The latest research suggests that the Pacific Northwest may get slammed by a giant, coastal earthquake of magnitude 8 to 9 every 250 years on average — and it's been 313 years since the last one. Earthquakes may be unpredictable — but they are also inevitable. Here are some tips to help you get ready...

Create a family emergency plan

Hold a home evacuation drill.
Choose a nearby meeting place.
Have a plan for reuniting.
Anticipate transportation failures.
Designate an out-of-state relative to be a check-in contact for everyone.
Mobile apps, like the Red Cross’ earthquake app, can allow family members to communicate.
Keep photos of family members and pets in your wallet, in case they turn up missing.
Text messages often go through when phone service is down.

Navigate ahead

Know routes to the nearest:

Police and fire stations

Hospital emergency room

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Find out your school district’s disaster policy regarding transportation and the release of students.

Before the quake, familiarize yourself with the safe areas in your house, office and other buildings you frequent.

Work together

Join with your neighbors and plan to help each other. Identify residents’ expertise and vulnerable households that might need extra help.
Take a first-aid course. Learn CPR.
The city of Seattle’s SNAP Program can help neighborhoods prepare.

Know your utilities

All family members should know how and when to turn off the utilities: gas, electric and water.


Turn the gas off only if you hear hissing or smell gas. Once turned off, gas can only be restarted by a trained technician. Attach a wrench to your gas meter so it will be handy. To shut off gas, turn the valve until it is perpendicular to the pipe.


If you see sparks, damaged wires or smell burning insulation, switch the power off at the main breaker or fuse box. During a prolonged outage, leave a single light circuit switched on. That way you’ll know when the power is back.


Turn the water off if there is obvious leakage, or if there’s a chance water lines are damaged, which could allow contamination. Wait for notification that lines are OK before turning it back on.

For more information

Earthquake Country Alliance


“Peace of Mind in Earthquake Country” by Peter Yanev and Andrew C.T. Thompson

Prepare your home

Create an emergency kit

If you do nothing else, be prepared to spend 7-10 days without utilities, medical help or communications. Keep a family emergency kit and store it near a door for easy access. Make sure everyone knows its location.


  • Water
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Nonperishable food
  • Can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Cash (in small bills)
  • Survival handbook
  • Pocket knife
  • Portable radio

Plan on one gallon of water per person, per day. Water-purification tablets or a back-country filtering device can be helpful in case water supplies are contaminated.


Related video: Earthquake warning system

John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, explains how an early warning system could alert people before an earthquake hits. Read more. (Steve Ringman & Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)    

Rope, plastic sheeting and duct tape can be used for covering broken windows and other temporary repairs.


  • Crowbar
  • Axe
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver


  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Plastic dinnerware
  • Trash bags
  • Aluminum foil


  • Goggles
  • N95 dust mask
  • Work gloves
  • Heavy shoes
  • Personal


  • Routine medications
  • Pet food and supplies


  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camping stove

After it hits

  • Check for hazards such as fire, leaks, chemical spills and precarious structures.
  • Be cautious in damaged buildings, and assess the conditions outside before exiting a building.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Provide first aid and a safe place for anyone who is injured.
  • Call 911 or other emergency phone numbers only to report life-threatening emergencies. Phone lines will be jammed, and increased calls can hamper rescue efforts.
  • Avoid moving severely injured people unless necessary.
  • Stockpile water. Your community’s supply may be limited due to broken mains. Fill your bathtub. Be prepared to treat, filter or boil contaminated water.
  • Eat refrigerated food first, frozen food next and dried or canned food last.
  • If the electricity is out, open the refrigerator and freezer doors only when necessary. Refrigerated food should be OK for about 6 hours; frozen food should be safe for up to 48 hours.

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