Introduction—The Bay Area is "Earthquake Country"

This handbook provides information about the threat posed by earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay region and explains how you can prepare for, survive, and recover from these inevitable events. If you live or work in the region, you need to know why you should be concerned with earthquakes, what you can expect during and after a quake, and what you need to do beforehand to be safe and reduce damage.

1906 Earthquake damage

In the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, thousands of people died, and many homes were destroyed. The hazard remains in the Bay Area, and the homes of todays families are at risk!

Since the Great earthquake of 1906, much has been learned about earthquake hazards and vulnerabilities in the Bay Area:


  • We know why earthquakes occur hereThe Bay Area straddles the boundary where two of the Earths largest tectonic plates meet and slowly move past one another. When boundary faults break and the North American and Pacific Plates lurch past each other, quakes occur.
  • We know large and damaging earthquakes are certain to occur in the futureAt least eight faults in the Bay Area are capable of producing earthquakes of magnitude 6.7 or larger. Such quakes can kill and injure many people and cause substantial damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and utilities.
  • We know how to reduce losses in future large earthquakesBuilding codes have been improved, some older buildings strengthened, and bond measures approved to upgrade critical facilities. Some Bay Area residents have secured their homes to better withstand shaking, created emergency plans and disaster supply kits, and held home earthquake drills.

BUT we have not done enough to be prepared for the next large earthquake:

  • Fewer than 10% of households have disaster plansIf an earthquake occurred right now, where would you go to be safe? If you are at work and your children are at school when the earthquake occurs, how will you get back together?
  • Fewer than 10% of homeowners have taken steps to retrofit their homesIs your home bolted to its foundation? If you live in an older building, has it been retrofitted? Is your water heater strapped? Could unsecured furniture or objects fall and cause injury or damage?
  • Fewer than 50% of households have disaster supply kitsYou will likely be on your own in the hours and days following an earthquake. Are you prepared with water, food, first aid supplies, and medications?