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Great ShakeOut earthquake drill Oct. 19: Learn how to protect yourself in an earthquake

Illustration showing a person dropping to their knees, crawling under a table and holding onto a table with the text Drop! Cover! Hold on!

Life in the Pacific Northwest comes with two certainties: you’re going to need a good raincoat, and it’s only a matter of time before the next earthquake. Maybe even a double earthquake.

Earthquakes, like the 4.3 magnitude earthquake we had on Sunday, occur nearly every day in Washington, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Most are too small to be felt. Large earthquakes are less common, but can cause significant damage. Many at UW remember experiencing the 6.8 magnitude 2001 Nisqually earthquake that caused at least $1 billion in property damage around the region.

We want you to know what to do when the ground starts shaking (drop, cover and hold on) and practice. At 10:19 a.m. on Oct. 19, UW Emergency Management will participate in the Washington Great ShakeOut earthquake drill. We hope you’ll join us. Watch for a UW Alert test message, and, if you can, practice how you’d respond.

Check out the Great ShakeOut earthquake video series for info about what to do if an earthquake happens while you’re in bed, when you’re driving, while you’re in a stadium or you have a sturdy table to crawl under. The Seattle Times also has a helpful earthquake guide.

The preparedness motto is: Build a Kit. Make a Plan. Stay Informed. Make sure you know what you would do if there was an earthquake, and what your family, friends, loved ones and housemates would do if there was an emergency.

We also encourage you to download the MyShake earthquake early warning app. The app uses the ShakeAlert automated system run by the U.S. Geological Survey in partnership with the UW and universities in Oregon and California. That system uses ground motion sensors to detect earthquakes and send a notification.

If you’re new to the area or need something to keep you awake at night, listen to UW seismologists Harold Tobin and Audrey Dunham discuss the impending threat of “The Big One” – a large-scale earthquake that will strike along the Cascadia Subduction Zone – on UW’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences podcast, FieldSound.

Professor Tobin is the Director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and the designated Washington state seismologist, studying tectonic plate boundaries, how faults work and the conditions that lead to earthquakes.

UW researchers are conducting crucial research into earthquake hazards, including as the lead partner on a new multi-institution earthquake research center based at the University of Oregon. The National Science Foundation announced Sept. 8 that the center will receive $15 million over five years to study the Cascadia subduction zone and bolster earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Seismologists estimate that there’s about a one-in-three chance of an approximately magnitude-9 earthquake occurring on the Pacific Northwest coast in the next 50 years. Better understanding earthquakes and preparing for them now is as important as remembering to pack your rain gear.