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Earthquake Preparedness: Steps You Can Take to Be Ready

Take these steps to be prepared for earthquakes, before and after the shaking.

All American Market employee, Dell Ralls, cleans up after the 1989 earthquake. (Image by Joe Melena via Palo Alto Historical Association)

As the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake approaches on October 17, we are reminded of the importance of earthquake preparedness — earthquakes can strike at any time. The United States Geological Survey estimates a 72% probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake occurring the Bay Area within the next 30 years. By preparing now, and continuing to practice earthquake safety, you can be ready for the next big one. This blog provides some easy steps to prepare for an earthquake, including online tools to monitor earthquakes as they occur.

The Great Shakeout is October 21

Be ready by practicing what to do during an earthquake. When the ground starts to shake, what do you do? If it involves a doorway or running — these are not earthquake-safe actions. Register now at to learn more about Drop, Cover, and Hold On and practice updated earthquake safety actions.

The Great ShakeOut is a one-minute earthquake drill — you decide when, how, and where you want do it, and with whom.

International ShakeOut Day is every third Thursday of October, when most schedule their ShakeOut drills and other earthquake preparedness activities. This annual date was selected back in 2009, when most schools agreed this was the best time. In 2021, International ShakeOut Day is October 21. Everyone, everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake! Thus, anyone can participate — ShakeOut is for everyone.

County of Santa Clara’s Office of Emergency Management also participates in promoting the Great Shakeout.

Shakeout Contest

The City of Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services and the Emergency Service Volunteers announced a photo/video contest for the Great California Earthquake on October 21 with prizes for adults and youth. Categories include:

  • Best expression during an earthquake drill
  • Most creative safe thing to drop under during an earthquake
  • Best hazard hunt video or shot of securing your devices. (See How to do a FEMA Hazard Hunt at
  • Best earthquake story (Adults only)

Send your photo or video entries to with your name and contact information by October 20. We also encourage you to post submissions on social media — Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Follow Palo Alto Earthquake Preparedness on Facebook.

Winners will receive recognition in the Weekly as well as fantastic prizes including a $50 gift certificate (adults), $25 (Youth) gift certificate and more.

Make sure your neighborhood is prepared for the big one by becoming an Emergency Services Volunteer.

Learn more about the Great ShakeOut!

Six Earthquake Preparedness Steps to Take Now

The MyShake app delivers earthquake early warning notifications, available publicly for free in California. Image by MyShake.
  1. Understand the threats and hazards that exist where you live and work. The State of California has an online tool that identifies natural hazards that exist by address and what can be done to reduce their impacts. Are you in an Earthquake Shaking or Liquefaction Zone?
  2. Know when an Earthquake is happening. Because we don’t know when or where these will strike we recommend everyone download the MyShake App to be alerted seconds or even minutes before an earthquake happens. Set the filters to your desired preferences, and be sure Alerts are On in your mobile phone settings.
  3. Follow the Seven Steps to Earthquake safety from the Earthquake Country Alliance. Take a few minutes to review these steps, and start now to accomplish 1 through 4.
  4. Participate in the Great Shakeout. On October 21, at 10:21 am– Drop, Cover, and Hold On (Step 5) to practice your actions if an earthquake were to actually happen. Can’t do it at this time, pick a date and time that works for you. Get more information and register for the Great Shakeout.
  5. Stay Informed by receiving emergency alerts and notifications from the City. In Palo Alto you can visit to register for our Mass Notification System, as well as connect with us on a social media platform. To connect on social media, go to
  6. Post Help/OK sign After Emergency: After an earthquake or other community wide 2021emergency, we are asking all community members to post HELP/OK signs in the windows of your homes so your neighbors and emergency services volunteers will know if you need assistance.

For even more tips and resources, see the CDC’s Preparing for an Earthquake.

More Online Resources

Photo by Maya Maceka on Unsplash
The USGS website has maps available to see where earthquakes are happening around the world.
  • Check out historical data on earthquakes with the California Department of Conservation.
  • Read more about the 1906 Earthquake’s impact on Palo Alto on the Palo Alto Historical Association’s website.
  • For other emergency preparedness resources, check out the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Preparedness website.



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City of Palo Alto

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