ShakeOut 2021: Earthquake Awareness Helps Community Preparedness

What’s Your Exposure to Earthquake Shaking?
To learn about your exposure to ground shaking from an earthquake near you, check out the 2018 USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps. These maps reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes are likely occur, how often they tend to occur and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result.

What to Do During the Drill
Most people will synchronize their ShakeOut drills at 10:21 a.m. local time October 21, but organizers can hold drills at other times or on other days if necessary. If you are indoors, you should “Drop! Cover! and Hold On!” Drop where you are onto your hands and knees, then crawl for cover under a nearby sturdy desk or table and hold on to it securely.

If you are not near a desk or table, crawl against an interior wall, then protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and kitchen cabinets filled with heavy objects or glass.

During the drill, look around and see what objects could fall during a potential earthquake and make sure to secure or move those items after the drill. If you happen to be outdoors in a real earthquake, move to a clear and open area if you can do so.

Avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles and items that can fall on you. If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road and set the parking brake. Do not shelter under bridges, overpasses, power lines or traffic signs. Make sure to remain inside the vehicle until the shaking has stopped.

USGS Science in ShakeOut
The USGS develops earthquake scenarios that help shape preparedness exercises such as the ShakeOut. USGS earthquake research helps emergency managers understand where earthquakes occur and provides valuable information about the potential damages and losses.

The original ShakeOut was based on a comprehensive analysis of a major earthquake in southern California known as “The ShakeOut Scenario.” That project, completed in 2008, was led by the USGS and many partners as a demonstration of how science can be applied to reduce risks related to natural hazards. The concept and organization of a public drill came out of the collaboration between the USGS, the Southern California Earthquake Center and other partners of the Earthquake Country Alliance.

The success of the original 2008 ShakeOut drill inspired other states and countries to want to participate. The third Thursday of October each year is now International ShakeOut Day, with more countries joining each year. ShakeOut’s growth is coordinated by the Southern California Earthquake Center (which also manages ShakeOut websites globally) with the support of many agencies and partners across the nation, including the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and several others.

ShakeAlert – Earthquake Early Warning
In 1989, one of the most destructive earthquake disasters in U.S. history  – the Loma Prieta earthquake — would eventually lead to new tools for earthquake preparedness. The magnitude 6.9 quake struck October 17 in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area near Santa Cruz and was responsible for the deaths of 63 people and more than 3,500 injuries. That event also marks the beginning of many years of intense work developing and testing what would ultimately become the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system.

The backbone of an earthquake early warning system is a widespread and robust network of seismometers. In the United States, the first regional seismic networks were begun by research institutions and universities like Caltech, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington.

A ShakeAlert Message is an early warning from a network system that detects significant earthquakes quickly enough so alerts can be delivered to people and automated systems potentially seconds before shaking arrives. ShakeAlert Messages are a product of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS).

The system can protect people and infrastructure by triggering automatic actions like slowing down trains to prevent derailments, opening firehouse doors so they don’t jam shut, and closing valves to protect water systems.

The USGS and its university and state ShakeAlert partners have implemented earthquake early warning across the West Coast to complement existing tools that contribute to risk reduction. The system has extended to the Pacific Northwest, and ShakeAlert now serves over 50 million people. Work continues to complete the buildout of the seismic networks and improving ShakeAlert algorithms for earthquakes at or above magnitude 9.