Washington State is earthquake country.  When the ground starts to shake, "Drop, Cover and Hold."

What to do

When you feel an earthquake, DROP and COVER under a desk or sturdy table. Stay away from windows and objects like bookcases that could fall.  HOLD on to the desk or table.  If it moves, move with it.  Do not run - stay where you are.  "Drop, Cover and Hold."

Many people think the destruction caused by earthquakes is unavoidable, and that the only option is to pick up the pieces after the shaking stops.  Actually, almost all earthquake damages and losses can be reduced by steps you take before, during and after.  Many also think that all the damage and injuries from earthquakes comes from collapsing buildings.  Again, this isn't the case.  As buildings are designed better, more of the losses in earthquakes are from objects that break or fall on people causing injury.

The steps that follow include a range of actions to do before, during, and after earthquakes in order to be safe and reduce potential damage.  In addition to following these steps at home, they should also be followed in schools, workplaces, and other faculties. 

Be prepared for an earthquake

  • Anchor appliances and tall heavy furniture that might fall.  Put latches on cabinet doors to keep contents from spilling out.
  • Find out how you can improve your home to protect it against earthquake damage.
  • Establish an "out-of-area" contact and keep the phone numbers handy.  This is the person family members will call if you are separated.
  • Have a place at home where emergency supplies are kept and tell others where it is.
  • Create a disaster preparedness plan.
  • Prepare disaster supplies kit.
  • Identify your buildings potential weaknesses and begin to fix them.
  • Protect yourself during Earthquake Shaking: Drop, Cover and Hold On.

If you are indoors:

  • Stay inside.  Move under a desk or sturdy table and hold on to it.  If it moves, move with it.  Stay away from windows, bookcases, refrigerators, heavy mirrors, hanging plants and other objects that could fall.  Do not go outside until the shaking stops.
  • If you are in a crowded store or public place, do not rush for an exit.  Move away from display shelves holding objects that could fall on you, and "drop, cover and hold."
  • If you are in a theater or stadium, stay in your seat, protect your head with your arms or get under the seat.  Do not leave until the shaking stops.

If you are outdoors:

  • If you are outdoors, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, or downed electrical wires and poles.

If you are in a downtown area:

  • If you are on a sidewalk near a tall building, get into a building's doorway or lobby to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass and other debris.

If you are driving:

  • If you are driving, slowly pull over to the side of the road and stop.  Avoid overpasses, power lines and other hazards.  Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops.

If you are in a wheelchair:

  • If you are in a wheelchair, stay in it.  Move to safe cover if possible, lock your wheels and protect your head with your arms.

After the earthquake

  • If you were evacuated, wait until you are told it is safe before returning home.
  • Be careful entering buildings. Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Use the phone only to report a life-threatening emergency.
  • Do not drive unnecessarily.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound - open a window and leave the building. Shut off the main gas valve outside.
  • Check on neighbors, particularly elderly or disabled persons.
  • Try to contact your out-of-area phone contact.
  • Listen to your radio.

When safe, continue to follow your disaster preparedness plan.

We're all in this together, so talk to your family friends, neighbors, and co-workers about what you've learned about earthquakes in Western Washington. Then discuss what everyone has done to prepare and plan together what else can be done.


Drop. Cover. Hold on.

The #SMUShakeOut is…

  • A campus-wide earthquake drill that occurs periodically at Saint Martin's.
  • An opportunity for the SMU community to learn more about earthquake preparedness and how we should react when the ground starts shaking. The best way to be prepared is to be more informed and practice what we learn through a live drill.

Our goal is to focus on four main areas as we approach the drills.


    We encourage you to take a look at your office, workspace or classroom and identify hazards such as unsecure bookshelves, file cabinets and heavy items that should be anchored to the wall or floor. In the event of an earthquake – know where you would seek shelter from falling debris, such as getting under a sturdy desk or table.


    When the ground starts shaking you MUST FIGHT the URGE to RUN! You are at greater risk of being hit, or even buried, by flying debris if you run outside.

    When an earthquake starts, immediately:

    DROP to the floor,
    take COVER under a sturdy desk or table and
    HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

    Furniture will shift with the shaking and holding on will help you to move with it and maintain cover over the top of you.


    Do not come out until the shaking stops. This can take a while due to aftershocks and smaller ground tremors that follow the main earthquake.


    Once all shaking has stopped – immediately exit the building through the closest, safest, exit and make contact with others in the area to let them know you are okay.