Earthquake preparedness starts with education


The Great Hawaii ShakeOut is part of an international event to boost earthquake readiness. HIDOE schools and offices participated by practicing "Drop, Cover and Hold On."

​​​​​​​This was written by Vern Miyagi, Hawaii's Administrator of Emergency Management, and Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi.

When we think of natural disasters here in the islands, the first images that often come to mind are blustery hurricane-force winds bringing down trees and power lines or streets and houses flooded with murky storm waters. It’s not often one thinks about the other greatest threat to Hawaii — earthquakes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hawaii has a history of powerful and destructive earthquakes. We experience large earthquakes with a magnitude-6.0 or higher on a regular basis, roughly every five to 10 years. In fact, Hawaii is one of the most seismically active states in the country, experiencing thousands of earthquakes each year. The majority of these quakes are associated with volcanic activity and only detectable by seismometers, however some are strong enough to cause damage and impact residents on all islands.

On Oct. 15, 2006, an earthquake off Hawaii Island caused severe damage on the north and western sides of the island. The eastern side of Maui and western Oahu also experienced damage. As we approach the nine-year anniversary, Oct. 15, 2015 is coincidentally the selected date for the international Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill.

There are no scientific tools available to accurately predict the time, location or magnitude of future large earthquakes. Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes are “no-notice” events.

Common misconceptions of how to best protect oneself during an earthquake include standing beneath a doorframe or rushing out of a building. The proper technique is to “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” These three simple lifesaving steps will be practiced during the “Great Hawaii Shakeout” on Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m.

The Hawaii State Department of Education is a committed participant in this year’s earthquake drill. It is important that our students and school staff understand the proper “Drop, Cover and Hold” technique and be ready to react in a safe and timely manner, especially in a school setting. By practicing, students can build confidence in their ability to react, which will stay with them as they get older.

The Great Hawaii Shakeout earthquake drill is an opportunity for all residents to educate themselves about what to do during an earthquake. Here are quick tips to know when an earthquake strikes:

  • People who are indoors should stay in place and take cover rather than rushing to exit buildings. If at the beach, they should drop down and cover their head and neck.
  • After shaking has stopped, people should move immediately to higher ground and away from the ocean. Since earthquakes can often cause tsunamis, it is recommended to move at least 100 feet above sea level or beyond designated tsunami evacuation zones. While doing so, people should also avoid steep cliffs and watch for falling rocks while moving inland.
  • Vertical evacuation is also an option, especially in densely populated areas that may be difficult to leave during a time of crisis. In a building that is 10 stories or taller, people can evacuate to the fourth floor or higher.

While earthquakes are no-notice events, there are preventive measures that can be done to secure homes and offices such as fastening down loose objects that would fall and relocating items that have the potential to fall away from beds and seating areas. (See video, below.)

For more information go to

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Contact Information

Communications and Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3232



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