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7.5: Lesson 7.4: Staying Safe in Earthquakes

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Concepts

  • Damage from earthquakes
  • Earthquake-safe structures
  • Protecting yourself in an earthquake

Lesson Objectives

  • Describe different types of earthquake damage.
  • Describe the features that make a structure more earthquake safe.
  • Describe the ways that a person and a household can protect themselves in earthquake country.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • liquefy: for soil to become saturated with water and behave like quicksand

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Call on one student after another to answer the question, “What should you do if you are caught in an earthquake?” Accept all reasonable responses at this point, and continue around the room until you have received a range of ideas. Then tell students they will find out in this lesson what they should do to stay safe in an earthquake.


Use the activity at the URL below to introduce students to earthquake-resistant building construction. In the activity, students will assume they are engineers, and they will try to build structures (using toothpicks and marshmallows) that can withstand a simulated earthquake (a pan of gelatin). In the process, they will learn how engineers construct buildings to resist damage from earthquakes.


Differentiated Instruction

Have students make a KWL chart for the lesson. Tell them to fill in the first two columns (Know, Want to Know) of the chart before they read the lesson and to fill in the last column (Learned) after they read the lesson. Discuss what they learned from the lesson and anything they still want to know.


Ask a few students to create a public service announcement about how to stay safe in earthquakes. They should make a video of the announcement. If your school is in an earthquake-prone region, arrange to show the video to the class or even to the entire student body.

Science Inquiry

Students can model liquefaction by doing the inquiry activity at the URL below. They will learn why this dangerous condition occurs during certain earthquakes.


Common Misconceptions

Students may have heard that the safest place to be in a building during an earthquake is under a doorway. That is true only if you live in an unreinforced adobe home. In most modern buildings, the doorway isn’t stronger than the rest of the building. In fact, if you stand in a doorway you might be hurt by the door swinging against you. In a public building, you could be in danger from people trying to hurry outside. Make sure students know that the safest place to be in a building during an earthquake is under a table or desk.

Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 7.4 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

Many people think that in a large earthquake California will fall into the ocean and that Arizona and Nevada will be beachfront property. Why is this not true?

If you were the mayor of a small city in an earthquake-prone area, what would you like to know before choosing the building site of a new hospital?

How are decisions made for determining how much money to spend preparing people and structures for earthquakes?

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