Earthquake drills – why not take part in the Great ShakeOut?

Published:  18 September, 2013

Annual event takes place October 17 - and millions will take part.

ShakeOut aligns with the US NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program) goals to improve understanding of earthquake processes and impacts, develop cost-effective measures to reduce these impacts, and improve the earthquake resilience of communities worldwide. In particular, ShakeOut has become an infrastructure for providing earthquake information to the public and involving them in community resiliency.


Beginning in 2007, Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) led more than 300 scientists, engineers, and others to create the “ShakeOut Scenario,” a comprehensive study of how a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault would directly affect southern California (and economically the entire US). This became the basis of a state-led exercise held in November 2008. To involve the general public in the exercise, the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA) organized a set of activities including the first ShakeOut drill on November 13, 2008.

The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the USGS, developed supercomputer simulations of this earthquake as the basis for loss estimation in the scenario, and to communicate the intensity of expected ground shaking throughout the region.

In addition, SCEC created with a registration system so participants could be counted. The involvement of millions of students and staff of K–12 schools and colleges inspired many other people and organizations to register, for a total of 5.4 million participants. The 2008 “Great Southern California ShakeOut” was planned as a one-time event to motivate millions of people to practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” and to get prepared at work, school, and home for the potential of a major earthquake.

ShakeOut today

Poster what do do in earthquake

With the involvement of many partner organizations, the ShakeOut program has expanded to include 42 states and US territories, plus four other countries. More than 19.5 million people participated in 2012.

Currently, 22 “Official ShakeOut Regions” spanning 42 states and territories, two Canadian provinces, New Zealand, Southern Italy, and a growing number of Japanese regions are holding ShakeOut drills. A “Global” ShakeOut website (where people from unaffiliated states or countries can also register) was launched in 2012 in both English and Spanish (as was the site for Puerto Rico). ShakeOut sites also now exist in French, Italian, and Japanese. Visit

Resources and practices

FEMA provides support to SCEC to manage each region’s ShakeOut website, create materials, and provide other assistance. However, the success of each ShakeOut event depends upon state or regional public and private partners working together to recruit participants. One reason for ShakeOut’s success has been its practice of localizing content for each region, so that organizers and participants take ownership of their

Each registered participant receives e-mail reminders as well as drill instructions, preparedness and mitigation information, and access to a variety of resources available on their region’s ShakeOut website. These include comprehensive drill manuals, an audio file to play during the drill, and downloadable posters, flyers, and artwork.

For more information, visit

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