Earthquakes + Landslides

In 2011, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake originating in Louisa County, Virginia, caused an estimated $200-$300 million in damage, and caused landslides up to 150 miles away.

Visit Drop! Cover! Hold on! to test your earthquake knowledge and skill.

Get your home ready for earthquakes

  • Secure tall furniture to the wall. Keep large or heavy objects on low 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 utilities.

Know what to do during an earthquake – Most deaths and injuries are due to falling walls, flying glass or debris.

  • 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 glass.
  • The greatest danger is falling debris directly outside buildings, at exits and along exterior walls.
  • If you are already outside, stay clear of buildings, power lines, overpasses and elevated expressways.
  • Expect aftershocks – smaller quakes (and sometimes larger ones) that 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.

Earthquake damage can be hard to see. Learn how to spot earthquake damage by following these simple steps.

Landslide at 31st and East Grace Streets in Richmond after Tropical Storm Gaston in 2004. (WTVR Channel 6)

Additional earthquake resources


Landslides can be triggered by rainfall, snowmelt, changes in water level, stream erosion, changes in groundwater, earthquakes, volcanic activity, disturbances by human activities, or any combination of these factors.

  • Landslides are sometimes preceded by sounds like trees cracking or boulders knocking together.
  • Move away from the path of a landslide or debris flow as fast as you can.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • If you can’t escape, curl into a tight ball and cover your head with your hands and arms.

Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund