We Live in Earthquake Country

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By Sean McGowan, Anne Rosinski and Amanda Siok

Sean McGowan, Anne Rosinski and Amanda Siok are the Earthquake Program Managers for FEMA Regions 8, 9 and 10 respectively. They promote awareness of the threat posed by earthquakes and educate the public on how to take action.

The western United States is full of beautiful mountains, coastlines and parks that offer wonderful recreation and adventure. While it’s great to be planning for that next adventure, residents and visitors in the west should be planning for the possibility of an earthquake.

You might think of earthquakes as something that only happens in disaster movies or only in certain states, but they are quite common throughout the west. This year alone, there been have more than 200 earthquakes greater than a magnitude 3.5, in western states at depths 22 miles or shallower. While many are barely felt, larger earthquakes pose serious risk to people, buildings, and infrastructure. Learning more about the earthquake hazard where you live will allow you to take action and be prepared should one occur.

Earthquakes can happen at any time of day with little to no warning. There are several types of earthquakes, and they all shake the ground beneath us. Earthquakes can occur along fault lines and where the Earth’s tectonic plates meet.  As tectonic plates move and readjust, earthquakes occur, and some can be felt throughout the region. The longer time there has been without earthquakes, the more likely a larger earthquake will occur as rocks can only absorb a finite amount of stress before breaking.

Once you know your earthquake hazard, the next step is to learn what to do during an earthquake. The basics are Drop, Cover and Hold On. This month is the annual Great ShakeOut, a global earthquake drill held on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 10:21 a.m. local time. The ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice what you would do if you felt the ground shake. It’s also a great way to come together as a community. You can share your participation via social media using #ShakeOut or #EarthquakeSafety to let your family and friends know you are doing your part.

To sign up for the drill, visit the Shakeout website. For more information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit Ready.gov/earthquakes. To learn the location of faults and find the most recent data on quakes, visit the U.S. Geological Survey

Next week, we’ll be back to talk about some actions you can take to continue your earthquake preparedness journey after you’ve participated in the Great ShakeOut.

Last updated October 15, 2021