After the Great Shakeout: Take the Next Step in Earthquake Readiness

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Region 8 Regional Administrator Nancy Dragani.

FEMA Region 8 Regional Administrator Nancy Dragani oversees FEMA activities in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the 29 federally recognized tribal nations in these states. Below she shares the importance of earthquake preparedness. 

Living in the great plains and mountain west, there are a lot of hazards we are used to dealing with – harsh winters, severe storms, wildfires, and floods. There are other natural dangers that don’t easily come to mind.  The same forces that produce our stunning mountain ranges are also responsible for causing earthquakes. From the Bitterroot to the Tetons, the Sangre de Cristo to Wasatch, fault lines run through much of our part of the country. These areas of increased stress create the potential for significant earthquakes. Just in recent years we’ve seen quakes in Magna, Utah in 2020 and Lincoln, Montana in 2017.

On October 20, the annual Great Shakeout exercise was conducted in communities across the country and around the world with more than 20 million participating. The Shakeout is a preparedness drill that focuses on the steps you should take when an earthquake occurs, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”  These basic steps can help save your life in an earthquake. I hope you participated in this year’s Shakeout, but if not, visit shakeout.org to learn how you can keep yourself and your family safer in an earthquake, and join us for next year’s event. If you don’t want to wait a full year, you can join our friends in Utah, who hold their annual Shakeout event in April.

The Shakeout serves as a powerful opportunity to raise awareness to the threat earthquakes pose. This year, I’d like to challenge you to build upon that awareness and take greater action. Knowing what to do when a quake happens is important but having a plan before an earthquake can help you take steps to keep your home and family safer. This will make our communities and our entire nation more resilient.

Earthquake mitigation is not as complicated or as expensive as it may seem. While seismic retrofits for large structures do require the work of engineers and builders, there are many affordable, and potentially lifesaving, steps that can be taken to strengthen the homes and buildings protecting you, your friends and family. Some of these actions are the exact same things you might do to child-proof your home if you have small children. 

You can strap water heaters to wall studs. This inexpensive step can reduce the chance of water damage and fires after an earthquake. Anchoring tall furniture like bookcases or dressers and heavy electronics like televisions to wall studs can help reduce the likelihood of these items falling on someone.  You should also make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance does not cover earthquake damage. Consider consulting with your insurance agent to see if additional earthquake coverage may be right for you.

As a concerned community member, you can also talk to your local officials to find out if your community’s building codes are up to date. If you are remodeling a home, incorporate seismic building code enhancements into the project. You can also visit inspecttoprotect.org to learn more about building codes in your area.  By making sure new and rebuilt structures incorporate tested and proven building techniques, we make our communities safer.

Earthquakes are unique. They occur with little to no warning, unlike many other natural hazards. Make sure you know what to do when one happens and take steps to minimize the potential impact. Act now, so when the next quake happens, you’ll be on solid ground.

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Last updated October 25, 2022