Earthquake Preparedness

Seismograph image The Pacific Northwest has had major earthquakes in the past and will have them in the future. Whether or not you survive is not the question you should be concerned with. In the previous two major earthquakes only eight people died in each. On February 28, 2001 there were no deaths, so it is extremely likely you will survive. How well you survive is up to you. This page will hopefully give you the information you need to improve your survival conditions. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and loved ones for a period of 72 hours. This is how long it is estimated to take for help to arrive as they have to deal with the same predicament that you are in.

Before the Earthquake

  • Develop an Earthquake Plan for your work, including a predetermined location where you and your co-workers will meet after the earthquake. This should be a safe area outside that is clear of overhead dangers.Cracked HiRise
  • Establish a long distance contact for your loved ones. Call them and let them know that in the event of an earthquake, you and your loved ones will call them to let them know how you are doing and to get information on others who have called.
  • Have an alternative meeting place arranged with loved ones in case you can't reach or stay in your home.
  • Develop the habit of every so often thinking of what you would do if an earthquake happened. This will prepare you to react when it does happen. It will also help you get your preparations started.
  • Secure furniture and equipment that might move or tip over in an earthquake.

Disaster Supplies Kit

There are six basics you should stock in your kit: water, food, first aid, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, specialty items. Keep the items you will most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container. Keep smaller versions of the kit in your car and office. There should be enough food and water to last for 72 hours. For more information go to the UW Emergency Management Web site.

When the Earth Shakes

    girl under desk in quakeDROP

    under a desk or sturdy table. Stay away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets, heavy mirrors, hanging plants, and other objects that could fall. Stay under


    until the shaking stops.


    onto the desk or table. If it moves, move with it. Additional tips for specific locations:
    • If you are in a HIGH-RISE BUILDING and not near a desk or table, move against an interior wall, and protect your head with your arms. Face away from windows. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if alarm or sprinkler systems come on.
    • If you are OUTDOORS, move to a clear area, away from trees, signs, buildings, or downed electrical wires and poles.
    • If you are on a SIDEWALK near a tall building, get into a building's doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, and other debris.
    • If you are DRIVING, slowly pull over to the side of the road and stop.
    • If you're in a CROWDED STORE or PUBLIC PLACE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves with objects that could fall on you.
    • If you're in a WHEELCHAIR, stay in it. Move to cover, if possible, lock your wheels, and protect your head with your arms.
    • If you're in the KITCHEN, move away from the refrigerator, stove and overhead cupboards.
    • If you're in a THEATER or STADIUM, stay in your seat or get under it if possible, and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over.

    After the Earthquake

    You should have a predetermined place for you and your co-workers to meet. Generally this will be a safe and easy to access area outside your building such as a parking lot or open area.

    • Evacuate slowly and carefully. Look before exiting to make sure there is no overhead danger.
    • As you evacuate take note of utilities. Look for wires arcing, water running, and the smell of natural gas.
    • Report to your predetermined location, and take note of who is missing and any injuries that may exist.
    • Call or send a runner to police to inform them of damage, missing persons, injuries and utility damage.
    • At your meeting spot, assist others, and check on loved ones. Let someone know if you leave.
    • Conduct a EH&S Post Earthquake Checklist (PDF)

    Hazard Hunt

    Conduct a hazard hunt at work and at home. Most injuries occur from interior flying or falling items. Check at least the following items:

    • Top heavy free standing furniture
    • Heavy or breakable objects
    • Electronic equipment and appliances.
    • Hanging plants
    • Mirrors and heavy pictures
    • Unsecured cupboard doors
    • Hazardous chemicals
    • Utilities (gas, water, electrical)