Earthquakes are one of the most threatening hazards in the Pacific Northwest. Sudden ground shaking cannot be predicted and can happen at any time, so it is important to be prepared.

The Office of Emergency Management recently sat down with Kirkland's Building Official, Kurt Aldworth, to talk about architectural design of commercial and residential buildings to try to minimize the impacts of earthquakes. See the video below to see this conversation and learn more about how to prepare and react in an earthquake!

Before an Earthquake

  • Conduct a home hazard hunt(PDF, 4MB). Go through each room in your household and see what objects are unsecured that could fall or move during an earthquake.
  • Secure items that could fall and cause injury or block escape routes (like bookshelves, televisions, refrigerators, wall decorations, and light fixtures).
  • Practice Drop, Cover, Hold On.
  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a household emergency plan.

During an Earthquake

Drop, Cover, Hold On

The most common causes of injury during earthquakes are being struck unsecured objects and trying to move or run while the ground is shaking. To protect yourself, the best thing to do is to Drop, Cover, then Hold On!


Immediately DROP where you are, onto your hands and knees. COVER your head with one arm and hand. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, move underneath it for shelter. HOLD ON until shaking stops. If under shelter, hold onto it with one hand while covering your head with the other hand. If not under shelter, cover your head with both hands.

Doorways are NOT a safe place to take cover during an earthquake. This is a widely believed myth, but door frames do not offer any real protection during earthquakes. Drop, Cover, and Hold On instead.

Alternatives to Drop, Cover, Hold On

In Bed: Stay where you are and protect your head with your arms and pillow.

Using mobility aids: If possible, move away from windows, heavy furniture, or other items that could fall or break and injure you. Lock wheelchair or walker wheels, and cover your head with your arms. If you cannot cover your head, try to crouch over and protect your stomach.


Driving: Stay in your vehicle. If it is safe to do so, pull over to the side of the road, stop, and engage the emergency brake. Try to avoid overpasses, bridges, telephone wires and poles, or anything that could fall on your vehicle. If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay put and dial 9-1-1. Wait for a trained responder to remove the lines from your vehicle.

Outside: Drop, Cover, and Hold On as best as you can. Try to avoid anything that could fall on you and cause injury.

In a theater or stadium: Drop, Cover, and Hold On in between rows or seats. If you cannot drop between the rows, stay in your seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.

After an Earthquake

  • There may be aftershocks after the largest shock of an earthquake. In case of an aftershock, be sure to Drop, Cover, and Hold On
  • Check yourself for injuries and help other people if you can.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings. If in a damaged building, go outside and move away from the building.
  • Only turn off natural gas if you suspect a gas leak. A rotten egg smell, whistling sound, or meter spinning can all be indicators of a gas leak in your home. Once you turn off the gas, wait for your utility company to turn it back on.
  • If you are trapped, cover your mouth. Send a text, bang on a pipe or a wall, or use a whistle to signal for help instead of yelling so rescuers can locate you.
  • Stay informed with local news and emergency instructions.


Earthquake Preparedness
Learn more about earthquakes and how to get ready for them.

Earthquake Science
Learn about the geology of the Pacific Northwest and our local earthquake risk.

Kirkland Zoning Code - Geologically Hazardous Areas
This chapter of the Kirkland Zoning Code establishes special regulations that apply to development on property containing geologically hazardous areas.

Kirkland Liquefaction Potential Map(PDF, 3MB)
This map shows areas susceptible to liquefaction during an earthquake.

Seismic Scenarios Catalog
Predicted earthquake impacts for Washington State.

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network
View recent earthquakes and learn more about local earthquake hazards and geology. You can also visit their Facebook page to learn directly from local scientists and ask questions.

Did You Feel It?
Did you feel an earthquake? Help the United States Geological Survey crowd source earthquake data.

ShakeOut Earthquake Drill
Join the City of Kirkland for ShakeOut, the world's largest earthquake drill! Every year on the third Thursday in October, millions of people around the world practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On to get ready for earthquakes. Register for the drill today.