USGS - science for a changing world

USGS Multimedia Gallery

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media

Multimedia Gallery Home | Audio

ShakeOut Drill: Preparing for Earthquakes

Play the audio

Jessica Robertson:

Hello and welcome to USGS CoreCast. I’m your host, Jessica Robertson.

A worldwide earthquake drill, known as the Great ShakeOut, will be held this coming October 18. And you are invited to sign up and participate. The drill is your chance to practice how to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake.

To give us some details on ShakeOut, we are joined today by two guests. First is Mike Blanpied, who is the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. Second is Mark Benthien, who is the Director of Communication, Education and Outreach with the Southern California Earthquake Center, also referred to as SCEC. Mark also coordinates the Great ShakeOut worldwide. Welcome, Mike and Mark. Thanks for joining us.

Mike Blanpied:

Thanks for having us.

Mark Benthien:

It’s a pleasure to join you.

Jessica Robertson:

Mike, what is ShakeOut and why is it important?

Mike Blanpied:

The ShakeOut is an opportunity to learn and practice how to stay safe during earthquakes. On October 18, people in 14 states and territories and some foreign countries are going to practice how to “drop, cover, and hold on” during an earthquake. And some will go on and hold other earthquake preparedness activities. The ShakeOut will be held for the first time in the southeast states, including the District of Columbia. While earthquakes are more frequent in the west, last year’s earthquake in Virginia reminded folks that earthquakes can strike any part of the nation. So it pays for all of us to be prepared. Plus keep in mind that even if you live in an area with fewer earthquakes, you may take a vacation or work trip to an area that has more frequent earthquakes, and you really want to be safe when you go there.  So I encourage people to go to—the website—and register to participate. Here at the USGS, many of our buildings have signed up and thousands of employees will practice responding to an earthquake on the 18th.

Jessica Robertson:

And Mark, from your perspective, why is ShakeOut such an important drill?

Mark Benthien:

You know, earthquakes can happen almost anywhere people live, work, or travel. And it’s important for people to know what to do when the shaking starts. So many people just haven’t grown up in earthquake country like out here in California where in schools we practice this a couple times a year. But people who are in other parts of the world where you just haven’t had that experience need to have at least an annual chance of hearing about what to do and practicing what to do. Kind of developing that muscle memory so when the shaking starts, you’re not sitting for too long thinking, “is this an earthquake, what should I do.” It’s also a chance for everybody to get more prepared, to gather their supplies together, to review their supplies and make sure they are current, to store more water. It’s all those things that you do before to get prepared that will help you survive and recover when the earthquake happens.

Jessica Robertson:

Mark, where is the drill being held and who should participate in the exercise?

Mark Benthien:

Coming up on October 18 at 10:18 a.m. local time, people all over the world can participate. We have official ShakeOut regions all along the west coast, including British Columbia and Alaska. Also, along the southeast coast of the United States, from Georgia through Maryland and including the District of Columbia. In addition, Puerto Rico and Guam are also official ShakeOut regions. And we even have our Navy bases in southern Italy participating that we are calling the southern Italy ShakeOut. So anybody in the world can actually go to and choose one of those regions—or to register even any other state or country is now possible—to sign up for drills on October 18. Coming up on February 7, the central U.S. is having its third ShakeOut, and then in April the second Utah ShakeOut is happening. All of those ShakeOuts you can now register for on And there are other ShakeOuts happening other times in the world too in other countries. So it has really become a worldwide movement of people practicing how to protect themselves during earthquakes.

Jessica Robertson:

Mike, what exactly should people do during this drill?

Mike Blanpied:

At the simplest level, everyone should practice how to react when the earth shakes. Many will practice at 10:18 a.m., which is the official ShakeOut time, pretending an earthquake is happening at that point. If you’re indoors, the best thing to do is drop down, cover yourself, get under a desk or table, and hold on while the shaking is happening. Drop, cover, and hold on. Don’t run outside because that’s when you risk having things falling off the building and hurting you. Best thing to do is protect yourself, wait for the shaking to stop, and then proceed from there. If you are outdoors, move away from buildings where things might be falling, and crouch down if the shaking gets heavy. And if you are driving, pull your car slowly off to the side of the road, stop, and wait. Now while you are doing the drill, you can take advantage of this opportunity to take a look around. Are there things that are going to fall on you, fall on your desk, block your passage, is glass likely to break, and so forth. You could take advantage of the opportunity now to anticipate what might happen in an earthquake and then make sure that it doesn’t.

Jessica Robertson:

Mark, can you talk to us a bit about the history of ShakeOut, such as how was it formed and how often has it been held?

Mark Benthien:

Sure. Well, it began in 2008, which is when we had the first ShakeOut and it was in southern California. And it was based on a document called The ShakeOut Scenario, developed by the USGS and a large group of scientists working together to understand what would happen if a magnitude 7.8 earthquake happened on the southern San Andreas Fault. It became the basis of a large exercise led by the state, involving firefighters and others. But a group of us called the Earthquake Country Alliance, working together to promote preparedness in the region, said, “how do we involve everybody else?” And so we turned to the social scientists who had been doing work on how do you motivate behavior. Some of those factors including making sure the message is consistent and out there in all different formats. But also making sure people are seeing each other taking preparedness actions. So we created something that would be very visual that everybody could see on the news, but as well as people around them practicing the right behavior. So we put that all together and in that first year in southern California, we had about 5.5 million participants—a lot through schools, businesses, government agencies, and individuals. We thought it would just be a one-time event, but right afterwards people started asking what the date for the next year is going to be. And it became statewide and then in each year since, new regions have joined, new states, and even other countries have joined the ShakeOut and have had their own ShakeOut drills. So that is where we got to this year’s—from the first year’s 5.5 million to this year’s 17 million worldwide.

Jessica Robertson

Mike, what exactly is the USGS role in ShakeOut? How is the USGS involved?

Mike Blanpied:

The USGS is proud to be one of the founders of the ShakeOut, and we support it every year. The original ShakeOut was based on a ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario Project that was led by USGS in 2008 as a demonstration of how earthquake science can be applied to reduce risks to natural hazards. Our science provides the basis for scenarios and preparedness exercises such as the ShakeOut. And USGS earthquake hazards research helps emergency managers understand where earthquakes occur, what effects it will cause, and where the losses are likely to be so that we can be prepared. Folks can learn about earthquakes, earthquake hazards, and USGS earthquake science on our website

Jessica Robertson:

Mark, is there anything else you would like to add and tell our listeners?

Mark Benthien: 

Well you know the ShakeOut is just this really exciting thing, and in large part because of so many different groups working together. The Southern California Earthquake Center where I am based in supported in large part from the USGS and also of course the National Science Foundation. And with that support, as well as from FEMA, we’ve really been able to take the ShakeOut concept from southern California and grow it into this worldwide phenomenon where people are participating around the globe and learning how to protect themselves.

Jessica Robertson:

Thank you Mike and Mark for joining us today. And thank you to all of our listeners.

Although the ShakeOut is just days away, it is not too late to register and participate. Sign up your family, school, business, or organization to join as well. You can do so by visiting

That website also has drill manuals, tips on how to prepare for earthquakes, a list of ShakeOut partners and sponsors, news media resources, event locations, and other items of interest.

CoreCast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.

open embed url Embed this audio file


Title: ShakeOut Drill: Preparing for Earthquakes


The next Great ShakeOut earthquake drill will be held on October 18, 2012. During the drill, participants will ‘drop, cover, and hold on’ to practice how to protect themselves during an earthquake.

To give us some details on ShakeOut, we are joined by two guests. First is Mike Blanpied, who is the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. Second is Mark Benthien, who is the Director of Communication, Education and Outreach with the Southern California Earthquake Center and also coordinates the Great ShakeOut worldwide.

Location: Washington, D.C., USA

Date Recorded: 10/11/2012

Audio Producer: Jessica Robertson , U.S. Geological Survey

Usage: This audio file is public domain/of free use unless otherwise stated. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this audio.


The Great ShakeOut
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

File Details:

Suggest an update to the information/tags?

CoreCast (Set) RSS Media RSS ShakeOut Podcast 2013 Mercury and Global Change
In: Podcasts collection

podcast icon

Tags: Drill EarthquakeHazards NaturalHazards Preparedness SouthernCaliforniaEarthquakeCenter TheGreatShakeOut U.S.GeologicalSurvey USGS



Browse More: Audio Collections | Audio Sets


Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Image Gallery Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, January 09, 2013