U.S. Geological Survey scientists have determined that nearly half of Americans are exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes based on where they work and live. Still others will be at risk when traveling. Everyone everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake.
Be prepared and join millions of people participating in Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills worldwide Oct. 15. During the drill, participants practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” This is the recommended safety action to take during an earthquake.
Earthquake hazard map showing peak ground accelerations having a 2 percent probability of being exceeded in 50 years, for a firm rock site. The map is based on the most recent USGS models for the conterminous U.S. (2018), Hawaii (1998), and Alaska (2007). The models are based on seismicity and fault-slip rates, and take into account the frequency of earthquakes of various magnitudes. Locally, the hazard may be greater than shown, because site geology may amplify ground motions.
Shake It Like It’s Real
Mark your calendar and register to participate so that you know how to protect yourself, those you love and your community. Families, schools, businesses and organizations can all sign up and get involved. There are many ways to participate, and a variety of resources and tips are provided online. This includes pre-made flyers, drill broadcast recordings, drill manuals and more.
ShakeOut Participation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As with almost every facet of our daily lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for natural hazards has taken on an additional element when it comes to staying safe while conducting drills to ensure earthquake preparedness.
Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, global events are still being planned and executed, and ShakeOut has provided COVID-19-specific guidance for this unprecedented circumstance. Everyone who is participating should review it with their family and coworkers to make sure the greatest level of care is taken to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus while also preparing to stay safe during an earthquake.
What’s Your Exposure to Earthquake Shaking?
To learn about your exposure to ground shaking from an earthquake near you, check out the 2018 USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps. These maps reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result.
What to Do During the Drill
Most people will hold their ShakeOut drills at 10:15 a.m. local time Oct. 15 (though drills can be held anytime and on other days if necessary). If you are indoors, you should “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” Drop where you are onto your hands and knees, then crawl for cover under a nearby sturdy desk or table and hold on to it securely.
If you are not near a desk or table, crawl against an interior wall, then protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and kitchen cabinets filled with heavy objects or glass.
During the drill, look around and see what objects could fall during a potential earthquake and make sure to secure or move those items after the drill.
If you happen to be outdoors in a real earthquake, move to a clear and open area if you can do so.
Avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles and items that can fall on you. If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road and set the parking brake. Do not shelter under bridges, overpasses, power lines or traffic signs. Make sure to remain inside the vehicle until the shaking has stopped.
ShakeOut GIF showing what to do in an earthquake if you are near a sturdy desk or table.
ShakeOut GIF showing what to do in an earthquake if you are NOT near a sturdy desk or table.
ShakeOut GIF on what to do during an earthquake if you are near the shore.
ShakeOut GIF on what to do during an earthquake if you are driving a car.
USGS Science in ShakeOut
The USGS also develops earthquake scenarios that help shape preparedness exercises such as the ShakeOut. USGS earthquake research helps emergency managers understand where earthquakes occur and provides valuable information about the potential damages and losses.
The original ShakeOut was based on a comprehensive analysis of a major earthquake in southern California known as “The ShakeOut Scenario.” That project, completed in 2008, was led by the USGS and many partners as a demonstration of how science can be applied to reduce risks related to natural hazards. The concept and organization of a public drill came out of the collaboration between the USGS, the Southern California Earthquake Center and other partners of the Earthquake Country Alliance.
The success of the 2008 ShakeOut drill inspired other states and countries to want to participate. The third Thursday of October each year is now International ShakeOut Day, with more countries joining each year. ShakeOut’s growth is coordinated by the Southern California Earthquake Center (which also manages ShakeOut websites globally) with the support of many agencies and partners across the nation, including the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and several others.
ShakeAlert – Earthquake Early Warning
Last year, the USGS commemorated the 30th anniversary of one of the most destructive earthquake disasters in U.S. history – the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The magnitude 6.9 quake struck October 17 in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area near Santa Cruz and was responsible for the deaths of 63 people and more than 3,500 injuries. That event also marks the beginning of many years of intense work developing and testing what would ultimately become the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system.
In 2019, in coordination with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the USGS commenced testing of the public delivery of earthquake alerts to wireless devices in California. In 2020, over sixty alert delivery partners in California, Oregon, and Washington operate a variety of applications that are powered by data from the ShakeAlert system. Oregon and Washington plan to roll out alert delivery to wireless devices sometime in 2021.
The backbone of an earthquake early warning system is a widespread and robust network of seismometers. In the United States, the first regional seismic networks were begun by research institutions and universities like Caltech; University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Washington.
The USGS provides rapid alerts of potential impacts from an earthquake through its Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response system. Sign up to receive earthquake notices through the USGS Earthquake Notification System. If you feel an earthquake, report your experience on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website.
Learn how to prepare at home using the 7 Steps to Earthquake Safety from the guidebook “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country,” written for different areas of the country and available in several languages.