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Campus Safety and Emergency Management: Earthquake Preparedness


Earthquakes occur without warning. Some earthquakes are instantaneous tremors and others are significant sustained events followed by aftershocks. Once a significant earthquake begins, building occupants must take immediate individual emergency action DROP! COVER! HOLD ON! Additional actions will be implemented after the quake stops.

When a significant earthquake occurs, occupants should immediately DROP! COVER! HOLD ON!

Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!).

Suggested locations inside buildings that provide cover include:

  • Getting under a desk or heavy table and hold on.
  • Move into a hallway or stand against an inside wall.
  • Stay away from glass, bookshelves and wall hangings.

NOTE: Do not seek cover under laboratory tables or benches, chemicals could spill and harm personnel.

Functional Needs or other:

  • If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible:
  • If getting safely to the floor will be difficult, actions before an earthquake to secure or remove items that can fall or become projectiles should be a priority to create spaces..
  • Identify an away from windows and objects that could fall on you.  The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels, bend over, and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

Once the shaking has stopped, gather valuables and quickly leave the building. Doors may be jammed, so exiting through another means may be necessary. DO NOT USE ELEVATORS. Avoid downed utility lines, trees, bridges or any structure that could fall. Evacuate to the building assembly area(s). Assist any person with functional needs.

  • When the shaking stops, look around. If the building is damaged and there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.
  • If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
  • Check for injuries and provide assistance if you have training. Assist with rescues if you can do so safely.
  • If you are near the coast, learn about tsunamis in your area. If you are in an area that may have tsunamis, when the shaking stops, walk inland and to higher ground immediately. Monitor official reports for more information on the area’s tsunami evacuation plans.
  • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.
  • Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks.

Be prepared for aftershocks. Although smaller than the main shock, aftershocks cause additional damage and may bring weakened structures down. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. Follow the same procedures as for earthquakes.

In a major emergency, self-reporting by those not on campus is critical to getting accurate accountability at the campus level.  All students, faculty, and staff should report if they are safe at The UT System Reconnect website, UTHSC PD, Rave Guardian app, or through departmental call trees.



Scott Campbell, Campus Emergency Management and Safety Officer

Safety Office – Facilities

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

201 East Street, Room 209

Memphis, TN, 38163

Email: Scampb62@uthsc.edu

(901) 448-1334 (W)

(504) 377-2619 (C)