Wednesday, 26 June 2019
(Reading time: 4 - 8 minutes)

Proper action to be taken in the event of an earthquake

The United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program recorded these statistics for the latest earthquake in northern Israel as follows:

Time: 2018-07-04 19:45:40 (UTC)

Location: 32.794°N 35.436°E

Depth:10.0 km

The USGS records about 20,000 earthquakes a year but many more go unrecorded and undetected because they occur in remote areas or are of very small magnitudes. That is a scary number. What about Israel?

israel earthquake map  

Preparing for an earthquake (Re'i'dat A'da'ma) in Israel should be taken seriously. Israel lies on the Syrian-African fault line and while most of the tremors in Israel rank low on the Richter Scale, one should always be prepared.

Earthquakes cannot be predicted in advance and they can take place at any time. We must be fully prepared - correct behavior during a quake can prevent damage and save lives.

Earth slides, structure and building collapse, falling debris, glass shards, fire, flooding and gas leaks are consequences and dangers that can be expected with significant quakes.

Israel earthquake map from 1979 - 2015

Image credit: GoogleMaps

How to prepare for an earthquake

The Home Front Command (Pikud HaOref - פיקוד העורף) tells us that during a significant earthquake furniture will begin to move, vibrate and shake from side to side. These first few seconds are critical and offer the best chance of survival. Stay calm!

  • Locate a safe place in your home – far from exterior walls or in a MAMAD if you have one
  • Be familiar with the location of the main electrical breakers, water and gas valves, and how to close them
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency exits in your building
  • Decide on a meeting point for family members to meet should an earthquake take place and you are separated
  • Any object which can move, fall or break, is a source of danger.
  • Prepare an emergency bag that will allow you to survive for 24 to 72 hours after a quake until help arrives. It may be difficult for rescue units to access the area as roads can be demolished, electrical and telephone lines damaged and water pipes too.

Structural integrity of the building

It is recommended to have your building examined by a licensed structural engineer who will determine whether your building complies with the requirements of the Israeli standard for earthquake resistance (Tama 38). Buildings constructed before 1980 do not comply with these requirements. If your building does not meet the requirements consider taking appropriate action to have it reinforced it as soon as possible!

Making yor home safe

We never know when a quake will happen, but there are a few minor things you can do to make your home a little safer. Most casualties in an earthquake are caused by collapse of heavy objects or by fire and gas leaks and it is therefore advisable to do the following:

  • Make sure bookshelves, cupboards and television sets are firmly attached to walls;
  • Reinforce supports of water boilers, heater tanks, gas bottles, air conditioners and their compressor units;
  • Store hazardous and flammable materials in a safe place and far from heat sources;
  • Place heavy objects as low as possible.

Earthquake tips - Basic family training

Pikud HaOref suggests that in the event of an earthquake the safest thing to do is evacuate the building you are in.  If you do not have time for that, then the drop, cover, hold-on drill should be followed.

earthquake ready

Tip # 1

Locate in advance, with the family, according to the guidelines above, the safest place in your home and at work, where you can take shelter during an earthquake: for example the MAMAD, a staircase in a multistory building or an open space outdoors if you have a ground-floor dwelling.

Tip #2

Show all members of the household how to close the main electrical breakers, the water and gas mains.

Tip #3

Establish an outdoors meeting spot for your family in advance. Also, agree upon a contact person outside your household to be approached in case you lose contact with one another.

Tip # 4

Have periodic family drills to increase your earthquake preparedness.

Household emergency supplies

Food and water – stocks of drinking water (at least 4 liters per person) and preserved ready-to-use food refresh the stock from time to time before it reaches expiry
Essential equipment – a first aid kit, battery-operated torch and radio, first aid equipment and other essentials.
Important documents – Keep hard or electronic copies of medical documents, identification papers, personal and financial documents, outside the house, as backup

How do I know that there is an earthquake?

For those of you who have never experienced one, during an earthquake you will feel the floor trembling under your feet, the windows will rattle, furniture and household objects will move, light fittings hanging from the ceiling will swing, and your stability and mobility will be hampered by the unusual motion.

Correct Behavior During an Earthquake


If you are indoors and feel the earth shaking under your feet, move quickly to a safe place – in the following order of priority:

  • Protected space (MAMAD) - if you are unable to go outside immediately (withing a few seconds), enter the MAMAD in your apartment
  • If you don’t have a MAMAD, go out to the staircase and stay there until the tremors are over.
  • Under a heavy table or in an inner corner of the room – if you are unable to go outside immediately or move quickly into a MAMAD/staircase, take cover under a heavy table or in an inner corner of the room.
  • If you can leave the building immediately (within a few seconds), do so and go outside, into the open!

Additional instructions for staying in various structures after reaching a safe place

  • Keep away from external walls, windows and shelves
  • Kneel, stay close to the floor and cover your head and face with your arms
  • If you are in a wheelchair, lock the brakes and protect your head
  • Do not use elevators during an earthquake


  • If the earthquake takes place while you are outdoors, stay in the open and move as far as you can away from buildings. It’s safest to be out in the open.
  • Beware of falling objects, such as walls, air conditioner compressor units, glass shards and torn, overhead electrical cables.

In a vehicle

  • If a quake takes place while you are traveling, pull over immediately and wait inside the vehicle until the tremors subside
  • Avoid stopping under bridges, on overpasses, near buildings or sharp slopes in case of collapse. Move away from them, in the vehicle or on foot.

On the beach

  • If a significant earthquake takes place while you are on the beach, leave immediately and move as far as possible from the sea, to avoid the impact of a tsunami wave which may flood the beach.
  • A sudden and sharp ebbing of the tide is a sign of a coming tsunami wave. Advance preparation will help you remain calm and act effectively. 

It is recommended to drill all the steps, described above, at least twice a year, so that your real-time response will be automatic.

After an Earthquake

  • To avoid potential explosion due to possible gas leaks, do not light fires or turn on electrical power or any appliances - even cellular phones.
  • Leave the building and remain in the open, far from any structures
  • Prior to leaving the building, close off the cooking gas main and the main electrical breaker in your apartment. In addition, it is advised to close the main gas valve supplying your entire building. The electricity/gas supply must be renewed by a licensed technician, after an examination that establishes that the system and the valves supplying residents of the building are in working order and properly shut off
  • Do not enter damaged buildings without authorization by a structural engineer (except for search and rescue purposes)
  • Tune into the media for information and instructions.

Trapped Under Rubble

  • If there are people trapped under rubble in close proximity to you, use your judgment and try to rescue them using household objects. If possible, offer first aid.
  • If you find yourself trapped under rubble, try and rescue yourself. Cover your airway with clothing to protect it from dust and avoid exhausting yourself by shouting.
  • Tap on pipes or walls so that rescue teams might locate you.
  • Do not light a fire!


Be prepared for secondary tremors (aftershocks). They can appear within minutes, days or even months following an earthquake and may collapse structures weakened by the main quake.

Home Front Command - Pikud Ha'Oref

It must be noted that when preparing for any emergency situation in Israel - information supplied by the Home Front Command must be strictly adhered to and takes precedence to any advice you may have been given by anyone else.

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