The Keenan Blog

Timely and informative posts written by our experts.


Time for an Earthquake Preparation Shakedown

October 03, 2023 by Keenan

It’s not a question of if, but when the next significant quake will strike California. While there’s no way to know when, what could be a catastrophic disaster to this great state, will come, and it’s best to take any action possible to prepare.

Each year, the state holds the Great California Shakeout on the third Thursday of October, an annual state-wide initiative started to raise awareness and keep our communities ready for the day another quake disrupts our lives. Many communities across the state use this day as an opportunity to take stock of preparations for the next earthquake and to practice safety measures when the ground starts shaking. This year, it falls on October 19, and we encourage you to take part in your workplaces and with your families to prepare.

The web site for the Great California Shakeout provides information on the ways individuals, families, local agencies, schools, health facilities and businesses can participate. The more of us that take part, the better our chances are of mounting a resilient response to these difficult to anticipate disasters. Below are some of the most critical preparations all of us should be taking.

Immediate Reaction to Shaking

Protecting yourself quickly when an earthquake starts can help you avoid a serious injury or even save your life. The sudden acceleration can knock you off your feet and expose you to flying or falling objects. At the first indication of an earthquake, Drop, Cover and Hold On! As best you can, get down on the floor, get under a sturdy table or desk and hold on to minimize chances of being struck by something that can injure you.

Have a Plan to be Safe

Advance planning is the key to staying safe and reducing the hardships in the aftermath of an earthquake. Assess the risks you could face. How vulnerable are the buildings you live and work in, and what steps can be taken to make them safer? Is furniture properly secured and how are heavy objects stored? Do you know where and how to turn off utilities to prevent secondary hazards?

Consider the supplies you will need. Emergency water (plan on one gallon of water per person), food and first aid supplies, along with flashlights, shoes and gloves as personal protective equipment. Provisions for a minimum of two to three days for each person if sheltering in place is necessary. Keep these emergency supplies in an area where they will be relatively easy to reach should the building you are in become unsound or unsafe.

Communication Capabilities

Having public safety information will help you to navigate a recovery from a major earthquake. A portable radio (powered by battery, solar or hand-cranked generator) is important for you to be informed of the situation in and around your community, the availability of emergency help and other resources, and advice from public safety agencies.

Communicating from your location can be a challenge if local infrastructure is severely damaged. Our smartphones may not function as we expect them. In any significant disaster, the best practice is “Text First, Talk Second.” A cell phone conversation can take up to 800 times more bandwidth than a short text message. Texting instead of calling helps keep essential communications available for emergency services.

Recovery and Resilience

After addressing immediate safety issues, a speedy recovery will also depend on good preparation before an earthquake happens. Keep copies of important documentation, including health plan ID cards, insurance and claims filing information where you can easily access them after a disaster. Taking photos before an earthquake of your home or other facilities you are responsible for can help with substantiating losses and getting a claim handled expediently. Be sure you have contact information for your insurance agent, broker and claims department for your insurer.

How Do Earthquakes Occur?

Earthquakes occur due to the sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust, resulting in seismic waves that shake the ground. The primary cause of earthquakes is the movement and interaction of tectonic plates, which are large sections of the Earth's lithosphere (the rigid outer layer) that float on the semi-fluid asthenosphere beneath.

Tectonic activity is the primary cause of earthquakes, other factors such as volcanic eruptions, landslides, and human activities like mining or reservoir-induced seismicity can also trigger seismic events.

Are You Ready for the Next Big One?

Earthquakes that interrupt our lives don’t happen every day. But it’s important we remember that an earthquake can happen at any time. Participating in the Great California Shakeout is one way to make sure you know what to do before, during and after a major earthquake. Then take the steps you need to stay safe and be prepared for the day that will eventually come.