Unprepared: Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake In Oregon?

The Great Oregon ShakeOut: What You Need To Know

By Bryan M. Vance (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Oct. 19, 2016 10:45 p.m.

On Thursday at 10:20 a.m., millions of people around the world will practice dropping, covering and holding on as part of the Great ShakeOut, a worldwide movement aimed at making people pay attention to earthquake preparedness.

Related: Unprepared: Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake In Oregon?


More than 470,000 people are registered to participate in this year's Beaver State version, the Great Oregon ShakeOut. But what exactly does participating in the ShakeOut entail, and why is it such a big deal in Oregon? To understand that we have to take a look at some science first.

By now you've probably heard about the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), but if not here's a quick refresher. The CSZ is a massive fault in the Earth's crust just off the West Coast — between the Juan de Fuca and North America tectonic plates — which runs from northern California to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Oregon's coast lies right along this fault.

According to historical analysis and studies by seismologists, the last time this fault caused an earthquake — at approximately 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700 — a magnitude 8 or 9 quake along the CSZ rattled the West Coast.

Just how big is that? Reporter Kristian Foden-Vencil break it down in this video:

A major earthquake hasn't hit along this fault since then, and scientists say we're overdue. The latest research suggests we have a 15 to 20 percent chance of having a major quake along the part of the fault off of central and northern Oregon in the next 50 years.

That's where the ShakeOut comes in. According to Althea Rizzo with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the ShakeOut is all about getting people to think about preparedness and what plans are in place at their workplaces, schools and neighborhoods in case of an earthquake.

"Preparing for earthquakes doesn’t have to be scary," she said.


At 10:20 a.m., no matter where you are, the ShakeOut calls for you to drop, cover and hold on.

According to several federal, state and local emergency management experts, these three simple steps are your best best for keeping yourself safe during the actual shaking. After the shaking stops, you'll want to have plans in place for reconnecting with your family, and keeping hydrated, fed and safe until essential services are up and running again. That's why Rizzo says the ShakeOut — and how it gets people talking about preparedness in a casual manner — is important.

"We get ready for winter every year. … We do preparedness stuff all the time. This is really no different, it’s just for earthquakes as opposed to driving over the pass.”

And if you're looking for tips on how to make sure you're prepared for The Really Big One, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management has kicked off a new campaign called "2 Weeks Ready" aimed at providing practical tips and advice on preparation. We've also reported extensively on the preperation process. Need a concrete place to begin? Check out the #14Gallons challenge.

Want a better sense of how your neighborhood will fare in case of an earthquake? Check out our Aftershock app.


A magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the Pacific Northwest coast could hit at any time.
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