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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

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Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Earthquake Safety

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When was the last earthquake you remember in Oregon?  Was it the earthquake that shook Oregon offshore in January 2003 with a 6.3 magnitude?  Or was it in September 1993 in Klamath Falls, Oregon with a 6.0 magnitude that caused an estimated 7.5 million U.S. dollars in damage?

Did you know that yesterday, right here in the Portland urban area, we experienced a 2.1 magnitude earthquake?  We did! Each year, there are over 1,000 earthquakes with magnitude 1.0 or greater in Washington and Oregon. Of these, approximately two dozen are large enough to be felt. These felt events offer us a subtle reminder that the Pacific Northwest is an earthquake-prone region. As residents of the Pacific Northwest, we should be prepared for the consequences of larger earthquakes that could result in damage to the transportation systems and lifelines. 

We've heard in the news about the devistating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and now southern California. These places have been damaged by sizable earthquakes leaving buildings destroyed and people without a place to call home.  Though earthquakes are just another force of Mother Nature that we can’t control, there can be preventative measures taken to ensure safety.  Though you won’t become an earthquake expert just by reading the tips below, it could make a tremendous difference on the safety of you and your loved ones.

Before the Earthquake

  • Learn how to survive during the ground motion. This is described in the "During the Earthquake" section below. The earthquake safety tips there will prepare you for the fast action needed - most earthquakes are over in seconds so knowing what to do instinctively is very important.
  • Teach all members of your family about earthquake safety. This includes: 1) the actions you should take when an earthquake occurs, 2) the safe places in a room such as under a strong desk, along interior walls, and 3) places to avoid such as near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture and fireplaces.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies. These include: battery operated radio (and extra batteries), flashlights (and extra batteries), first aid kit, bottled water, two weeks food and medical supplies, blankets, cooking fuel, tools needed to turn off your gas, water and electric utilities.
  • Arrange your home for safety: Store heavy objects on lower shelves and store breakable objects in cabnents with latched doors. Don't hang heavy mirrors or pictures above where people frequently sit or sleep.
  • Anchor heavy appliances and furniture such as water heaters, refrigerators and bookcases.
  • Store flamable liquids away from potential ignition sources such as water heaters, stoves and furnaces.
  • Get Educated. Learn what to do during an earthquake (see below). Then you will be ready for the fast action needed. Make sure that all members of your family have this important education.
  • Learn where the main turn-offs are for your water, gas and electricity. Know how to turn them off and the location of any needed tools.

During the Earthquake

  • If you are indoors, stay there. Quickly move to a safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room. Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.
  • If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.
  • If you are outdoors, move to an open area where falling objects are unlikely to strike you. Move away from buildings, powerlines and trees.
  • If you are driving, slow down smoothly and stop on the side of the road. Avoid stopping on or under bridges and overpasses, or under power lines, trees and large signs. Stay in your car.

After the Earthquake

  • Check for injuries, attend to injuries if needed, help ensure the safety of people around you.
  • Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
  • If you smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open windows and doors. If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter. Report the leak to the gas company and fire department. Do not use any electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
  • If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation turn off electricity at the main fuse box or breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity you should call a professional to turn it off for you.


Click on the below subject matter to learn more about Oregon's earthquake history and see live seismic data!

March 19, 2010 

1 Comment


Jacob Petty

February 28, 2011 at 7:51 PM

I am doing a project on earthquakes for an EMT Basic class and I was wondering if you have any information on a hazard plan for Portland if a largescale earthquake were to hit. Preferably from an EMS perspective, but whatever you have is fine.
Thasnk you

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