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Philadelphia has never recorded a major earthquake, but tremors can occur. Be prepared to act quickly and safely.

The Richter Scale

You are most likely to be injured during an earthquake or tremor while trying to exit a building or while moving around inside. The feel of the tremor may depend on the size of the earthquake; this is defined by a scale called the Richter Scale:

  • Less than 3.5: Generally not felt, but recorded
  • 3.5–5.4: Often felt, but rarely causes damage
  • 5.5–6.0: At most, slight damage to well-designed buildings; damage to poorly constructed buildings
  • 6.1–6.9: Moderate damage
  • 7.0–7.9: Major earthquake; serious damage over large areas
  • Above 8.0: Great earthquake; serious damage

During an earthquake

If you are indoors:

  • Drop to the ground.
  • Take cover under a sturdy table or desk.
  • Hold on to the leg of the table or desk and stay there until the shaking stops.

If there is no table or desk near you:

  • Cover your face and head with your arms.
  • Crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Avoid crouching under glass, windows, outside doors, walls, or anything else that could fall, such as light fixtures or decorations.

If you are outdoors:

  • Stay outdoors.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Move to an open space and stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving vehicle:

  • Stop as quickly as you can.
  • Stay in the vehicle.
  • Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, or utility wires.

Where are the greatest dangers?

Collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects cause most of earthquake-related casualties. Avoid these areas during an earthquake:

  • Directly outside buildings
  • Exit areas
  • Exterior walls
  • Elevators

After an earthquake

  • Listen for instructions from building management or your supervisors.
  • Wait for tremors and shaking to stop. If you see a clear path, use it to get out and away from building into open, safe space.
  • Expect aftershocks. They may be less violent than the main quake but can cause more damage to weakened buildings. Be ready to drop, cover, and hold for aftershocks.
  • Look for and put out small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Use the telephone only to call 911 in the event of a health or safety emergency. Telephone lines may be busy.

Prepare now

To be notified during emergencies, sign up for text or email alerts from ReadyPhiladelphia. For the most-up-to-date emergency or preparation information, follow the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) on Twitter, and Facebook. You can also watch OEM’s preparedness videos on YouTube.

Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website for more tips on earthquake safety.