Be a Great Washington ShakeOut Champion!

You can survive the big one IF you get prepared.  Become a ShakeOut Champion and support earthquake/tsunami awareness in your community

Be a ShakeOut

ShakeOut FAQs

Earthquake FAQ

Youth Video

Register for

Helpful Links

What is ShakeOut?

The Great ShakeOut is the world’s largest Earthquake drill, with participants all over the globe practicing how they would protect themselves if an Earthquake suddenly occurred. On Washington’s inner and outer coasts, it’s also a perfect opportunity to practice your tsunami evacuation route. This year’s drill is scheduled for 10:17 a.m. on October 17, 2019 (10:17 on 10/17). This means that wherever you are at that moment—at home, at work, at school, anywhere—you should Drop, Cover, and Hold On, as if there were a major earthquake occurring, and stay in this position for at least 60 seconds. The ShakeOut is not something you need to leave work to participate in—in fact, participating at work is encouraged! Businesses, organizations, schools, and government agencies can register and have their employees practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On, or they have a more extensive emergency drill if they choose to. Anyone in Washington can participate, from an individual in their home, to a family, to an entire major company. Talk to your coworkers, neighbors, and friends about the ShakeOut and encourage them to participate.

Join us, and help take steps to make Washington better prepared for earthquakes. Sign up for free at to be counted in the ShakeOut Drill, get email updates, and more.

Video Contest

The Great Washington ShakeOut Youth Video Contest 2020 will be opening in May 2020. Watch the 2019 Video Contest winners with this YouTube Video Playlist.

How to help

Washington is Earthquake country and we need your help to get the state ready.

If you would like to do more to help prepare your community, organization, or workplace for earthquake and tsunami hazards, then the best person for that job is You!

  • Every step you take to prepare helps make Washington more resilient in the face of disaster:
  • Learn about Washington’s Earthquake and Tsunami hazards, and share that information with others.
  • Register and Participate in the Great Washington ShakeOut (drills can be done at any time of the year)
  • Plan and prepare yourself and your family (go kits, evacuation maps, family reunification plans).
  • Hand out these postcards (PDF) to friends and businesses or use it as a graphic to post about it on social media. 
  • Promote earthquake/tsunami drills, and preparedness actions in your community
  • Talk/write to your community leaders, elected officials, and/or lawmakers about taking earthquake/tsunami safety actions
  • Reach out to your local news/radio show, and ask them to do a story about earthquake/tsunami preparedness
  • Be creative, you know your community!

Getting prepared for Earthquakes and Tsunamis will get you prepared for any disaster:

Right after a disaster strikes, the first “responders” will be you, and those around you, whether it’s your family, neighbors or co-workers. And we all need to work together to recover quickly!
Show your community/organization that earthquake/tsunami preparedness is important, and help your community show everyone else that this is important for all of Washington.  Be a Champion!
Shakeout Registration helps inspire others to support preparedness initiatives throughout the state.

Here are a series of resources that may help you lead the efforts within your community, at whichever level you desire:

  • Write to participants in your area (businesses, individuals, organizations, etc.). This is a general form (Word) that can be used to start describing the importance of the drill, and an invitation to participate, and can be customized to your audience. 
  • Include a newsletter blurb (PDF) in your community or use it for your social media or press releases.
  • Encourage your city or county to pass a resolution (Word) to participate in ShakeOut.
  • Use our powerpoint presentation (PDF) to help those who are new to the Great ShakeOut, understand why earthquake preparedness is important, what some of the earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest are, how to hold a ShakeOut Drill and where to find more information.
  • Pre-scripted tweets (PDF) on where to find earthquake safety and preparedness material. As always, adoptable and adaptable.
  • List of significant Earthquakes (PDF) that have been experienced in WA since 1872 (most recent large crustal earthquake). 

Earthquake FAQs

To see examples of these AMA events, visit: 

Reddit AMA 2015
Reddit AMA 2016
Reddit AMA 2017

“When will the big one happen?” (Earthquake prediction)
 The “Big One,” aka, an earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), estimated to be a M9.0, last occurred in 1700. It typically reoccurs every 400 to 600 years (roughly 500 years on average). It is currently understood that there is a 10-20% chance of a CSZ earthquake in the next 50 years. We cannot yet predict when the earthquake will actually happen. It could happen today, or in a few hundred years. The best we can do is to invest in systems that will give us seconds to minutes of advance notice when it does eventually happen (see “Earthquake Early Warning and ShakeAlert” below).

“I live/work/commute in _________ (e.g. Seattle):  How ‘screwed’ am I?”

You may want to know how you may be impacted by earthquakes or earthquake-related hazards at your home or place of work. There are a variety of resources that have been created to aid in understanding the potential hazards at specific locations. For example, he Washington Department of Natural Resources Geology portal provides links to a variety of seismic scenarios, showing the expected level of damage from several different faults, in addition to susceptibility to earthquake shaking and secondary hazards (such as tsunamis, landslides, and liquefaction) 

Below are helpful links to interactive maps (with instructions to access the correct layers) and other useful links for earthquakes, tsunamis, liquefaction, landslides, and other factors that may cause damage.


Interactive Map: https://geologyportal.dnr.wa.g... of Contents > Seismic Scenarios > Choose scenario > if desired, choose damage type layers

Click on area for shaking intensity in Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) pop-up window. MMI is described USGS at: https://earthquake.‌‌

For damage report, click on the 3 vertical dots to the right of the scenario name, and click “Summary Report” for a detailed report about the impacts and damages from the scenario.


Interactive Map:

Table of Contents > Tsunami > Tsunami Inundation Models > Choose scenario


Table of Contents > Tsunami > Tsunami Evacuation

DNR Info:

National Tsunami Warning Center (from NOAA/NWS):

Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) Tsunami evacuation details map:


Interactive Map:

Table of Contents > Earthquake Data > Ground Response to Earthquakes > Liquefaction Susceptibility


Interactive Map:

Table of Contents > Landslide Data > Landslide Inventory (beginning 2017): currently only Pierce County (as of 2.8.18)

Table of Contents > Landslide Data > Landslide Compilations: choose your desired landslide data

“Should I move?” (Location-specific questions)

The choice to move is always your own, but it is best to make an informed decision; you don’t want to overreact to the hazard potential, but under-reacting is not appropriate either. Impacts of a large earthquake may be devastating to the area. Research and understand how it may impact your particular area (residence, work, etc.) based on geologic, geographic, and building factors (See interactive maps above). When thinking about hazards, keep in mind that hazards of different types occur everywhere. You may want to weigh potential hazard impacts against probability of hazards, and feasibility and desire for relocation. 

No open can accurately predict when the next earthquake will occur, but understanding that earthquakes are hazard here (among many other hazards), highly likely to impact you during your lifetime. But, as long as you live here, it’s best to be prepared as possible! (See “Personal preparedness” below).

Think about asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I in a hazard zone? What kind of hazard(s)?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?
  • How well prepared are my buildings for the known hazard? How well prepared am I?
  • Is there anything I can do to feel safer? (e.g., Improve building infrastructure (if owner), make a preparedness kit, determine meeting spots and communication methods, prepare evacuation routes, etc.)
  • If I’m really worried and want to move, is it feasible for me to do so?
  • If I am staying, what can I do to better prepare myself and my space(s)?

    “What is Earthquake Early Warning?”  (ShakeAlert)
     Earthquake Early Warning (EEW), or USGS’s ShakeAlert system, uses an array of ground motion sensors that detect the first seismic signal (the P-wave, which causes minimal shaking), and sends an alert before the damaging S-waves arrive.  The system can provide seconds to minutes of warning before strong shaking, based on distance from the source, size of the earthquake, and speed of the warning system. Seconds to minutes of warning might not sound like much, but it gives enough time for people to get to a safe location (Drop, cover, and hold on!), and can be enough time to automatically shut off systems that may cause additional damage if active during the earthquake, such as transit systems and gas and oil lines. Some other automated responses that could help would include: bringing elevators to the nearest floor and opening the doors to let passengers out, and opening firehouse doors, so they are not stuck shut after the quake, when firetrucks may be needed.

    The USGS ShakeAlert fact sheet ( describes the ShakeAlert system in more detail. More information at:, and 

    “How can I be more prepared?” (Personal Preparedness)

    “Earthquake Early Warning (EEW), or USGS’s ShakeAlert system, uses an array of ground motion sensors that detect the first seismic signal (the P-wave, which causes minimal shaking), and sends an alert before the damaging S-waves arrive

    There are many things you can do to make yourself and those around you more prepared. You can prepare yourself for how to act during and after an earthquake, prepare supplies in case of an earthquake, and if you are in the situation where it applies to you, you may investigate earthquake insurance or building retrofits. 

    During an earthquake, you want to drop, cover, and hold on (! This is the recommended action for 

    life safety in the event of an earthquake, as it does the most to protect you from flying or falling debris; standing in a door frame, the “triangle of life,” or running outside, are NOT recommended actions, as they increase your vulnerability.

    You can join the millions of others worldwide participating annually in the ShakeOut earthquake drill (

    An earthquake could strike at any time! If you aren’t in a situation where you can drop, cover, and hold on, where will you be? Best practices for other situations is presented at:‌‌‌washington/‌downloads/WA_ShakeOut_Poster_DCHO.PDF.

    Before an emergency, you want to have important information, phone numbers, travel routes and meeting locations planned (‌Ready_Insert_Seattle_OEM.pdf). 

    Also, Make sure you can reach your emergency supplies – we recommend thateveryone in washington is at least “Two weeks ready” (/asset/5ba41f68316c1), although having more supplies is encouraged if you have the ability.  

    Remember, while this will prepare you for an earthquake and its impacts, it will also help you to be self-sufficient after any other disaster that may strike Washington, where more common hazards (windstorms, flooding, fires, etc.) may cause extended power outages, and the need to be self-sufficient. In a disaster, people will be coming to aid you, but the scale of a large earthquake means it will take time for them to arrive: being able to take care of yourself before help arrives will help you maintain your quality of life (remember to include comfort items and entertainment in your kit… make it fun!) before help arrives.

    “Can earthquakes trigger other hazards?”

    It is (not unheard of, but) rare for an earthquake to trigger a volcanic eruption, or vice versa.  It is more probable that an earthquake will trigger a tsunami or landslides.  An earthquake causing vertical displacement of the crust underneath a water body may displace the water column above the crust, causing a tsunami. A tsunami may also be caused by displacement of water from a landslide, either on land, or underwater.  Landslides may be triggered by earthquakes, and these may impact areas beyond just coastal regions. Slopes are more prone to landslides after significant rain increases pore pressure and weight of the ground material.

    “How will the ________ building (e.g. The Columbia Tower, or my house) respond to earthquake shaking?”

    Buildings respond to earthquake shaking in different ways based on their material, design and construction, height, and material on which they are built. Un-reinforced Masonry (URM) buildings are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. Engineer Emory Montague from Simpson Strong-Tie describes the following building types as vulnerable: Unreinforced masonry [red brick] buildings that have not been retrofitted, weak or soft story wood-frame multi-story structures [3 to 5 story apartment buildings with lots of wall openings on the ground floor] and older concrete frame buildings (AMA, 2015). The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) provides a useful earthquake scenario diagram for earthquake scenarios in the Seattle area ( pg 4) that addresses different building types, and earthquake types, magnitudes, and durations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also provides resources describing how some materials respond to earthquake deformation ( URMs and inadequately-reinforced concrete perform poorly in shaking because they deform very little before failing.  Steel bars in reinforced concrete allow for more deformation prior to failing. More frequently spaced and larger reinforcing bars are necessary for better material performance.  Proper nailing, edge clearances and hold-downs are necessary for wood frames.

    Buildings also respond differently based on their height ( Figures 4-4 and 4-6 show how different frequencies impact buildings of different heights). Buildings naturally vibrate back and forth in specific number of seconds, known as a ‘period’. Earthquakes have waves of a variety of different frequencies all at once. If an earthquake’s frequency matches the building period (resonance), it increases the amount the building sways back and forth , some of which can result in resonance within buildings (resonance is where the building will move back and forth with a certain period); however, prominent earthquake frequencies vary, so different earthquakes can more strongly impact different buildings. For example, larger earthquakes have lower-frequency waves, which tend to cause resonance in taller buildings. Higher frequency waves shake shorter buildings more strongly.

    In Washington, the standard for bridge construction is to design them such that the bridges will not collapse in the event of an earthquake; however, they will require significant repairs before use. Proper seating of bridge structures atop trusses can help maintain the structure of bridges. Bridges may be particularly susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spreading hazards associated with earthquake shaking.

    Retrofits help improve the ductility and structural integrity of existing structures to better perform under earthquake conditions.

    Material on which structures are built can impact how they respond to shaking: through liquefaction and amplification. Liquefaction occurs most frequently in saturated, loose, sandy soils and fill. Amplification occurs in valleys filled with soft sediments, and can cause stronger and longer durations of shaking. Examples of locations that may experience amplification include the Seattle and Tacoma basins. Mexico City experienced significant amplification during the September 17th, 2017 Earthquake.

    “So earthquakes are unavoidable. Ok… what is the government doing to protect me?”

    Multiple large-scale government efforts exist for earthquake preparedness. Congress recently ensured that funding towards ShakeAlert continued for the 2018 fiscal year ( This system works towards the eventuality of an earthquake early warning system for the west coast of the United States. The 2016 Cascadia Rising national level multi-state, multi-agency catastrophic response exercise for FEMA region X recognized and made recommendations to improve preparedness shortfalls (/uploads/pdf/‌‌‌training/‌‌cr16-state-aar-final.pdf). Washington state is a participant in the annual national earthquake drill, ShakeOut (

    For more details about your area’s preparedness, contact your local emergency management department offices.

    "If earthquakes are a release of stress built up on a fault, is there a way to, relieve that stress by triggering a bunch of smaller earthquakes or something?”

    This is not currently an explored topic of study, and would face many challenges if it did become a method of earthquake stress management.  Human-induced seismicity (e.g., earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, and wastewater reinjection) have resulted in earthquakes large enough to cause damage.  Earthquakes also result in increased stresses elsewhere that may lead to other earthquakes. Even if these challenges were overcome and induced earthquakes could be controlled to release a certain amount of energy, the number of small earthquakes required to equal the energy released by a large earthquake is significant.

    Many studies address earthquakes induced by human activity, and how stress on faults can be impacted by earthquakes. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides information on induced earthquake myths and misconceptions, observational studies, hazard estimation, numerical modeling and publications ( Damage from some induced earthquakes increased to a level where the earthquakes are now included in seismic hazard forecasts.

    Studies of seismic stress changes from earthquakes address how stress released on one fault may impact other areas (e.g.‌landers.pdf). An earthquake reduces stress on the failed fault and regional stress, but it may also increase stress elsewhere. The local increases in stress may result in triggering of other earthquakes earlier than they would have otherwise occurred. However, fault systems are complicated and triggering is neither widely observed nor readily predictable at this point in time.

    In the event triggering earthquakes to relieve stress of larger earthquakes later becomes feasible and magnitude of triggered earthquakes controllable, it needs to be noted that smaller earthquakes are magnitudes smaller than larger earthquakes (an increase in 1 magnitude results in approximately 32 times the amount of energy released). Numerous smaller earthquakes would be necessary to decrease the energy of a large earthquake enough to reduce significant damage.


    Register for Great Washington ShakeOut:

    ShakeOut Statistics: How many people participated and from where? Enter your state to find out.


    Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Geologic Hazards Portal 

    interactive map of geologic hazards present in Washington. (Includes Past Earthquakes, Faults, tsunami inundation zones, Volcanic Hazards, liquefaction susceptibility, Landslides, and the ability to enter an address onto the map and see where it falls within those hazards.)

    DNR link to geologic hazards maps: non-interactive forms of the above.

    Earthquake Early Warning (EEW): 

    ShakeAlert Information:


    Pacific Northwest Seismic Network: Detailed recent Earthquake and seismic information for Washington and Oregon.

    General Page:

    Recent Events:

    United States Geologic Survey (USGS): 

    USGS natural Hazards program: Covers earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and more.

    Home Retrofit resources:

    Strong-Tie Video: How to retrofit homes and structures.

    Strong-Tie Page: Includes info video on retrofit, and infographics along the side panel.

    Seismic Scenario Information: Studies to assess the potential impacts of various earthquakes on Washington

    CREW’s Cascadia Subduction zone Magnitude 9.0 Publication:

    DNR Seismic Scenario Catalog: click “seismic scenarios”


    National Tsunami Warning Center (from NOAA/NWS):

    DNR Tsunami hazards/risk page: Information on preparedness, evacuation routes/warning signs, historic tsunamis and how they are generated.

    Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) Tsunami evacuation details map: Detailed view showing locations of critical infrastructure in coastal/potentially affected areas.

    Earthquake Safety (What to do during an Earthquake)

    Drop, Cover, and Hold On Links:  How to Drop, Cover and Hold On in any situation you may find yourself in when the shaking starts.

    Seattle Times Infographic: Drop Cover and Hold on Tips for a variety of situations (two helpful infographics for preparedness contained in this Seattle times article.


    Home Preparedness Infographic from Simpson Strong-Tie: Shows home preparedness guidelines/suggestions in a visual/simple way.

    Home Preparedness Steps for All Rooms of the house:  Resources for preparing all rooms of your home, and business. Specific suggestions on how to:

    Secure your space (Step 1); 

    Create a disaster plan (Step 2);

    Organize disaster supplies (Step 3);

    Minimize financial hardship(Step 4);

    Washington Emergency Management Division (EMD) Preparedness Information:

    EMD Preparedness Videos in Multiple Languages: