A graphic that says Shake Out. Don't Freak Out. October 21, 2021. www.shakeout.org

Do You Know What to do in an Earthquake?

In Alabama, we know we should prepare for severe weather, but do we ever think about preparing for earthquakes?

While the number of earthquakes that happen in the state is relatively low, they do happen.

“Some years, Alabama may see three or fewer earthquakes; other years, we may get 15 or more,” said Dr. Sandy Ebersole, geological investigations director with the Geological Survey of Alabama. “During the years with higher counts, it is often related to a particular area having what we refer to as a seismic swarm, a flurry of small earthquakes associated with a particular fault or set of faults.”

Most of Alabama’s earthquakes are associated with the Southern Appalachian Seismic Zone, a faulted area through the Appalachian Mountains that extends from western Virginia southwestward to central Alabama, Ebersole said. The strongest Alabama earthquake on record was a 5.2 magnitude event near Irondale in Jefferson County in October 1916.

And while earthquakes in Alabama are usually relatively low in magnitude, they can be felt miles from the epicenter and cause minor damage.

“Whether you stay in Alabama, or travel to other locations at some point, knowing how to respond to earthquake shaking could help keep you safe in the future,” Ebersole said.

If you experience an earthquake, follow these steps to protect yourself:

  • Drop to the floor on your hands and knees
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand, or get under a sturdy table or desk
  • And hold on until the shaking stops

Everyone is encouraged to register and take part in the largest-ever earthquake drill during  International ShakeOut Day on Oct. 21.