Hazards: Earthquakes

The Puget Sound region is seismically active, with hundreds of earthquakes occurring every year. Most of these earthquakes are so small they can only be detected by sensitive instruments. However, damaging earthquakes have occurred in this region during the past 130 years. The danger and risks of earthquakes can be reduced if people know what actions to take before, during and after an earthquake.

Best Preparedness Video Ever!

Ways to Survive An animated preparedness video by Bellevue Office of Emergency Management

Be Prepared for an Earthquake

FEMA E-74, Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage

Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific NW

FEMA Online Training - Earthquake Basics: Science, Risk & Mitiation

FEMA Earthquake Safety Checklist

Check for Hazards in the Home

  • Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt
  • Make sure shelves are secure and designed with latching doors or raised edges to prevent objects from falling
  • Top-heavy furniture and equipment must be bolted to walls or floor. (Physical Plant can assist with these measures)
  • Store breakables and heavy objects on lower shelves. Overhead lights, heavy artwork, and mirrors need to be anchored (by Physical Plant)
  • Store flammable liquids in flammable liquids storage cabinets

Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors

  • Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table
  • Against an inside wall
  • Away from glass that could shatter or heavy bookcases or furniture that could fall over

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

Have Disaster Supplies on Hand

Preparedness and Mitigation Resources

During an Earthquake

If you are INDOORS:

  • Stay indoors!
  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table, bench or desk and HOLD on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch down into a ball next to an interrior wall.* Move away from windows that may break and furniture or large objects that could fall over.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out and fire alarms and sprinkler systems may activate.
  • If you are in BED stay there! Hold on and put a pillow over your head for protection.
  • If you are in a THEATER OR STADIUM, stay in your seat or get under it if possible, and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over.
  • If you are in a CROWDED ROOM OR PUBLIC PLACE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves holding objects that could fall on you and “drop, cover and hold.”
  • DO NOT use elevators.

If you are OUTDOORS:

  • Stay outdoors!
  • Move to an open area away from trees, buildings, utility poles and lines, or signs.
  • If you are in a DOWNTOWN AREA, on a sidewalk near a tall building, get inside the building’s lobby to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass or other debris.
  • Greatest danger exists directly outside buildings at exits and alongside exterior walls.

If you are DRIVING:

  • Pull to the side of the road as quickly as possible, but keep away from overhead hazards such as trees, buildings, utility poles and lines, signs, and bridges. Stay in the vehicle until the shaking stops.

After the Earthquake

  • Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
  • Only after the shaking stops, evacuate cautiously, taking your keys, wallet, purse, coat, and any emergency supplies.
  • On your way out, look for signs of building damage or for persons who are injured or trapped. Watch for falling objects as you leave the building.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Go to your department Evacuation Assembly Point, tell your supervisor or department floor warden that you are out of the building and report injured or trapped persons and any signs of building damage you observed.
  • Turn on a battery-powered or vehicle radio if available for information.
  • If possible, do not use the phone for local calls, except emergencies, during the first 15-30 minutes after the earthquake. Overloading the phone system with calls may delay the delivery of emergency assistance.

Building Occupants and Evacuation Directors

What to Do During an Earthquake (Quiz)

What to Do During an Earthquake — Take a fun and informative 10 question mini-quiz on what to do — and not to do — during and immediately after an earthquake. Test your knowledge and see how seismically-smart you really are.”


Do you know how to make your home a safe space during an earthquake? Take this quiz and find out. But hurry… earthquakes can happen at any time, so act now to Beat the Quake! The more you do before the earthquake shakes your space, the less damage you will have and the more points you will earn.

The Triple Threat of Washington Faults

Earthquakes 101 by National Geographic

Crustal/Shallow Faults

Deep Earthquakes

Subduction Zone

Other Viedos about Earthquake Hazards in Seattle

Information about Tsunami

US West Coast Fears Tsunami Disaster

Japan Earthquake: 15 minutes Live-Cam

Earthquake Awareness & Personal Preparedness PowerPoint

Northwest Earthquake Threats and Preparedness Video

Additional Resources

Keeping Updated

  • UW Information Line (recorded message) 206-UWS-INFO, Toll Free: 1-866-897-INFO
  • Sign up for UW Alert
  • Red Alerts” on UW Home page
  • Your supervisor, department/college administrator or building coordinator
  • KOMO 1000 AM (Emergency Alert System)