What could be more terrifying than the ground shaking beneath your feet? Probably the things that might then fall on your head! During an earthquake all kinds of objects can drop to the floor, including picture frames, bookcases and even the ceiling. So it makes sense that you should get under something sturdy. For a lot of folks, that place has always been a doorway, but this might not be the best idea.
Evidently, the doorway earned its reputation as an earthquake shelter thanks to a photograph showing a collapsed adobe home with a doorway standing defiantly above the rubble (though this "enduring" image is curiously difficult to track down). Perhaps doorways are the safest place in unreinforced adobe structures, but in modern homes they aren't necessarily any better than elsewhere in the house. They won't likely protect you from falling debris, and good luck staying upright!
So what do you do then? Earthquake safety experts are big fans of "drop, cover and hold on." When a tremor strikes, immediately drop to the floor and cover your head and neck with your arms. Don't move unless you fear falling objects. In that case, move away from exterior walls and try to crawl under a sturdy desk or table. Grab something secure and hold on until the shaking stops. Then, by all means use the doorway — to go outside and get away from damaged areas once it's safe to do so [source: Southern California Earthquake Center].