While Clackamas County is home to beautiful waterways, untouched forests, majestic mountains and area after area of rugged natural beauty, science tells us that our lands are in danger from a potential major earthquake. With the July 2015 publishing of a New Yorker article about the threat we collectively face – particularly from the Cascadia subduction zone – earthquake awareness and the demand for related useful information has never been greater.
The Clackamas County Department of Emergency Management has long known and offered information about this serious threat. We're preparing for this event. We want you to be prepared too. To that end, please find a list of resources and steps you can take to better safeguard your family and friends, property, livelihood and yourself.
In Preparation of an Earthquake
Obviously, it's difficult for anyone to be fully prepared for a major natural disaster. But there are lots of steps you can take to be as prepared as possible! Here are just some of the ways you can take care of yourself and loved ones ahead of time:
Sign up for the Public Alerts notification system: In a disaster, Clackamas County sends out vital information via a telephonic emergency system. The system is already programmed with our region's landline phone numbers …but you must sign up manually to receive alerts via your cell phone, voice over internet protocol (or VOIP), or via email! You never know where you are going to be when a disaster strikes, so make sure you have as many ways as possible to receive information. Registering takes less than three minutes. You can also sign up for other local alerts.
It's also a good idea to follow Clackamas County Disaster Management's official Facebook and Twitter feeds, as we will communicate updates and information via these channels in times of a disaster (along with our website).
- Kits! Kits! Kits!: One of the most important aspects of earthquake preparation is developing kits so that your family is taken care of. Putting a little bit of effort now into kit development can prevent very trying hardships later. Go Kits allow you, your family and pets to have what's needed in case you must evacuate. Stay Kits provide you and your family with the means to stay in your home for an extended period of time, as supplies might not be able to be delivered to your area for weeks. And Camping Kits give you and your family direction if you need the option of camping in your backyard or elsewhere. View a short checklist for each of these kits from PREP Oregon here. Kit preparation information is also available from Ready.gov (a project of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security).
- Know Your Area: There are many online tools now available to you which provide a quick analysis of how an earthquake will affect your immediate area. By plugging your address into Oregon Public Broadcasting's Aftershock website, you can see the predicted intensity in your area, the estimated recovery time for the community, and tips on how to prepare.
- Conduct an Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt: Do you have a big-screen television? Is it strapped down? What about large pictures or paintings? Bookcases and shelving? Water heaters? It is essential to safely secure heavy objects inside your house so that they don't fall on anyone. Check out what to look for according to FEMA.
- Shake Out! Every October, Clackamas County encourages all residents to participate in the worldwide Great ShakeOut! This large-scale drill is a great opportunity to practice what to do when the shaking starts. This year's event is set for Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m. our time. Get event details, tips, how to participate, and other information here.
- Know Your Gas/Water Shutoff Points: In a disaster, gas leaks and water breaks are possible. Know where you can shut these off in your house or apartment, if you sense a rupture.
What to Do (and What NOT to Do) During the Event Itself
Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety. You may not have even taken any actions. However, you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much larger quakes … sudden and intense back-and-forth motions that can cause the floor/ground to jerk sideways out from under you with every unsecured object around you toppling over.
So what do you do? The proper action to take during the actual shaking of the ground depends upon where you happen to be at the time of the incident. Here are some tips depending on location:
Indoors at Home: If you happen to be indoors when an earthquake strikes, the tried-and-true method of Drop, Cover & Hold On still works. First, drop to the ground (before the shaking drops you!). Then take cover by getting under a desk or table. Or if you aren't by either of those, cover yourself with your hands! And hold on to something sturdy, so you don't get flung around!
Why is this simple tip so important? Because falling objects cause the most earthquake-related injuries. Drop, cover and holding on can be invaluable to making sure that you get through an earthquake as injury-free as possible. Find out more at DropCoverHoldOn.org.
Note: If you are in the kitchen, it is best to try and move away from large appliances like the refrigerator or stove, and from overhead cupboards. Then drop, cover and hold on.
- In Bed: If you are woken up to the earthquake, stay in bed until the shaking stops and protect your head with a pillow. You place yourself in a much better position to avoid injury by doing so.
- Stores: If you're in a store, if possible move immediately away from shelves and displays that may fall over or hold objects that could fall. Then drop, cover and hold on.
- Theater/Stadium: If you're in a place with long rows, if possible get on the floor between the rows and cover your head with your arms. If not, stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking stops.
- Wheelchair: If you are in a wheelchair, stay in it. Move to cover if possible. Lock your wheels and protect your head with your arms.
- Driving: If you are driving, carefully and slowly bring your vehicle to a stop at the side of the road away from traffic. Do not stop on or under bridges or power lines, or near roadway signs that might fall. Once the shaking has stopped, you can continue driving, but watch carefully for possible damage to the roadway.
- Outdoors: If outdoors when the ground begins to shake, move quickly and safely into the open, away from electrical lines, trees, and buildings. Drop to the ground and wait for the shaking to stop.
What NOT to do: An earthquake is a disconcerting thing. Many individuals understandably react without thinking and take the wrong actions. Here's a quick list of actions to avoid:
- Do NOT Run Outside: The exterior walls of a building are the most dangerous place to be, due to falling windows, facades or other structural debris. Stay inside if inside, or outside away from buildings if outside.
- Do NOT Go to Other Rooms: The shaking can be very violent, causing you to fall down and injure yourself if you try to walk/run. Drop immediately.
- Do NOT Stand in a Doorway: It is a common misconception that standing in a doorway is the safest place to be in a house. This is only true if you live in an older, unreinforced adobe or older wood frame house. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than other parts of the house. It's difficult to brace yourself under a doorway, so your best option is still under a table instead.
- Do NOT Get Into the ‘Triangle of Life’: In recent years, a popular circulated email provided an alternative to the Drop, Cover & Hold On system. This email is based on several incorrect assumptions and the County strongly advises you to ignore it.
For more information on the do's and don'ts of an earthquake, find out more about the 2015 ShakeOut.
Steps to Take After an Earthquake
Once an earthquake has hit and you have checked the status of your loved ones, check your surroundings and take any necessary precautions (like shutting off the gas if you smell it).
The County will assess the situation and work with other regional entities to send out alerts through CCENS (see above), the County website, Disaster Management Facebook page and Twitter feed, and other means.
There are many various tasks you'll need to perform to keep safe, provide basic first aid, evaluate food and stay sanitary, just to name a few. A solid, step-by-step guide on how to recover after a disaster (courtesy of Texas A&M) is available here.
Depending on the severity of the disaster and its damage, you may be advised to shelter-in-place. This precaution aims to keep you safe while staying indoors. Sheltering-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. For a full fact sheet and instructions, see tips from the American Red Cross.
Other steps to take after an earthquake include:
- Report Damages to an Individual
- Report Damages to a Business
- Find out about the types of Disaster Assistance that may be available
Earthquake Monitoring & Other Resources
- An earthquake map of our region updated every 15 minutes (via Oregonian and U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS)
- USGS' nationwide earthquake hazard maps, and information on all historical and recent earthquakes.
- The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network monitors all earthquake activity in Washington and Oregon.
- State of Oregon Resilience Plan
- County Comprehensive Community Emergency Management Strategy
- County Code 6.03, specifying emergency regulations
- Clackamas County Emergency Operations Plan
- Clackamas County Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
- Clackamas County Wildlife Protection Plan
- Mt. Hood Coordination Plan
- How to Prepare for an Earthquake by ReallyReady America, a project of the Federation of American Scientists.