Hold on, the ShakeOut is coming


For the first time, more than 22,000 Arizonans will participate in the Great ShakeOut, an annual earthquake drill held on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m.

The ShakeOut began in 2008 in California as a way to educate the public about earthquake preparedness. Since then it has grown into an international event with nearly 17 million participants.

Although not traditionally thought of as a frequent epicenter for earthquakes, Arizona is not free from earthquake hazard. The USArray component of EarthScope, an earth science program that researches the structure and evolution of the North American continent, detected over 1,000 earthquakes in Arizona during the past two years.

“Earthquake risk in Arizona is low, but that doesn’t mean it is nonexistent,” said Wendy Bohon, an Arizona State University graduate student majoring in geological sciences and EarthScope social media coordinator. “It can almost be worse in places where there are smaller earthquakes, because people don’t know what to do.”

The EarthScope National Office (ESNO), based at ASU for the next three years, signed up to participate in the ShakeOut this year to encourage hazard awareness, Bohon said.

On Oct. 17 EarthScope will host a free public lecture series from 7-9 p.m. on the science behind earthquakes, earthquakes in Arizona, and ways to be prepared. The lecture will be held in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4 in the Marston Exploration Theater.

The drill will take place the next morning.

ESNO director and speaker Ramon Arrowsmith said taking a few minutes to think about what to do in the event of an earthquake can only help.

“When you’re panicked, you can’t think, so it’s important to plan ahead and pay attention to what looks strong and what could fall on top of you,” said Arrowsmith, who is also a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE).

“It is also valuable to think about communications with your family and friends in the case of a natural or human-caused disaster,” he said.

SESE professors Steve Semken and Ed Garnero, along with SESE graduate student Jeff Lockridge, will also be speaking.

Sarah Robinson, education and outreach coordinator for EarthScope, said that although Arizona is relatively stable, faults in California and Mexico are close enough to cause significant shaking.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we have earthquake hazards here, but plates are moving all around us,” Robinson said. “There will be tectonic activity all the time because the ground is not totally solid.”

Robinson said the day of the drill the EarthScope office and anyone who wants to participate will be “dropping, covering and holding on” to simulate what they would do in the event of an earthquake.

Bohon said the drill might seem absurd, but earthquakes don’t stop at state boundaries and can happen anywhere.

“It’s my job as a scientist to tell people about earthquakes and to help prepare them for the possibility of earthquakes in their area,” she said.

Arrowsmith said it is important for people in areas that are not earthquake-prone to be aware of the dangers and consequences especially if they travel.

“We need to think globally and act locally,” he said. “We now live in a connected world where we might not feel the earthquake physically, but it will hit us economically or in some other way.”

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Written by Kristen Hwang