buildings: Know the exit routes but do not use elevators. Take cover and do not move until the shaking stops.

For Parents and Caregivers: Practice "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" drills with your family. Ensure everyone knows the safe spots in your home.

Avoid Dangerous Actions: Do not stand in doorways or run outside. The "triangle of life" method and other actions like standing in doorways have been debunked and are not recommended.

By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the risk of injury during an earthquake. Remember, the key is to protect yourself and loved ones by taking immediate and appropriate actions.

Aftermath and Recovery Process

Assessing Property Damage

Exterior and Structural Inspection: Begin with a thorough examination of your home's exterior. Look for visible shifts, new cracks in the foundation, or signs that the house has moved off its foundation. Pay special attention to the chimney and any areas where different materials join, as these are particularly vulnerable to damage.

Interior Check: Inside, assess ceilings for leaks indicating roof damage, and ensure windows and doors operate correctly. Cracks in walls or at fixture attachment points can signal structural issues. Utilize levels or marbles to check floor evenness, indicating potential foundation problems.

Navigating Insurance Claims

Immediate Steps: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report damage. Document all damage with photos or videos before making temporary repairs. Review your policy for coverage details, including additional living expenses (ALE) if you need temporary housing.

Claim Filing Process:

  • Review Your Policy: Understand the extent of your coverage and any deductibles.
  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all damage, conversations with your insurance company, and any expenses incurred.
  • Mitigate Further Damage: Make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage, saving all receipts.
  • Adjuster Meeting: Be present when the insurance adjuster inspects the damage. You may encounter both company and independent adjusters.
  • Estimates and Settlements: Gather repair estimates from licensed contractors. Review the insurance company's settlement offer carefully and negotiate if necessary.


Financial Preparedness and Insurance

Understanding that financial preparedness is a cornerstone of earthquake readiness can't be overstated. An independent study co-funded by FEMA highlighted that for every dollar invested in earthquake mitigation, taxpayers save an average of three dollars in future spending. This underscores the value of securing insurance policies for your home and belongings, ensuring you can rebuild and recover without financial ruin. Earthquake insurance, while not typically covered under standard homeowners or renters' policies, is an essential consideration for comprehensive protection.

Immediate Safety Measures

Post-earthquake, your immediate actions can safeguard your well-being and that of others. Exiting damaged buildings promptly, moving to higher ground in tsunami-prone areas, and avoiding floodwaters are critical steps. Remember, checking for injuries and providing help where you can, while seeking medical attention when needed, are pivotal. Staying informed through reliable news sources and registering on the American Red Cross "Safe and Well" website can provide peace of mind to your loved ones.

Cleanup and Recovery

The path to recovery involves careful cleanup and leveraging community resources. Wearing protective clothing and using appropriate masks during cleanup, especially for those with respiratory conditions, is crucial. Engaging with community resources, from FEMA to local disaster recovery centers, can provide the support needed to navigate the aftermath efficiently.

Texas earthquake preparedness

by Shane Butzow

About the Author

Shane Butzow is Brand Strategist at Germania Insurance.

What do you want to read more about? For suggestions, questions, or content-related inquiries, contact us at!

Roadside Assistance

We’re here for you, 24/7/365.


File a Claim

File a claim online, by phone or by contacting your agent.


Find An Agent

Find a Repair Shop