What Diana Khosravi remembers from San Francisco’s 7.1 earthquake in 1989 is fear mixed with an odd sense of calm.

“The quake only lasted 15 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity,” she recalls. “It felt like a giant was slapping the building back and forth. The lights went out and I was slammed into the wall and bruised.

“My boss tried to get across the room to help me and was knocked down. I remember thinking very calmly,  the building is going to collapse on us and we’ll have to dig our way out. Then the shaking stopped and we were all giddy, hugging each other and almost crying with relief.”

Thousands of earthquakes rumble deep below the ground around the world each day and no one takes notice. Earthquakes can strike anywhere, including all 50 states, although certain states and parts of the world are more prone to them. Most of these quakes do little harm: Less than one tenth of 1 percent of them register higher than 5 on the Richter scale of magnitude. Major quakes are less frequent but far more dangerous.

Related: Get the Facts About Earthquakes

What to do when the shaking starts

If you live in a quake-prone area — and even if you don’t — it pays to learn what to do if an earthquake hits. Here are safety strategies to survive an earthquake from the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Drop, cover and hold on. “Do not move around,” advises Jana Sweeny of the American Red Cross. “Try to protect your head and torso. If you are at a desk or table, get under it and hold on as best you can. Otherwise drop wherever you are.

Keep away from heavy cabinets or windows. The latter may shatter during a quake.

Don’t head for the doorway. It’s a myth that doorways are stronger than any other part of the structure of a building.

If you’re in bed, stay there, curl up, hold on to something and cover your head.

Do not go outside until the shaking ends. Use the stairs if necessary to evacuate. Never use the elevator.

If you’re outside, drop to the ground. Try to find a clear spot and drop to the ground until the shaking stops. If you're standing beside a tree, utility pole, brick building or cliff, get as far away as possible.

Beware falling debris. If you’re in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, watch out for falling rocks and soil.

Stop your car. If you’re in a vehicle, pull over to an open space away from buildings, power lines and trees. Stop and stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the quake is over.

Watch out for aftershocks that may follow a quake. Be prepared to drop and cover again.

Related: How to Prepare For an Earthquake

Dealing with the aftermath

The Red Cross and FEMA urge caution after an earthquake.

Check everyone for injuries and look around the building. If there is obvious structural damage, move outside and stay clear.

Shut off your building’s electricity and gas, if possible. If you smell gas, smoke or see electrical sparks from power lines, clear the building.

Monitor the damage via emergency radio. Khosravi’s office had an NOAA radio and the employees learned the Bay Bridge was down before venturing outside. “We didn’t know it at the time, but bricks had fallen off a building a couple blocks away and killed six people,” says Khosravi of the ’89 quake.

Download the Red Cross’s Emergency App, which will direct you to the nearest Red Cross base and give advice on what to do after the quake. FEMA may also set up operations following a major earthquake and can provide assistance.

Related: Disaster Preparedness? There's an App for That

Steve Evans, MA, is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience in daily news, investigative, health and business journalism. Among other jobs, he has served as managing editor of the Central Virginia Newspaper Group, as a senior writer for SNL Financial and as a staff writer for The Progress Index and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.