Earthquakes & Landslides

Earthquakes & Landslides

Earthquakes and landslides can and do occur in Virginia. Their intensity might be small compared to West Coast states, but Virginians still need to be aware of this hazard and prepare their families. Since it is not possible to predict when a geologic event will occur, it is essential that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.

Prepare for Earthquakes

  • Securely fasten shelves to walls.
  • Keep large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items in lower cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Inspect and repair electrical wiring and gas connections; these can be potential fire hazards during an earthquake.
  • Secure your water heater by strapping it to wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
  • Check your home or building for structural defects and repair cracks in your ceiling and foundation.
  • Keep toxic and flammable items securely stored in cabinets with doors and latches.
  • Identify safe places in your home or office where you will ride out an earthquake. The best protection is under heavy furniture where you are protected from falling debris.
  • Learn how to turn off electricity, gas and water.

Plan to Act Quickly

  • During or immediately after an earthquake, the best protection is to get under heavy furniture, such as a desk, table or bench, staying away from large windows, mirrors or other glass.
  • The greatest danger is directly outside buildings, at exits and along exterior walls, due to falling debris.
  • If you are already outside, stay clear of buildings, power lines, overpasses and elevated expressways.
  • Most deaths and injuries are due to falling walls, flying glass or debris.
  • Expect aftershocks – smaller quakes (and sometimes larger ones) can often follow hours or days after the initial shake, causing further damage to weakened buildings and structures.
  • Check for gas leaks – if you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing noise, open a window and leave the building immediately; turn off the gas at the outside main valve, if possible and call the gas company.

Additional Earthquake Resources

Recommended earthquake safety actions [pdf]
Earthquake Safety Fact Sheet [221 kb docx]
Is your Chimney Safe? [116 kb PDF]
Earthquake Safety Guide for Homeowners [2 MB PDF] [53 kb txt]
Earthquake Safety Checklist [1 MB PDF] [24 kb txt]
Drop, Cover and Hold Poster [304 KB pdf]


Landslides, also known as mudslides and debris flow, occur in all U.S. states and territories, and can be caused by a variety of factors including earthquakes, storms and fires. Landslides can occur quickly, often with little notice, the best way to plan for a mudslide is to stay informed about changes in and around your home that could signal that a landslide is likely to occur. Look for changes in landscape and water drainage, or new cracks in foundations and sidewalks.

  • Prepare for landslides by following proper land-use procedures — avoid building near steep slopes or along natural erosion valleys.
  • Consult a professional for advice on appropriate preventative measures for your home or business, such as flexible pipe fittings, which can better resist breakage.