By Gordon Williams

The Great Washington ShakeOut–the moment each year when we’re supposed to practice our earthquake survival skills–comes this year at 10:19 a.m. on Thursday, October 19.

Keeping your drop, cover and hold-on skills up to speed is a pretty compelling notion in a region where earthquakes are all too common. As the state Emergency Management Division reminds us,“Washington is earthquake country. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ’when’ an earthquake will strike us.”


Besides joining in the Great ShakeOut, you also should know about three useful resources that can help keep you safe when the earth does shake:

  • First is a cartoon-like graphic from the Washington Emergency Management Division titled “When an Earthquake Strikes: Where Will You Be? What will you do?” It comes from Brian Terbush, the Division’s Earthquake/Volcano Program Coordinator, and it presents a lot of advice in a compact, spritely form.
  • Second is the Earthquake Safety Checklist from the American Red Cross. It is a full page of advice on what to do before, during and after a quake. Click on the hyperlink above for a downloadable .pdf.
  • Third is an interactive map from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources that can help coastal residents find safe escape routes from an earthquake-induced tsunami. You select your location on the map and a click brings up the most up-to-date evacuation route from that location. Go to the website of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and visit the Geologic Information Portal.

The date of the Washington ShakeOut is always the third Thursday in October, which is International ShakeOut Day. if you join in, you will  be part of an event whose reach now spans the globe. The Great ShakeOut began in California, and is managed by the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California. Major partners include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and the American Red Cross.


California, with its history of destructive quakes, still turns out the largest crowds for ShakeOut Day. More than 8 million Californians are already signed up to take part this year. The total for Washington is over 870,000. Nearly 16 million people have signed up in the U.S., and over 21 million worldwide.

Register for the 2017 ShakeOut at www.shakeout.org and you will get a lot of earthquake safety material. And, by the way, October 19 is just a suggested day, You can practice your earthquake drills any time.

You can learn a lot about earthquake safety pretty quickly from the Emergency Management Division –how, for instance, to cope with an earthquake in a variety of settings:

  • Indoors: Drop to your hands and knees, cover your head and neck and hold on under something sturdy.
  • In a high-rise: Drop, cover and hold on until the shaking stops. If you do then evacuate, use the stairs, not an elevator.
  • In a classroom: Drop, cover and hold on. Be aware of special dangers posed by such facilities as labs.
  • In a store: Drop away from shelves. If possible, cover next to a shopping cart or under a clothing rack.
  • Driving:  Pull over, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid such hazards as overpasses, bridges, power lines.
  • In a wheelchair: Lock wheels and cover your head and neck.
  • Near a shoreline: Move quickly to higher ground once the shaking stops.

The Red Cross Earthquake Checklist suggests you prepare by designating a safe haven in your home–under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall. Then practice your drop, cover and hold-on drill in each safe space. Also, bolt tall furniture pieces to wall studs and install strong catches on all cabinets.

The evacuation guides from the Department of Natural Resources website are a collection of location-specific brochures–a brochure for each locale along the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound. Using the interactive map, click on a location and download an evacuation brochure for that location–detailed enough to show the specific streets and roads to take to reach safety from a tsunami. The brochures show the danger spots in each location–areas that could turn hazardous in a tsunami.

Each brochure also provides information about how to recognize tsunamis, as well as when to evacuate and where to evacuate to. The general guideline from the Department of Natural Resources is this: “The entire coastline may be at risk of tsunamis. If you feel an earthquake near the ocean, evacuate to higher ground or move inland.”

Register for the Great Washington ShakeOut today!


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Betsy Robertson | Communications Program Manager

American Red Cross

Northwest Region

(206) 799-3194 (m)



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