Scientists are always studying best practices for responding in an earthquake. It is valuable to stay aware of current thinking and findings. The reality is that earthquakes don't kill people, falling objects typically do. Your main objective should be moving away from anything that might fall on you -- a picture over your bed, a bookshelf, bricks, the building, etc. Knowing the age of the building that you work in or live in can also give you the ability to decide how to respond.
* If you are INDOORS:
Do not run outside! Stay inside until the shaking stops.
DUCK, COVER and HOLD
DUCK or DROP down on the floor. Take COVER under a sturdy desk, table, or other furniture. If that is not possible, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors or tall furniture. If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, HOLD on to it and be prepared to move it. Hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.
If you are in BED, stay there and cover your head with a pillow.
When in a HIGH-RISE BUILDING, move against an interior wall if you are not near a desk or table. Protect your head and neck with your arms. Do not use the elevators.
When in a CROWDED STORE OR OTHER PUBLIC PLACE, move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall. Do not rush for the exit.
When in a STADIUM OR THEATER, stay in your seat, get below the level of the back of the seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.
* If you are OUTDOORS:
When OUTDOORS, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, or downed electrical wires and poles.
When on a SIDEWALK NEAR BUILDINGS, duck into a doorway or move into an open area to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster and other debris.
When DRIVING, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops.
Do you know what to do AFTER an earthquake? Watch for the third and last post on earthquakes.
Note: I am aware that there is an alternate earthquake survival method called "The Triangle of Life." The Red Cross recommends teaching Drop, Cover, and Hold On instead. Drop, Cover and Hold On has been researched and found to be successful in protecting life in the United States where there are strict building codes. If you live in an area with loose or no building codes, please take the time to find out what your local officials recommend for protecting yourself and your family. You can read more here: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/household/triangle.asp and from the Red Cross here: http://www2.bpaonline.org/Emergencyprep/arc-on-doug-copp.html.
1 Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country - Utah Seismic Safety Commission