Monday, October 17, 2016

What to do in an earthquake if you’re driving

By Steven Friederich, guest blogger

That rumble you felt on the road might be a flat tire, or a bump in the road - or it just might be an earthquake. The classic advice of drop, cover and hold on won't work if you're out on the open road.

To prepare for this situation, residents from all over Washington state will participate in the Great Washington ShakeOut on Oct. 20. Wherever you are at 10:20 a.m. that day practice earthquake safety like dropping under a desk or table, protecting your neck and holding on to something sturdy such as the leg of the desk or table you are under ("Drop, Cover & Hold on").

Earlier this year, WSDOT staff went through extensive earthquake-simulation drills to prepare for a large-scale event.

But what if you're driving?
In case of a possible tsunami, drivers should leave
their vehicle and head to higher ground.

Maximilian Dixon, the earthquake program manager at the Washington Emergency Management Division, says your best bet is to stay calm and pull over.

The tell-tale signs of an earthquake could be others you see on a street reacting to the earthquake. Maybe trees are moving and cracks are opening on the road or sidewalks. Drive slowly to the side of the road, stop the car and set the parking brake.

If a power line falls on your car, call 911 and wait for expert help or follow power utility advice on what to do next.
Having an emergency kit in your vehicle is
recommend in case of major weather
or natural disaster situations (PDF).
Make sure to avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards and say inside your car.

If you are on the coast and can get out of your car safely, do so and start heading for high ground if you are in a tsunami hazard zone. Look for tsunami evacuation signs to guide you. Don't wait for the sound of a siren or an official warning because the earthquake itself might be the only warning you get. You might need to leave your car behind if there is debris on the road and no way to safely drive to high ground. In this case, find a safe place to park your car and start walking.

You should keep a "go" kit in your vehicle for these kinds of incidents (or if you become isolated because of winter weather). Make sure your kit has food and water, a first aid kit, a flashlight, comfortable clothes and shoes, and more.

Have more earthquake questions? On Oct. 20, from noon to 2 p.m., earthquake preparedness experts from the Washington Emergency Management Division and FEMA will join scientists with the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network online for a Reddit Ask Me Anything - an online Q&A.

We encourage participants in the ShakeOut drill to take photos of themselves during the drill and to post those photos to social media using the hashtag #washakeout, or tag our Twitter account at @waShakeOut.

Register for ShakeOut and learn more about earthquake safety and planning at

Steven Friederich is the Digital Media Coordinator for the Washington Military Department.