Is It Better To Be Upstairs Or Downstairs During An Earthquake?

Is It Better To Be Upstairs Or Downstairs During An Earthquake?

Earthquakes are terrifying forces of nature because there’s no running and hiding from them. The best thing to do during an earthquake may well be to stay put and let it pass. But it can be difficult to do when you’re in a high-rise building because your instincts can take over.

Is it better to be upstairs or downstairs during an earthquake? According to safety experts, it’s usually safer to be upstairs than downstairs during a major earthquake.

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Read on and find out why this is so despite its counterintuitive nature. I will also be discussing a few vital safety tips during an earthquake that may well save your life. 

Why Being Upstairs Is Safer

Many seismic experts claim that the chances of survival after a major earthquake increase on high ground, such as skyscrapers. For one thing, people inside a high-rise building will likely stay put and seek cover. In doing so, there’s less risk of being hit by falling debris and trampled by panicking people. 

Just imagine being hit on the head or body by falling debris as you run downstairs! You would have avoided the injuries if you sought cover under a sturdy table. 

For another thing, modern building standards mean that skyscrapers are designed and constructed with stringent standards in mind. Teams of architects, engineers, and contractors work together to ensure that skyscrapers will withstand nature’s forces.

Building codes are implemented to make high-rise buildings earthquake-resistant, as is the case in Japan and California.

There’s also the fact that most structural damage after an earthquake happens due to the building’s unique response to the seismic movement. During an earthquake, every building in the area moves with the ground.

The low-rise buildings, such as houses, tend to sway more during an earthquake because of their closeness to the ground. But high-rise buildings take a significantly longer time to respond to the ground movement. While skyscrapers sway, too, they have wind and seismic measures that hold them in place. 

What You Should Do If You Were Upstairs

But just because being upstairs is better than being downstairs during an earthquake doesn’t mean your life isn’t in danger! You have to always be alert so your chances of survival will increase. 

Here are a few things to do when you’re caught in a high-rise building during an earthquake. These tips also apply when you’re in the upper part of your house, office, and other structures. 

  • Don’t even try to leave the building during an earthquake even when your first instinct is to run out!

  • Don’t walk or run during an earthquake because you can become injured. The reason is simple: The ground or floor is still moving, so you will lose your balance. You can trip, fall a staircase, or slide, which isn’t good for your limbs.

  • Do take cover as soon as an earthquake hits. The duck, take cover, and hold recommendation applies!

If you think that the earthquake has passed, you can assess the situation and decide on your next move. You may want to grab your Ready America 70280 Emergency Kit, for example, to call for help. 


Being caught upstairs during an earthquake isn’t as scary as it sounds. You will find that it is safer where you are, but it’s also important to take cover ASAP.