What to do during an earthquake

If you've never been in a significant earthquake, you might have no idea how to react or what to do.

And since Washington State is framed by the Pacific, North American and Juan de Fuca plates, and Washington is on a large active fault known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, it’s a good idea to know how to stay safe during an earthquake, large or small.

According to the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington has the second highest risk in the U.S. for large and damaging earthquakes because of its geologic setting.

Federal, state, and local emergency management experts and other emergency preparedness organizations say the key is to remember to drop, cover and hold on where you are until the shaking stops.

According to the Great Washington Shakeoutin most situations, you will reduce your chance of getting hurt if you:

Drop where you are onto your hands and knees. The position protects you from being knocked down and also allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter if nearby.

Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand

  • If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter
  • If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows)
  • Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs

Hold on until shaking stops

  • Under shelter: hold on to it with one hand; be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts
  • No shelter: hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands.

The key is to try not to move and protect yourself as best as possible wherever you are.

King County Emergency Management says if you are inside, stay there until the shaking stops and you are sure it's safe to exit.  If you're in a multiple story building and have to leave, use the stairs instead of the elevator, which could be damaged.

If you're outside, find a spot away from power lines, trees or buildings that could fall if possible, and crouch down and cover your head.

If an earthquake occurs while you're in a vehicle, slow down and drive to a space away from overpasses, power lines, buildings and trees, and then stop.  Once the shaking stops, avoid driving on bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.

If you are a person with a disability, go to EarthquakeCountry.org/disability for recommendations for people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or are unable to drop to the ground and get up again without help.

What NOT to do during an earthquake

Don't stand in a doorway.  It was once thought that doorways were the strongest place to be during a quake. But The Great Washington Shakeout says in today's modern homes and buildings, doorways are no safer and fail to protect you from falling objects. A table is a much better choice.

Don't run outside. Running may be difficult during an earthquake, causing a fall and injury. Depending on where you are, you could be hit by falling debris from buildings such as glass or bricks, or there could be downed power lines and other hazards.  It is better and safer to remain inside under a table.

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