Montana State University is located in a seismically active zone with a history of earthquakes. An earthquake is an unpredictable event that damages buildings and utility lines, creating numerous potential hazards to the affected area. Although small quakes are more common, it is important to take precautionary measures in the event that a large quake occurs.

Immediate Emergency Actions

During an Earthquake: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

Representaion of proper "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" procedure


If an earthquake strikes when you are inside:

  • Stay inside: falling building elements present a great danger.
  • Watch out for objects falling from surfaces within the building. Avoid windows and mirrors.
  • Take refuge under a table or desk; if no sturdy cover is in sight, sit or stand against an inside wall away from windows.
  • Fire danger is greatly elevated after an earthquake: make sure you know what to do during a fire emergency.

If an earthquake strikes while you are outside:

  • Avoid high buildings, walls, power poles, and other objects that may fall.
  • Move to open areas away from hazards.
  • Do not approach or come into contact with any downed utility lines or other damaged utilities.


After the ground stops shaking, take steps to improve safety:

  • If indoors, evacuate to a safe location
  • Provide first aid assistance to those in need
  • Assess any additional immediate hazards and report these hazards to authorities

 Representation of the safety improving steps to execute after shaking stops


After the tremor is over:

  • Check for injured people. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger.
  • Evacuate the building you are in; aftershocks can level damaged buildings. Assist in taking a head count of the building's occupants to determine if emergency responders need to rescue any trapped persons.
  • Do not use the telephone except to report an immediate emergency; phone lines will likely be busy. If a call is necessary, dial 911 and report the emergency situation to emergency responders.
  • Do not use plumbing or anything electrical (including elevators) until all utility and electrical lines have been checked.
  • Open doors carefully, remain mindful of potential hazards.
  • Due to the threat of gas leaks, do not use matches or lighters; watch for fires that may have started.
  • Keep streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Be prepared for additional after-shocks.


The campus community should know what steps to take before, during, and after an earthquake at home, work, and school. Learn more about the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety here. 


Prepare Before an Earthquake 

  1. Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items. Move heavy items to lower shelves and secure shelving and tall furniture. Most severe injuries from earthquakes are the result of falling debris.
  2. Make a plan and become more knowledgable. Creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate with friends and loved ones in an emergency is crucial. Know your facility's evacuation procedures to make exiting the building quicker and less stressful. Decide in advance on an out of state contact, like a friend or relative, to stay in contact with in the event of local cell tower overload.
  3. Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations. Have a ‘go bag’ easily accessible with a first aid kit, medicationsbottled water, non-perishable snacks, flashlight, shoes, and cash (small bills). 
  4. Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance. Store copies of identification, car registration, passports, or other documents you may need in an emergency in your go bag or car. If you live in rental housing, consider earthquake renters insurance if available in your state.


Recover After an Earthquake: Reconnect and Restore

  • Restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding the community.
  • To keep phone lines accessible for emergency use, send a quick text to a family member, friend, or out of state emergency contact (see below) to let them know you are ok. Only call if there is an immediately hazardous situation.
  • Be careful when cleaning up debris - watch for broken glass and other hazards. If you are able to assist, volunteer to help others on campus or within your community.


For More Information on Earthquakes and Preparedness: