Earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning. When they occur, they cause the ground to undulate and shake, sometime violently. Washington is second out of 16 states facing the highest risk for damaging earthquakes. When a major earthquake does strike, you'll want to be prepared and know what to do during and after the shaking stops.
Illustrated Guides for Earthquakes
- Find out if you live in a liquefaction susceptible area that can be severely impacted during an earthquake.
- Conduct a home hazard hunt. Take 30 minutes to walk through your home to identify potential hazards.
- What can you mitigate by securing, relocating or eliminating from your home?
- Create an emergency plan including communication and reunification strategies with family and neighbors.
- Build a disaster supply kit that has enough food and water for at least two weeks.
- Consider each person's specific needs including medication.
- Have a fire extinguisher available and know when and how to use it.
- Know how and when to shut off your utilities after an earthquake.
- Water supply lines may crack during an earthquake and pollute your drinking water supply.
- Shut off the gas immediately if you smell the characteristic odor of gas or hear a hissing sound.
- Shut off your electricity panel in the event of a water or gas leak.
- always shut off individual circuits before shutting off the main breaker.
- Collect essential documents and consider buying earthquake insurance.
To better prepare your home to withstand the damaging effects of an earthquake, you can retrofit your home. This is a good idea, especially if your home was built prior to 1980. Seismic retrofitting involves reinforcing the framing, such as bolting walls to the foundation, and should only be done by a licensed building contractor specializing in this work.
Practice "Drop, Cover and Hold On"
Practice every year with the Great ShakeOut Drill on the third Thursday in October. Use the opportunity to learn and practice what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. Join millions of people worldwide who practice Drop, Cover and Hold On in an earthquake drill. Research shows that repeated practice cuts response time in an emergency and increases your chance for survival.
During an Earthquake
Drop, cover and hold on! The majority of earthquake related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass, falling objects or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking.
- Drop where you are onto your hands and knees. Stay low and crawl to shelter.
- Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand. Get underneath a sturdy table or desk. Stay away from windows.
- Hold on to your shelter until the shaking stops. Be ready to shift with it as it moves.
Alternatives to Drop, Cover, Hold On
- Stay where you are, lie face down and cover your head with your arms and pillow until the shaking stops.
- Move away from exterior walls, windows, doorways or anything that could potentially fall and injure you.
- Lock the wheels, bend over and cover your head and neck with your hands.
- Stay in your vehicle and if it is safe to do so, pull over to the side of the road until the shaking has stopped. Set the emergency brake.
- Move away from power lines, buildings, cars or any other hazards.
- Drop down and cover your head and neck with your hands.
After an Earthquake
After a sizable earthquake, buildings may be damaged and be unsafe for occupancy. Warning signs are large visible cracks on walls or foundations, or buildings leaning at a slant. Be aware of anything loosened in the earthquake that can later fall from above, such as chimney bricks or interior fixtures.