Earthquake

Earthquakes are one of the most threatening hazards Renton faces. They cannot be predicted and can happen at any time, so it is very important to be prepared for them.

For more information about how earthquakes happen, visit the United States Geological Survey Earthquake page.

Before an Earthquake

Get ready for an earthquake before the shaking starts.

  • Conduct a home hazard hunt. Go through each room and ask ‘what could fall over in an earthquake? What could be tossed by shaking? What else could cause damage?’ There may be simple steps you can take to reduce risk. Conduct a home hazard hunt to get ready for earthquakes.A diagram showing earthquake hazards to check in a home
  • Secure items that could fall and cause injury during an earthquake (e.g., bookshelves, televisions, refrigerators, wall decorations, and light fixtures).
  • Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On.
  • Assemble an emergency kit.
  • Develop a household emergency plan.

During an Earthquake

Drop, Cover, Hold On

The most common cause of injury during an earthquake is unsecured objects hitting people. The second most common cause is people trying to run during shaking. That’s why the best way to keep yourself safe during an earthquake is to Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

Drop, Cover, Hold On diagram

Immediately Drop to the ground wherever you are. Cover your head and neck with your arms and move under a sturdy table or desk if possible. Hold On until shaking stops.

Try to avoid exterior walls, windows, doorways, or anything that could fall and injure you. Do not try to run.

Alternatives to Drop, Cover, Hold On

In Bed: Stay where you are, and cover your head with your arms and pillow. You are less likely to be injured if you stay where you are than if you try to move during an earthquake.

In a wheelchair or with other mobility aids: If possible, move away from exterior walls, windows, doorways, or anything that could fall and injure you. Lock wheelchair or walker wheels, and cover your head and neck with your arms.
Diagram showing alternatives to Drop, Cover, Hold On for people with mobility aids

Driving: Stay in your vehicle. If it is safe to do so, pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the emergency brake. Try to avoid overpasses, bridges, telephone wires and poles, or anything that could fall on your car and cause injury.

If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay put and call 9-1-1. Wait for a trained responder to remove the power lines from your vehicle.

Outside: Drop, Cover, and Hold On as best as you can. Try to avoid anything that could fall on you and cause injury.

In a theater or stadium: Drop, Cover, and Hold On in between the rows of seats. If you cannot drop between the rows, stay in your seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.

After an Earthquake

  • When shaking stops, move to a safe area if possible.
  • If you are trapped, try not to move or kick up dust.
    • If you have an emergency whistle, use that to sound for help. Tapping a pen or keychain against a metal object like a pipe can help rescuers find you. Yelling for help may tire you out quickly.
    • If you have access to a cell phone, call or text for help.
  • Once you are safe, monitor local news reports for further emergency instructions. You can find emergency information for Renton on the current emergency information page.
  • Only turn off gas if you suspect a gas leak. A rotten egg smell, whistling sound, or meter spinning can all be indicators of a natural gas leak in your home. Diagram illustrating possible signs of a gas leakOnce you turn off gas utilities, a professional must turn them back on for you. You can also learn more by contacting your service provider. If you suspect a gas leak, leave the area immediately and call 9-1-1. Learn more about utility safety.
  • In the event of an aftershock, Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

Earthquake Safety Myths

Doorways

Many people think that doorways are a safe place to be during an earthquake, but this widespread myth is not true.

For modern homes, the doorway is no more structurally sound than the rest of the building, and can actually be more dangerous if the door begins to swing during an earthquake. Doorways also do not protect you from objects or furniture falling and hitting you. Instead, Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

Triangle of Life

The triangle of life is a misguided theory of earthquake safety, commonly spread through chain emails and social media posts. This theory states that you can find safe places to be during an earthquake next to, not under, sturdy pieces of furniture.

This theory is based on observations from collapsed buildings in developing countries, but these observations do not apply to buildings in the United States or other developed countries.

Drop, Cover, Hold On is the best way to keep yourself safe during an earthquake. Read the American Red Cross response to the Triangle of Life theory.

Hazards Caused by Earthquakes

Liquefaction

Liquefaction happens when the shaking movement of an earthquake causes soil to lose its strength and act more like a liquid instead of a solid. This can cause damage to roadways and property. This map shows liquefaction potential for King County.

Landslide

Shaking from an earthquake can trigger landslides. Learn more about landslide preparedness.

Tsunami

Tsunamis are large series of waves in bodies of water that are caused by an underwater disturbance or movement, and can be caused by strong earthquakes.

Although Renton is not at risk of a tsunami, many Renton residents visit places that are. If you feel an earthquake while you are on or near a beach, run to high ground as quickly as you can. Make note of tsunami evacuation routes when you are visiting the coast. Learn more about tsunami preparedness.

Seiche

A seiche is a standing wave in an enclosed body of water, caused by earthquake shaking. It is different from a tsunami in that the waves are caused by the shaking motion, not underwater disturbances, and they only happen in enclosed or partially enclosed bodies of water.

A seiche could occur in Lake Washington and other local bodies of water during an earthquake and potentially cause damage.

Flooding

Earthquakes have the potential to cause floods if they cause landslides or damage dams or levees. Learn more about flood preparedness.

Fire

A diagram showing how to turn off gasEarthquakes can damage electrical and gas infrastructure, which can cause fires. If you suspect a gas leak after an earthquake, turn off the gas at the main valve if it is safe to do so and leave the area immediately. Learn more about fire preparedness.

Coal Mine Collapse

Renton has a number of old coal mines that could pose a threat of collapse in an earthquake. See a map of coal mine collapse hazards here.

Resources

Earthquake preparedness information from ready.gov
General earthquake preparedness and safety information.

WA Department of Natural Resources Earthquake Information
To learn more about the geology of the Pacific Northwest and our local earthquake risk.

Seismic Scenarios Catalog
Predicted earthquake impacts for Washington state.

Drop, Cover, Hold On
ShakeOut is an international earthquake drill with information on how to keep yourself safe during an earthquake.

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network
View recent earthquakes and learn more about local earthquake hazards and geology. You can also visit their Facebook page to learn directly from local seismologists and other experts.

Did You Feel It?
Did you feel an earthquake? Help the United States Geological Survey crowd source earthquake information.

Join the City of Renton for the Great ShakeOut, the world's largest earthquake drill!

Every year on the third Thursday in October millions of people around the world practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On to get ready for earthquakes, including City employees. Register for the drill today!

ShakeOut


Preparedness information adapted from ready.gov/earthquakes.
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