The Puget Sound region is seismically active, with hundreds of earthquakes occurring every year. Most of these earthquakes are so small they can only be detected by sensitive instruments. However, damaging earthquakes have occurred in this region during the past 130 years. The danger and risks of earthquakes can be reduced if people know what actions to take before, during and after an earthquake.
What should I do?
Familiarize yourself with the location of first aid kits, fire alarms and extinguishers and how to use them.
During an earthquake: Drop, cover and hold
Inside a building:
Take cover immediately under a desk, table or chair, in a corner away from windows, along a wall in a hallway or in a structurally strong location such as a hall by a pillar.
Watch for falling objects such as light fixtures, bookcases, cabinets, shelves and other furniture that might slide or topple. Stay away from windows. Do not run outside.
Do not dash for exits since they may be damaged and the building's exterior brick, tile and decorations may be falling off.
Do not use the elevators.
Remain outside, preferably in a vehicle.
Stay clear of electrical wires, poles, trees or anything that might fall.
After a major earthquake:
Check for injuries to personnel in your area. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger. Render first aid assistance if required.
Check for fires or fire hazards, spills of flammable or combustible liquids or leaks of flammable gases. Do not significantly delay departure from the building or put yourself in danger to accomplish these tasks.
Turn off ignition and heat sources, if properly trained and it is safe to do so.
Shut off all gas sources, if trained to do so.
Exit the building, if possible, and go to the designated Emergency Assembly Point to report on injuries, damages and potentially hazardous conditions. Take emergency/first aid kit and personal belongings. Account for persons in your area of responsibility. Mass assembly areas may be used in the event of a major earthquake and the EOC is activated (Emergency Level 2 or 3).
Do not re-enter until the building has been declared safe by trained emergency personnel (Tacoma Fire Department or ATC-20 assessment teams).
Use the telephone system only for urgent matters. Call (or send a runner) to the Emergency Operations Center to notify them of any needed assistance and emergencies that may exist. Use handheld radios or Ham radio services if telephone services are not available.
Evacuation wardens who are also CERT team members must fulfill their evacuation warden duties before joining CERT team response.
After a minor earthquake:
Examine your area for damage. Evacuation wardens may use checklist in Appendix M to help assess if the building should be occupied, evacuated and/or re-entered. Look for:
Damaged building components such as ceilings, walls, beams, columns or doors
Evacuate the building if damage is found or the power is out. Report evacuation to Campus Safety or Tacoma Fire Department. Do not re-enter until the building has been declared safe by trained emergency personnel.
Certain buildings will be evacuated for ALL earthquakes because of the potential damage of asbestos-containing building materials. See the list of buildings in Appendix M.
Laboratories: Check for chemical spills. For small isolated spills, use spill cleanup procedures as outlined in Laboratory Standard Operating Procedures. If SOP or chemical spill cleanup kit is not available, then evacuate lab and notify authorities. For larger spills, evacuate building and notify authorities. See UW Laboratory Safety Manual for earthquake procedures specific to laboratories.