Do you know where to shelter when an earthquake hits?

Sep 14, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2023, 12:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On Sept. 8, a 6.8 quake slammed Morocco, killing more than 2,800 people and injuring thousands more. This, partnered with the 2020 earthquake that hit northern Utah with a 5.7-magnitude earthquake and the anticipation of a larger quake in the state, has experts sharing earthquake safety tips.

“We’re expecting a magnitude 7, maybe 7.5 earthquakes on the Wasatch Fault,” said Katherine Whidden, a research scientist at the Seismology Station at the University of Utah.

The “big one” is coming, but will you know where to be inside a structure for maximum safety when it strikes?


The earthquake-magnitude scale is logarithmic, meaning a 6-point earthquake shakes 10 times more violently than a 5-point quake.

Wade Mathews from Be Ready Utah, State Division of Emergency Management, told Dave and Dujanovic where to be — and not to be — during an earthquake.

Unsafe spots during an earthquake

The age-old advice for safety during an earthquake was to seek shelter in a doorway. But the door in a quake will flip violently back and forth, Matthews said.

Today, experts recommend finding cover under a sturdy table, not a doorway, as it will not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Although we don’t know where we will be during a quake, Mathews said being in the kitchen is one of the most dangerous areas during an earthquake.

Pots and pans are hanging above your head. Dishes, glasses, plates and cans are all coming out when the quake rumbles in. 

Matthews suggested lining the shelves with rubber contact paper to prevent objects from sliding off. For ultimate safety, he said secure cabinets with child-proof locks. 

Do you have a bookshelf over your bed? Mathews asked. That is a possible danger.

Also, the bathroom is a bad place to shelter because of glass mirrors and shower doors.

Matthews advised fastening tall furniture, which could topple during a quake, to the walls with a bracket or nylon strap, which often is included with the packaging. Move heavy objects from higher shelves to lower, he advised.

Drop, cover and hold on

When the quake begins to shake, Mathews advised, drop, cover and hold on. If there is no nearby spot to cover, he suggested, pin yourself to a wall that has no shelves or cupboards overhead.

If you are inside a store when an earthquake erupts, don’t run for an exit but rather get to the end of an aisle where there are no shelves overhead. But if you cannot, tip over a grocery cart and get underneath for protection.

If you are outside when a quake hits, get to an open area, stay away from telephone poles, trees and buildings and stay there.

But wherever you are, remember, drop, cover and hold on.

A list from the Centers for Disease Control shares earthquake safety information based on locations you may be in.

Related: Comparing the Morocco earthquake to the 2020 Utah earthquake

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Do you know where to shelter when an earthquake hits?