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Drop, Cover and Hold On!

A page describing earthquake preparedness measures from the Department of Emergency Management of Washington County, Oregon.
Drop cover hold on

Earthquakes can cause strong ground shaking – a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake can cause intense shaking for four to six minutes. It's extremely important to know in advance how to react during earthquakes as they provide little to no notice. If you are in a building, there is one thing you need to do when an earthquake strikes–DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

Falling objects cause injuries

During an earthquake, the ground shaking causes unsecured items in buildings to fall, like bookshelves, picture frames, furniture, light fixtures, and wall-mounted TVs. The majority of injuries that occur while indoors during an earthquake are due to falling objects, most frequently to people who move more than 10 feet during the shaking. Play Beat the Quake for helpful tips in preparing your home for an earthquake.

How to respond to an earthquake when indoors

To reduce the chance of incurring an injury in a building during an earthquake, Drop, Cover and Hold On. This involves dropping to the floor, crawling beneath a sturdy desk or table, and holding on – the table may shift and move during the earthquake, so hold on and prepare to move with it. Remain under the desk or table until the shaking stops. Do not stand in a doorway – a doorway doesn't offer protection from falling objects.

How to respond to an earthquake when outside


To reduce the chance of incurring an injury while outside during an earthquake, move away from buildings, streetlights, and electrical wires. Areas near exterior walls are the most dangerous, particularly buildings with unreinforced masonry, which are prone to collapse during an earthquake. Once in the open, Drop, Cover and Hold On. Cover your neck and head to protect yourself from any falling debris. Remain there until the shaking stops. Watch Earthquake Safety video series from for a demonstration of Drop, Cover and Hold On and tips for preparing yourself and your home for an earthquake.

Join millions for an annual earthquake drill

Because earthquakes are infrequent, it's important to practice Drop, Cover and Hold On. Practicing with those you live with is an important part of your home/family preparedness plan. You can practice at work as well by joining millions of people each year for the Oregon ShakeOut, traditionally held in October. Register Here for the Oregon ShakeOut.

AVOID Triangle of Life

In recent years, a competing strategy for surviving earthquakes has surfaced which contradicts Drop, Cover and Hold On – it's called the Triangle of Life. The strategy instructs persons in a building during an earthquake to take shelter near large solid objects, which during a structural failure of the building, would create a void (or triangle) that could keep a person safe. Unfortunately, the method is dangerous, and even potentially fatal.

Numerous reputable organizations support Drop, Cover and Hold On. These organizations include:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Oregon Office of Emergency Management
  • Washington County Emergency Management
  • Central United States Earthquake Consortium
  • Southern California Earthquake Center
  • American Red Cross
  • United State Geological Survey
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
  • Earthquake Country Alliance
  • The University of Memphis: Center for Earthquake Research and Information
  • Western States Seismic Policy Council
  • Cascadia Region Earthquake Workshop