Earthquake Preparedness in Humboldt County


Humboldt County has always experienced large earthquakes, and it is important to be prepared. The international ShakeOut drill is coming up on Oct. 21, 2021 at 10:21am. This is an opportunity to ensure that you are prepared in case an earthquake hits Humboldt.

Humboldt State University is located near a triple junction point right off the coast. This is where the Pacific, North American, and Juan De Fuca tectonic plates meet to form a very hazardous fault. Humboldt county is the most tectonically active region in the lower 48 states, according to the research done by professors in the geology department at Humboldt State University.

The Cascadia subduction zone is where the tectonic plates are subducting under the North American plate. Humboldt State University professor, Melanie Michalak, explains that the subduction zone has large magnitude earthquakes every 300 to 500 years. With the last one being in 1700. It is capable of producing earthquakes with a magnitude of 8 or 9.

Melanie Michalak, a geology professor at Humboldt State University, has taken part in the ShakeOut drill for years and even practices in class with her students. During the drill she lets her inner child come out and pretends she is in a large magnitude earthquake.

“If you don’t practice, a common impulse is to run,” Michalak said. “That’s natural as humans since we have a flight or fight response. But if you practice these drills enough you will learn to drop to the floor and it will become second nature. The best thing to do is start early with children, it could potentially save their life.”

The national ShakeOut drill is a reminder of the Drop, Cover, and Hold method, that will only be a quick reaction if you practice. When an earthquake hits, it is best to make yourself as small as possible, and to tuck into a ball and cover your head. If it’s possible to get under something sturdy, do that. But at least make sure that your head is protected.

Almost everyday little earthquakes occur between our feet, but are imperceptible. But every now and again, a big one hits. This earthquake could knock your TV off its stand if not mounted correctly, or knock a lamp over that was placed on an unstable shelf. The actual earthquake isn’t the only thing to fear, there are probably dozens of earthquake hazards all over your living space, according to the “Living on Shaky Ground” guide created by Humboldt State University, which includes more information on local hazards and preparation.

A hazard that comes with living on the coast and next to many tectonic plates is tsunami’s. Littered across the county are various tsunami warning signs, these are placed in areas that are susceptible to these large waves. The last time a tsunami hit Northern California was in 2011, following the largest earthquake in Japan. It took nine hours to cross the ocean and ended up destroying some of Crescent City according to the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group.

Living in Humboldt places you in one of the most seismically active areas in California. Daniel O’Shea, an oceanography lecturer at Humboldt State University, warns of the danger that could occur if Humboldt were to be hit by a tsunami.

“The earthquake is your warning sign,” O’Shea said. “That is nature telling you to get off the beach, get inland, and get uphill. If we have a major subduction zone earthquake, a megathrust event, more than likely roads are going to get wrecked, bridges might collapse, we just don’t know what will happen.”

Amanda Admire is a geology lecturer and researcher at Humboldt State University. Admire has also participated in the ShakeOut drill for years.

Admire has their students participate every year as well. It is as simple as retaining the muscle memory to react when an earthquake hits. But Admire also recommends that students have an emergency go-bag ready and an evacuation route prepared and timed.

“Creating an emergency kit for a disaster is really important, and can be really helpful, especially in California,” Admire said. “We have more disasters than just earthquakes and tsunamis right, we also have wildfire hazards, we have landslide hazards.”

These emergency kits could consist of items such as shoes and socks, because an earthquake could hit in the middle of the night. Make sure that medications are packed, and also things that children or pets need. Cash is very important, because if the power were to go out, then debit cards and online banking would be rendered obsolete. Your cell phone will be a mere paperweight without a charger, so it is always important to memorize and write down contact information. Canned or packaged food items are easy to store in a go-bag. Bring an item for comfort, whatever that is to you. Lastly, having an evacuation route prepared and timed is important, because it is good to know how long it would take to make it to high ground.

Register at to participate in this international earthquake drill on Oct. 21, 2021 at 10:21am.

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