We often think of an earthquake as something that happens in one part of the country, but they're felt across the west, midwest and even the east. On Thursday at 10:20 in the morning, a worldwide training event will help everyday people act fast if an earthquake hits.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says you're supposed to DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON. For example, if you're next to a kitchen table, drop underneath the table, put one arm behind your neck to protect it, and use the other arm to hold onto the leg of the table. Holding on will help you stay covered by whatever you're under in case it moves during the earthquake.
FEMA Region 8 Earthquake Program Manager Sean McGowan says it's somewhat unpredictable to know precisely when an earthquake will happen, but it's like clockwork.
"We know, within a range of how often they do happen," McGowan said.
He says now is the time to prepare for future earthquakes.
"I think the last couple of decades, in particular, have been a real wakeup call for the U.S., where we've seen big earthquakes hit in low to no population," McGowan said. "Areas like Utah got hit by a moderate earthquake just outside Salt Lake City. We've had Idaho get hit, California, Puerto Rico, and a lot of these earthquakes have hit off the coast or out in the country. And so some people have been impacted, but we've really dodged the big one so far."
FEMA has a map that shows the regions of the U.S. most at risk to earthquakes. The most noticeable areas of red are in Wyoming, Montana, the entire West Coast, and a section where many central states meet up, including Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri.
"We also have risk even in the high country, in Colorado, as well as up and down the mountain west," McGowan said.
That's why McGowan is urging everyone to participate in The Great ShakeOut. It's a once-a-year worldwide drill to practice what to do if an earthquake hits.
"A lot of earthquake damage and injuries aren't caused by buildings collapsing, but by lights falling or TVs tipping over, bookshelves getting knocked over," McGowan said. "And so you can avoid a lot of those preventable injuries just by simply dropping to the ground when the earthquake starts shaking."
McGowan says you can prepare further by looking at your homeowner's insurance to see if you're covered for earthquake damage. More states are also considering early warning systems since the internet travels faster than seismic waves.
"Sooner or later, it will happen and we don't know exactly when or where," McGowan said. "But we do know that Mother Nature is on her timescale and we are going to get hit again."
You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake. Practicing helps you be ready to respond. By registering at shakeout.org you get counted for that drill, and get earthquake resources sent to you to help you be prepared in the future.