Emergency Preparedness
   

Washington State is one of the most beautiful places in the country. This beauty is due in large part to active geologic processes. The down-side is that these active geologic processes can sometimes be hazardous to our lives, buildings, and other infrastructure.

Make a plan and prepare

This section contains general information on how to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters. Also check out the preparedness page on the Washington Emergency Management website.


Families, individuals,
and pets

Homes and
businesses

Teachers and
kids

Planners

Families, individuals, and pets

  • Communication plans
  • Alerts
  • Disaster kits
  • Pets
  • Practice
  • Post-disaster information
  • What if something happens and you're not with your family? Will you be able to reach them? How will you know if they are safe? How can you tell them you are safe?

    Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes. It is important to make a communication plan before a disaster happens.

    Communication networks, such as mobile phones and computers, may not work well or at all during a disaster. When you plan in advance you help ensure that all members of your family know how to reach eachother in an emergency. By planning several different meeting places, you also ensure that everyone will know where to meet if it is unsafe to return home.

    Collect important information

    Household. Write down contact information for everyone in your household, including phone numbers, email, twitter, facebook, etc. Don't rely on your mobile phone or computer to keep this information because batteries may run out and there may not be electricity—keep a written copy.

    School, childcare, caregiver, and workplace. Know the response plans for places that you and your household members may be. Ensure that these places have your emergency information. If a place you spend a lot of time doesn't have an emergency response plan, advocate for change and help educate them about how important a response plan is.

    Out-of-town. Identify someone outside of your community or state who can be a central contact for your household. It is often easier to text or phone someone who is unaffected by the disaster than to call across town. This out-of-town contact can relay information and messages about who is safe, who needs help, and where people are. Make sure that the out-of-town contact knows what to do during an emergency.

    Other Emergency Numbers. Collect and write down phone numbers and other contact information for emergency services (such as fire, medical, and police), medical providers, veterinarians, insurance companies, and utilities.

    Share the information

    Each person should have a copy of all contact information in their wallet, purse, or backpack. Program these numbers into your phone.

    Make an In Case of Emergency contact in your phone so that others can identify whom they should call if you have been injured or are unable to call.

    Create a group list on all mobile phones and devices of the people you would need to communicate with in an emergency.

    Ensure everyone knows how to text or know alternative ways to communicate. During an emergency it may be easier to send a text than make a phone call.

    Know what information is important to send. Your status and location are the two most important pieces of information. "im ok. at library" is a good example of sending the shortest possible text. Long phone calls and texts can jam the system.

    Know how to get alerts and what disasters you may face. To learn more about what to do in an earthquake, tsunami, during volcanic activity, or during landslides click on the specific geologic events at the bottom of this page. To learn about and sign up for alerts, click on the Alerts tab near the top of the page.

    Plan your meeting places

    In your neighborhood. Choose a place to meet if there is a fire or other local emergency that causes you to leave your home. This could be a big tree, a mailbox, or a nearby house.

    Outside your neighborhood. Choose a place to meet if a disaster keeps you from returning to your neighborhood. This could be a library, community center, friend's home, etc. Ensure that your meeting place will not be affected by the same disaster! For example, meet on high ground or far inland if there is a tsunami; meet away from steep slopes that could have landslides or buildings and bridges that could topple if there is an earthquake.

    Outside your town or city. Choose a place to meet if you cannot get to your out-of-neighborhood place or your family is not together and you are instructed to evacuate. Ensure that your meeting place will not be affected by the same disaster! Ensure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and how to get there. Remember that roads, highways, bridges, railways, and mass-transit may be disrupted during a disaster.

  • Knowing when a geologic disaster is about to happen can improve your chances of survival.

    Some disasters—such as earthquakes—happen almost instantly and cannot be predicted. Other disasters—such as tsunamis and lahars—often take time to reach populated areas. Knowing where to find warnings, watches, and evacuation notices is just as important as knowing how to evacuate.

    This page provides information on what warnings are available for different types of disasters or for specific locations. It also provides links for you to sign up for text or email messages that can help you stay informed.

    If you aren't satisfied with the warning systems in place, advocate for improvements. Often times the organizations that work to develop these systems need public input to justify new infrastructure or improvements. Email your local government, county emergency managers, the Washington Emergency Management Division, and (or) your legislative representative.

    General alert systems

    Local news, radio, internet, social media often have trending emergency information and alerts. This may be the first clue that an emergency is happening in your area. If you suspect that there is an emergency, go to the source of the information (such as the National Tsunami Warning Center)—don't rely soley on social media.

    County-level Emergency Managers often have some type of emergency notification system for residents. Check out your county, city, or tribal website to see what they offer. Try an internet search for "your county/city/tribe AND emergency management".

    Washington County Public Alerts is a voluntary emergency notification to your cell phone (voice or text), email, or VoIP phone. You must sign up for this service. For more information or to sign up, check out the Washington Consolidated Communications Agency website.

    NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast emergency alerts and continuous weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office. This is an excellent source of information for those who have little access to internet or other media services. Learn more here.

    AHAB sirens (All Hazard Alert Broadcast) are loud sirens designed to notify people who are outdoors that they need to evacuate. The sirens are located in some coastal areas and along some rivers near Mount Rainier. The coastal sirens are designed to alert residents and visitors of an approaching tsunami. The inland sirens are designed to alert residents and visitors of an approaching lahar (fast-moving volcanic mudflow).
    If you hear these sirens, evacuate immediately! There are not sirens everywhere there are risks. The sirens may be difficult to hear indoors or during inclement weather. Do not rely soley on the sirens to know when to evacuate.

    Tsunamis

    Tsunami Alert Levels

    Warning: Take action!
    Danger!

    A large and damaging tsunami is expected or is occurring. Evacuate to high ground or move inland. Dangerous flooding and powerful currents are possible and may continue for hours to days.

    Advisory: Take action.
    A tsunami with the potential for strong currents or dangerous waves is expected or occurring. Stay out of the water and away from beaches. There may be flooding of beach or harbor areas.

    Watch: Stay tuned.
    A distant earthquake has occurred and a tsunami is possible. Stay tuned for more information. Be prepared to take action if necessary.

    Information Statement: Be aware.
    An earthquake has occurred or a tsunami warning, advisory, or watch has been issued for another part of the ocean, or the threat from a distant earthquake has not yet been determined.

    A strong earthquake is your biggest warning of a tsunami. Evacuate immediately to higher ground or farther inland if you are near the ocean or a large body of water. Learn about other natural warning signs of an earthquake.

    The National Tsunami Warning Center provides information on both local tsunamis (near Washington) and distant (throughout the Pacific Ocean) tsunamis. Their webpage displays this information and you can sign up to receive text (SMS), email, or RSS alerts.

    Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent by NOAA to WEA-capable mobile devices in the event of a Tsunami Warning, but not for advisories, watches, or information statements. The message will read: Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland. Listen to local news. -NWS.

    The system will notify an entire county—even the inland portions that are not at risk. Future upgrades will enable a more selective notification. Wireless Emergency Alerts are a part of the FEMA Integrated Public Warning System. You cannot subscribe to the messages and they do not interfere with normal phone operations. The WEA system is designed to operate even when other forms of communication are disrupted. More information can be found here.

    Earthquakes

    The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network has an interactive map that tracks all of the earthquakes that happen in Washington and Oregon. Their website is also a wealth of information about earthquakes, hazards, and preparedness.

    The USGS Earthquake Notification Service sends email and (or) text messages (SMS) about earthquakes in an area of interest. You can set the area, size of earthquake, and many other parameters once you sign up.

    ShakeAlert is an earthquake warning system that may be able to provide several seconds of warning before an earthquake strikes. Although we cannot predict when an earthquake will happen, once it occurs it takes a small amount of time for the seismic waves to move outward towards cities. A network of sensors can detect these waves and send warning ahead of the ground shaking.

    The few seconds of warning this system can provide will be critical to slow and stop trains, shut down and isolate industrial systems, perform automatic system backups, stop cars from entering bridges and tunnels, or prevent doctors from starting surgeries.

    Learn more about ShakeAlert on their website. The system is currently in development and has been sending messages to test users since 2012. Once ShakeAlert is fully functional it will be released for public use.

    Volcanic activity and lahars

    The USGS Volcano Status Map shows an interactive map with the current status of all volcanoes throughout the country. You can zoom to just the Washington–Oregon area and check out the status of our volcanoes. You can also sign up for the Volcano Notification Service which sends activity reports and emergency alerts for volcanoes or regions of interest.

    Landslides

    Landslides are complex, often moving in numerous ways, from small shallow lumps and rock topples to deep-seated and long-lived landslides. Learn more about landslides and how they happen on our landslide webpage

    Warning signs and triggers. Landslides are often triggered by other events, such as heavy rainfall or earthquakes. A list of warning signs and triggers can be found here.

    Shallow Landslide Hazard Forecast Map. In cooperation with NOAA, we have developed a model based on recent and predicted rainfall data that may forecast hazards and may reduce losses from landslides. The forecast map is updated daily.

    Road closures. Washington State Department of Transportation has an interactive map that shows hazards and closures.

    Report a landslide. Report landslides to your county emergency management or the Washington Emergency Management Division.

  • You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, supplies, and medical training to last until services are restored. No one can predict how long this may be. Smaller disasters may disrupt services for a few days. Larger disasters, such as a large subduction zone earthquake and tsunami off the Washington Coast, may disrupt services for weeks.

    How long you decide to prepare for is your decision. The Washington Emergency Management Division and FEMA suggest preparing for at least 7 days. The Red Cross suggests preparing for at least 2 weeks.

    A disaster kit is simply a collection of basic items you and your family may need. It is important to assemble this kit well before an emergency. Most emergencies that we face in Washington will happen suddenly and there will not be time to gather or buy what you need.

    You may have to find your kit in the dark, without electricity, and after a large earthquake.

    Ensure that your kit is easy to access, portable, and relatively safe from the disasters you may face. For example, you might consider putting your supplies in one or more sturdy boxes or tubs with lids. Store your kit in an easy to access place that will remain clear of debris during an earthquake. If you store it on a shelf, ensure it is near the bottom and will not topple. Your carefully prepared food and water supply will do you no good if it is stuck in a collapsed basement or tucked in an attic of an unsafe building.

    A disaster may happen while you are away from home. Ensure you have the basics wherever you are by keeping some supplies in your vehicle, at work, or at school. Check that day-care providers or schools have adequate emergency supplies. If they do not, help educate them about the importance of being prepared.

    No matter what, you will likely have to be resourceful. Any preparation you can do now will directly help you during such a difficult time. Consider pooling resources with those around you, such as neighbors or community members. The most successful communities will be those that work together.

    Home disaster kits

    Water. Keep a supply of water for each person in your household. One person uses a minimum of 1 gallon per day. If you have a family of 4, this means you should have at least 28 gallons of water for 1 week.

    Food. Store non-perishable food for each member of your household. Select foods that require no refrigeration or cooking, and little or no water. Consider canned foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, non-condensed soups, and juices. High energy foods such as peanut butter, granola bars, trail mix, and jerky are also good options. Cookies, crackers, and hard candies also store well.

    Important documents. Make sure you have a copy of important information in your kit. This should include contact information, medical information and prescription lists, a photo of all members of your family, copies of insurance policies, family records, inventories of valuables, and other information that would be difficult to find during a disaster. Consider keeping copes of your passport or other photo identification and birth certificates as well.

    Medications and medical supplies. Ensure that members of your household who need prescription drugs or medical supplies have at least a 7-day supply at all times. If members of your household require life-sustaining medication, ensure that you have an adequate supply.

    First aid. During a disaster there will be many injuries. Emergency medical responders will have a difficult time reaching everyone who needs help. It is important to have basic medical supplies and some knowledge of how to use them. The related links above have lists of what you should include in a basic first aid kit. Consider taking a class in first aid, wilderness first aid, or wilderness first responder so that you will know what to do and how to help others during a disaster.

    Tools and other supplies. There is a 50% chance a disaster will happen during the night. Be prepared with flashlights in several locations throughout the house and extra batteries in your kit. Have a wrench to turn off your utilities, a can opener for your food supplies, a fire extinguisher, and a battery-operated radio. Duct tape and plastic sheeting are good to have for fixing things and sealing broken windows.

    Health and sanitation. Liquid soap, bleach, toilet paper and moist towelettes, feminine supplies, and diapers are all necessary items to stay healthy and clean during a disaster. Contact solution, extra eyeglasses, and denture adhesive might also be included.

    Warm clothing and supplies. A large disaster may knock out power and gas lines for days or weeks. It might be difficult to heat buildings. Keep a complete change of warm clothes for each person in addition to blankets or sleeping bags. Sturdy shoes, warm socks, a hat and gloves, and a rainjacket or umbrella are also worth including.

    Additional water will be necessary for a large disaster. If keeping 2–3 week-supply of water for 4 people seems challenging (it's at least 80 gallons), then focus on a solution for purifying water. There are many affordable water filters. There are also other ways to treat water, such as boiling, bleach, iodine, and tablets—research these options well before a disaster happens. Also remember that your hot water heater usually contains 20–50 gallons of clean water and is another good reason you should strap it to something sturdy.

  • Pets and animals depend on us for food, water, and care. Disasters are difficult times for pets because they can usually sense that something is wrong and may try to flee. Many emergencies that we face in Washington can happen very quickly. Prepare well before a disaster happens so that you can continue to care for these important family members.

     

     

     

    Before a disaster

    ID your pet. Make sure that cats and dogs are wearing collars and have up-to-date identification tags. If your pet becomes lost, others will need to be able to contact you. Consider putting your mobile phone number and the number of a friend or relative outside of your area in case you cannot be reached. You might also consider an identification microchip for your pet.

    Find a safe place to go. Pets may not be allowed in public emergency shelters for health and safety reasons. Before a disaster happens, contact your local, county, or tribal emergency management office to see what services will be available for your pet. Keep a list of hotels/motels in your area that accept pets. You might consider taking your pet to the home of a friend or relative who lives outside the area. Pet boarding facilities, veterinarians, local animal shelters, and pet-friendly motels may also be good options.

    Make a pet emergency kit. An emergency kit for your pet is similar to the one you have for yourself. Ensure you have pet food (and a can opener), additional water, medications, veterinary records, extra leash, pet carrier, and food and water dishes. Veterinary records and documents are especially important because many shelters and boarding facilities may not accept your pet without them.

    Prepare in case you're not home. A disaster may occur while you are away from home. Make plans with someone you trust and who is familiar with your pets. This person can evacuate your pets if needed or, if that is not possible, set them up with supplies in your house.

    Find a safe location in your house where you could leave your pet in an emergency. Good options include rooms that are easy to clean and free of hazards, such as windows, tall bookcases, and pictures.

    During a disaster

    If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your animals. As long as it doesn't further endanger you, plan to evacuate with your animals.

    You have no way of knowing how long you will be kept out of an area, and you may not be allowed to go back for your pets. Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed.

    Evacuate with your pet. Make sure you bring your pet emergency kit with food, water, medication, and records.

    If you must leave your pet. leave them inside with at least a 3-day supply of dry food and water in sturdy containers. If possible, open a faucet slightly and let the water drip into a big container. Make sure your animals have identification tags in case they escape.

    Bring your pets inside if the disaster is weather related. Bringing animals inside early can often keep them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.

    Separate your animals. Disaster can stress animals. Even pets which normally get along, or pets that are usually very calm, can become agitated.

    After a disaster

    Disaster, evacuation, and damage to your home are stressful for both people and pets. Ensure that you continuing providing care for all members of your household during these difficult times.

    Keep pets close. If you have to evacuate, your pet may be anxious and try to flee. Keep them close and secured at all times.

    Keep your pets leashed when you return home. Familiar landmarks and smells may be gone and your pet will probably be disoriented. Like you, your pet may have a hard time adjusting to the damage. Also, damage to your house may make it easy for your pet to escape.

    Be patient with your pet. Try to get them back to a normal routine as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the disaster. If the problems persist or your pet develops health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

    Check for wild animals. Disaster can disorient wild animals too. Check your home and property for wild animals that may have taken refuge nearby.

  • Practicing your emergency plan will make it easier to remember during an actual emergency. It also gives you a chance to figure out if a meeting place doesn't work, or some information is incorrect.

    You can also use the annual practice to update your contact information, meeting places, and check your emergency supplies. You can also use this time to add to your emergency kit if it is missing something.

    It might be helpful to practice your plan or check your supplies at least once a year. The Great Washington ShakeOut happens every 3rd Thursday of October and is a chance to practice drop, cover, and hold on for an earthquake. Also consider practicing on March 11, the anniversary of the Great 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

    Practice for an emergency

    Practice texting and calling. Each person should practice texting or calling the other household members. Ensure that you also call or text your out-of-town contact and try sending a group text to your family members.

    Know what information to send. Practice sending short texts with your status and location to your family members. "Im ok. at library" or "need help. friend has broken leg. room D3 at school".

    Check your emergency supplies. Check if you have all of the recommended items in your kit. If you are missing something, take this time to add it. Also check and replace items that may have expired, such as food, water, or medical supplies.

    Learn how to shut off your gas and water supplies. Broken gas lines are the largest source of fires after earthquakes. A broken water line will drain your house of its usable water when you need it most.

    Practice gathering in your meeting places. Have everyone meet at the different locations. Try to do this at different times of the day or night, and during different times of the year. Talk about the difficulties you might encounter getting to these locations from work, school, or home.

    Review, talk about, and update your plans. Regularly talk about your plans, practice them, and update information if something changes.

    Ensure everyone knows how and when to call 911. You should only call 911 when there is a life-threatening emergency. During a disaster the response times will probably be much longer than normal.

  • After a disaster our communication systems may be disrupted. Electricity and telephone lines may be down. Cell phones and the internet may be unavailable. Depending on the disaster these services could be unavailable for a significant amount of time.

    Know where you can find information about warnings, evacuations, and how to communicate with family members. It is also important to know how to send and receive information without blocking communication lines for emergencies.

    Emergency communications

    Disasters can be scary and difficult times. Although everything that happens might seem like an emergency, only those situations that require immediate attention or help should be called emergencies. Such emergencies might include life-threatening medical problems, fires, gas leaks, or someone trapped in a building. Emergency responders may have a difficult time getting to the scene, so only call them if necessary.

    911. Call 911 when there is an immediate and life-threatening emergency. If you cannot call, text your exact location and the type of help needed to "911". This service is currently (10/2015) only available in Kitsap, Snohomish, and Spokane counties, but all counties are working on adding this service. Check here for more information.

    Local hospitals. Some hospitals may be damaged during a large earthquake or tsunami. Talk with your local hospital to know what their emergency plans are. In some cases, the fastest way to receive medical attention may be to get to the hospital yourself.

    Local fire or police. Try calling your local fire department or police station if you need their help. During large emergencies, police and fire will start doing assessments of their patrol areas. Depending on the amount of damage, you may be passed over if critical infrastructure is in danger elsewhere. Know where the closest fire and police stations are, know their phone numbers, and know what their emergency plans are.

    Family communications

    Make sure that you have set up a family communication plan well before a disaster happens. Having a plan will help everyone know exactly what to do.

    Avoid long conversations if the phone lines are working. You will want to connect with loved ones, but try to keep it short so that emergency communications can still get through.

    Use texts (SMS) instead of calling. Texts are more likely to get through a damaged network and can queue up and send later if service is patchy.

    Go to your meeting spot if you cannot reach your family. Seeing them in person might be the only way to connect.

    Use your out-of-town contact. It may be easier to call an out-of-town friend or relative than someone closer to the disaster. Make sure everyone knows ahead of time who this person is, and use them as an information relay.

    Alerts, warnings, and news

    With any luck, all of the places that warned of the disaster will still be able to deliver information after the disaster. Check out our page on alerts and warnings for more information.

    Radios. If communication lines are down, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio might be the only way to get information. A NOAA Weather Radio can also listen for emergency alerts that might not be available on FM or AM stations.

    Ham Radio Operators may be able to connect remote communities with the rest of the region. Find out who in your community has Ham Radios.

    Satellite phones don't rely on ground-based networks for communication and might offer a way to contact areas outside of the disaster. Not many people have satellite phones, but some schools and emergency operation centers do. Find out who in your community has a satellite phone and know how to use one.

 


Homes and businesses

Check back soon for information and resources for home and business owners. Know of some neat things we should include? Send us an email.

 


Teachers and kids

Check back soon for information and resources for teachers and kids. Know of some neat things we should include? Send us an email.

 


Planners

 

Washington Geologic Hazard Planning Map

 

In cooperation with the Washington Emergency Management Division, the Washington Geologic Hazard Planning Map was created in order to provide emergency managers, land-use planners, and other decision makers with the ability to identify known geologic hazards in their regions, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic hazards. Note that it is generalized, small-scale view, and is not meant to show site-specific information. For more detailed hazard data, please refer to the references shown on the map.

 

Geologic Risk

 

Landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis pose serious threats to Washington's economy. Whether they happen next year or in 50 years, losses are likely to be devastating, and understanding our risks helps increase our resiliency.

 


Specific geologic events

This section contains information about what to do before, during, and after specific geologic events. It also contains information on how to learn about your risks, specific things to prepare for, and ways to mitigate damage.


Earthquakes

Tsunamis

Volcanic activity

Landslides

Earthquakes

  • Before an earthquake
  • During an earthquake
  • After an earthquake
  • Educate
    • Learn about your risks. Earthquakes occur nearly every day in Washington, but most are too small to be felt. Large earthquakes are less common, but Washington has the second highest risk of large earthquakes in the country. Check out the Active faults and future earthquakes page for more information.
    • Learn what to expect. Large earthquakes can cause significant damage to the things we count on everyday, such as buildings, roads, hospitals, and schools. The damage can also cause electricity, water, natural gas, and phones to not work. Learn more on our How earthquakes cause damage page.
    • Learn what other hazards you might face. Earthquakes can trigger landslides and tsunamis. Both of these can cause equal or greater damage than the actual earthquake. Check out our page on geologic hazards to learn more.
    Prepare
    • Prepare to be on your own for at least three days. For a "great" earthquake (M8.0 or larger) it might be prudent and reasonable to prepare for being on your own for up to 3 weeks.
    • Learn how to shut off your gas and water supplies. Broken gas lines are the largest source of fires after earthquakes. A broken water line will drain your house of its usable water when you need it most.
    • Make an emergency response plan for you and your family. Check out the section for Families, individuals, and pets to learn more.
    • Participate in the yearly Great ShakeOut earthquake drills. These drills occur on the 3rd Thursday of every October. They are a great way to practice what to do when an earthquake happens.
    • Consider whether earthquake insurance is right for you. The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner has a webpage that describes different types of hazard insurance, including earthquakes.
    Mitigate
    • Identify and secure items in your home or work that could cause damage. This might include a water heater, tall items like book cases, or heavy pictures and mirrors. Toppling water heaters can wreak havoc in a house. They can break water lines and drain your house of usable water at a time when water will be difficult to find. They can also break gas and (or) electric lines and start fires at a time when the fire department may find it difficult to help out.
    • Is your home secured to its foundation? In an earthquake, the ground (and the foundation) can move considerably. If your house is not attached it might be moved completely off the foundation, or cause other significant damage. Consider consulting a professional.
    • Is your home (and its foundation) built to withstand the amount and type of ground-shaking that is expected in your area? Building codes have changed over the years, so you should check with your city or county about what was required during construction. Consider consulting a professional.
    • If you are concerned about the ability of public and private infrastructure to withstand earthquakes, do something about it. Roads, bridges, utility lines, schools, hospitals, water supplies, and many others may all be susceptible to earthquake damage. Find out what your community, work, school, day care, or state government is doing to protect you and your loved ones. Talk with your neighbors. Contact your state representatives. Become an informed and engaged citizen.
  • Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect against falling debris. Hold on to any sturdy shelter until the shaking stops.

    • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
    • If you are in bed: STAY there and COVER your head and neck with a pillow.
    • DO NOT get in a doorway. Doorways do not provide protection from falling or flying objects and you may not be able to remain standing.
    • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Most injuries occur when people inside change rooms or try to leave the building.
    • DO NOT use elevators.
    If you're outdoors
    • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires if you can.
    • Once in the open, Drop, Cover, and Hold On. STAY THERE until the shaking stops.
    If you're in a moving vehicle
    • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, bridges, or utility wires.
    • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Roads, bridges, or ramps may have been damaged by the earthquake.
    • Once the shaking has stopped, exit the building if it is safe to do so.
    • Shut off your gas supply if you smell or hear gas, or suspect that the gas line may be damaged. If you do turn your gas supply off, contact your utility to assess the situation and have it restarted.
    • Shut off your water supply if you do not need the water to fight a fire. Leaks in the pipes can quickly drain a building of water.
    • Expect aftershocks. After a large earthquake, it is common to have other large earthquakes for hours, days, and even weeks. Drop, Cover, and Hold On whenever you feel shaking.
    • Expect and help to extinguish fires. Small fires are the most common hazard after an earthquake. Never use a lighter or match near damaged areas.
    • Evacuate to higher ground if you are near a large body of water. Tsunamis are a common result of large earthquakes in Washington.
    • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
    • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text shelter + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 98506)
    • Check yourself for injuries (and get first aid if needed) before helping others.
    • Find professionals with the right equipment if someone needs to be rescued. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
    • Help others, especially those who require special assistance such as the young, elderly, or those with extra needs.
    • Stay informed. Seek out news through whatever means are available to you. Listen for further warnings from emergency officials.
    • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk.
    • Be very careful if you re-enter homes or buildings. Buildings may be damaged where you least expect it.

Tsunamis

  • Before a tsunami
  • During a tsunami
  • After a tsunami
  • Tsunamis from nearby earthquakes can arrive in as little as 10–15 minutes. Because of this, it is critical to prepare well ahead of time.

    Educate
    • Learn about your risks. In general, anyone in Washington who lives near (or visits) the ocean or a large body of water is at risk of a tsunami. Check out the Who is at risk? page for more information.
    • Learn what to expect. Tsunamis are very powerful and destructive ocean waves that can be 30–100 feet tall. Unlike ocean waves, they usually do not have a crest, but are more like enormous walls of water. Learn more about tsunamis and what causes them on our tsunami page.
    Prepare
    • Learn how to evacuate. Tsunamis can be 30–100 feet tall or more. If you cannot evacuate to higher ground, go as far inland as possible. Most coastal communities have an evacuation plan and evacuation routes. Evacuation signs often guide the way to safer places. View, download, and print our tsunami evacuation brochures.
    • Learn the natural warning signs of a tsunami. There are many natural warning signs of an approaching tsunami. For people in Washington, the single biggest warning of a potential tsunami is a large earthquake. See our page on Warning signs of a tsunami for more information.
    • Listen for tsunami evacuation notices. Many at-risk areas have installed AHAB (All hazard alert broadcast) sirens. These loud sirens alert residents and visitors of a tsunami evacuation notice, but are not designed to be heard inside or in adverse weather. Check the National Tsunami Warning Center for alerts and warnings. Consider subscribing to the email or SMS (text) warning system of the NTWC. These systems will send alerts directly to you as soon as they have been issued. Also consider checking NOAA weather radio for alerts and information.
    • Learn how to evacuate on foot and without the aid of a mobile device. If there is a large earthquake, roads and bridges may be damaged. It may be impossible to evacuate by car. A large earthquake can also knock out power, telephone, and the internet.
    • Ensure everyone knows how to evacuate. No one should be a victim because they did not know what to do. Make sure all the members of your family, neighborhood, workplace, and community know where to go if there is a tsunami.
    • Make an emergency response plan for you and your family. Check out the section for Families, individuals, and pets to learn more.
    Mitigate
    • Talk with your community leaders and emergency planners if you live in (or visit) an area that may be affected by a tsunami. What are their short-term and long-term plans? Are there well-marked evacuation routes? How will schools respond to an emergency? What are the post-disaster plans? Where will the injured be treated? Lobby for changes or improvements if you are not satisfied by the answers you receive.
    • Is your community tsunami ready? If you live in an area that may be affected by a tsunami, are your schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure adequate? Many buildings and roads were constructed before modern earthquake standards and few structures are built to withstand tsunamis. Find out which structures in your community need improvements to withstand a large earthquake or tsunami. Once you know, lobby for their improvement.
  • If you have been advised to evacuate, or there has been a strong earthquake and you are near an ocean or large lake, EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY. Move to high ground or go inland.

    Here are our evacuation routes for coastal areas.

    • Move to higher ground or go inland. If there is not an evacuation route for your location, evacuate to an area at least 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or higher. If you move inland, choose areas that are at least two miles (3 kilometers) away from the coast. Go as high or as far as you can. Every foot inland or upward might matter.
    • Take your animals with you, as long as they don't slow you down.
    • Save yourself and your loved ones. Do not try and move your possessions.
    • Stay away from the beach! Thousands of people have been killed because they ran down to the beach to see why the water receded, or to get a better view. If you suspect or know a tsunami is approaching, evacuate to higher ground or move inland.
    • Be prepared to evacuate on foot. The closest safe location may be easier to get to by foot than by car. If you drive, be prepared to abandon your car and continue evacuating on foot. One small accident can block the way for hundreds or thousands of people.
    • Move to the highest floor possible, if you are in a building and cannot evacuate. A large tsunami can flood the first several floors of a building.
  • There is almost always more than one tsunami wave! Often, the largest wave is not the first wave. Tsunami waves can continue for hours—do not assume that the danger is over after one wave.

    Tsunamis are usually very large disasters. It is likely that there will be significant damage to the whole region. Because of this, it may take additional time for affected communities to receive supplies and aid. Prepare to be on your own for several days, and perhaps longer.

    • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
    • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. The 'Assembly areas' on our tsunami evacuation maps are NOT shelters for evacuation. They are places to go for emergency supplies and other help in the days after a tsunami.
    • Check yourself for injuries (and get first aid if needed) before helping others.
    • Find professionals with the right equipment if someone needs to be rescued. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
    • Help others, especially those who require special assistance such as the young, elderly, or those with extra needs.
    • Stay informed. Seek out news through whatever means are available to you. Listen for further warnings from emergency officials.
    • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to people or pets.
    • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk.
    • Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.
    • Be very careful if you re-enter homes or buildings. Floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it.

Volcanic Activity

  • Before volcanic activity
  • During volcanic activity
  • After volcanic activity
  • Educate
    • Learn about your risks. Know what volcanic hazards exist near your home, place of work, or where you recreate.
    • Learn what to expect. Washington volcanoes tend to erupt explosively, and can cause significant damage both near and far. High-speed flows of hot ash and rock, lava, and landslides can destroy homes and infrastructure within ~10 miles of the eruption. Enormous mudflows of ash, debris, and melted ice—called lahars—can devastate low-lying areas more than 50 miles away. Learn more about the different types of hazards on our volcanoes and lahars page.
    • Learn if you are at risk from lahars. Lahars are not always caused by a volcanic eruption and can cause damage in low-lying areas far from a volcano. Learn more about lahars on the volcanoes and lahars page. Look through the lahar hazard maps to see if you live in an area that is at risk.
    Prepare
    • Plan ahead. Have several days of emergency supplies, food, and water.
    • Plan an evacuation route. Ensure that your route is away from streams that may carry lahars or landslide debris.
    • Have goggles and disposable breathing masks for ash and dust.
    • Make an emergency response plan for you and your family. Check out the section for Families, individuals, and pets to learn more.
    • Be informed. Listen to media outlets for warnings and evacuations. Listen for AHAB (All hazard alert broadcast) sirens that warn of lahars. Check out the Volcano Notification Service to subscribe to alerts about specific volcanoes.
    Mitigate
    • Talk with community leaders and emergency planners if you live in (or visit) an area that may be affected by volcanic activity. What are their short-term and long-term plans? Are there well-marked evacuation routes? How will schools respond to an emergency? What are the post-disaster plans? Where will the injured be treated? Lobby for changes or improvements if you are not satisfied by the answers you receive.
    • Evacuate immediately from an erupting volcano! Follow evacuation orders issued by authorities.
    • Avoid river valleys and other low-lying areas that may be prone to lahars and other types of landslides or debris flows.
    • Get to high ground and then shelter in place if you are in a lahar hazard zone and become aware of an oncoming lahar. If there are signed evacuation routes, follow them.
    • Stay informed. Seek out news through whatever means are available to you. Listen for further warnings from emergency officials.
    • Listen for AHAB sirens (All hazard alert broadcast) that have been installed in some locations to warn of lahars.
    • Remain safe and help others in need.
    If there is ashfall, protect your lungs!

    Volcanic ash is made of microscopic shards of glass and other fine-grained material. Ash can can cause significant damage to animals, including significant damage to lungs or asphyxiation if inhaled.

    • Remain indoors if you cannot evacuate. Close doors, windows, and ventilation systems until the ash settles.
    • Help others, especially those who require special assistance such as the young, elderly, or those with extra needs.
    • Protect your lungs. Wear a respirator, face mask, or a use a damp cloth across your mouth.
    • Use goggles, and wear eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
    • Avoid driving in heavy ash fall unless absolutely required. If you must drive, reduce your speed significantly.
    • Avoid operating engines of any kind. Ash can clog engines, damage parts, and stall vehicles.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you must go outside.
    • Keep roofs free of ash in excess of 4 inches.
    • Limit outdoor activity. Remove outdoor clothing before entering a building.
    • Ensure that ash does not contaminate your water. If it does, use a different source, such as bottled water.
    • For more information about ash fall, check out the USGS Volcanic Ash website.
    • Be prepared to stay indoors and avoid downwind areas.
    • Be aware of lahars and landslides. These hazards can occur long after the main eruption.
    • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
    • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text shelter + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 98506)
    • Check yourself for injuries (and get first aid if needed) before helping others.
    • Find professionals with the right equipment if someone needs to be rescued. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
    • Help others, especially those who require special assistance such as the young, elderly, or those with extra needs.
    • Stay informed. Seek out news through whatever means are available to you. Listen for further warnings from emergency officials.
    • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk.
    • Be very careful if you re-enter homes or buildings. Buildings may be damaged where you least expect it.

Landslides

  • Before landslides occur
  • During a landslide
  • After a landslide
  • Educate
    • Learn about your risk. Landslides are complex and difficult to predict—there are many factors that affect slope stability. Some of these factors are the amount of rainfall, steepness of slopes, type of soil, amount of vegetation, and much more. Areas above, on, or below steep slopes are more likely to experience landslides. Areas known to have frequent landslides in the past are also more likely to have landslides in the future. The Washington Geologic Information Portal contains the most comprehensive listing of landslides available. Because not all landslides are mapped, the absence of a landslide in the database does not indicate the absence of risk.
    • Learn what to expect. Most shallow landslides and flows occur during—or up to several days after—a heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt event. Deep-seated landslides can occur at any time. Learn more about how landslides happen and possible warning signs on our landslides page.
    • Learn about common landslide triggers. There are many possible triggers of landslides, such as prolonged or intense rainfall, earthquakes, water-level changes, and human activities such as removal of vegetation or excavation at the base of a slope. Learn more about these triggers on our Common landslide triggers page.
    • Check out our fact sheets. We have a fact sheet on Landslide Hazards in Washington State and another on What are Landslides and How Do They Occur?
    Prepare
    • Learn where landslides are most likely to occur near your home, work, or school.
    • Plan ahead. Have several days of emergency supplies, food, and water if it is likely a landslide will close down nearby roads.
    • Have an evacuation route. Ensure that your route is away from streams that may carry landslides or debris flows.
    • Make a landslide emergency plan. Consider evacuating prior to storm events which can cause sudden flooding and (or) landslides.
    • Don't assume that highways will be safe. Landslides can, and often do, occur along roads. Check the roads around you for possible dangerous conditions and choose alternate routes if possible.
    • Report signs of a potential landslide to the state emergency managers.
    Mitigate
    • Avoid living, working, or recreating near locations that are hazardous, especially during storm events. Areas above, on, or below steep slopes are more likely to experience landslides. Areas known to have frequent landslides in the past are also more likely to have landslides in the future.
    • Control runoff from buildings and roads so it flows away from steep slopes and into natural drainages or storm drains.
    • Consult a professional, such as a licensed engineering geologist or licensed geotechnical engineer for a site-specific evaluation if you are concerned about slope stability near your home.
    • Talk with administrators or officials if you are concerned about slope stability near your workplace, school, hospital, or community. If you are unsatisfied with their answers, lobby for change.
  • Landslides are dangerous and unpredictable. Some landslides may provide clues that they are about to happen; others may happen suddenly without any warning signs.

    Some possible signs of a landslide include:
    • Cracks growing in the ground; downslope movement of rock, soil, or vegetation.
    • Sudden changes in creek water levels, sometimes with increased sediment, especially during or right after large or protracted storm events.
    • Sounds of cracking wood, knocking boulders, groaning of the ground, or other unusual sounds, especially if the sound increases.

    If you notice these signs or observe a landslide in progress evacuate immediately if it is safe to do so! Report the problem immediately to your county emergency manager.

    During dangerous weather
    • Seek out advisories and warnings before, during, and after intense rainfall events. Check the NOAA Weather Radio, your local TV stations, and the Shallow Landslide Hazard Forecast website.
    • Don't assume that highways are safe—watch for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rock, or other debris on the roadway. Check the Washington Department of Transportation website for road closures.
    • Listen for loud or unusual sounds. These can be indicators of an imminent landslide. If you think there is danger, evacuate immediately.
    • Keep away from landslide-prone areas.
    • Be aware of other landslides. Dangerous conditions may still exist near the landslide, or in other areas. Large storm events can trigger hundreds of landslides across the state.
    • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
    • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text shelter + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 98506)
    • Check yourself for injuries (and get first aid if needed) before helping others.
    • Find professionals with the right equipment if someone needs to be rescued. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
    • Help others, especially those who require special assistance such as the young, elderly, or those with extra needs.
    • Stay informed. Seek out news through whatever means are available to you. Listen for further warnings from emergency officials.
    • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk.
    • Be very careful if you re-enter homes or buildings. Buildings may be damaged where you least expect it.