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Oct. 15 marked the annual Great Oregon ShakeOut drill and thousands of Oregonians signed up to practice, prepare and plan for when — not if — a major earthquake hits the state.


At 10:15 a.m. that day millions of people around the nation and the world were expected to practice the drill, creating a sense of urgency for individuals, schools and organizations to get prepared and evaluate which plans need to be improved.

The purpose of the global drill is to increase awareness of its importance and to inspire individuals, communities and organizations to get prepared.Oct. 21 editorial

Why is this so important?

Oregon lies at a convergent continental boundary where two tectonic plates are colliding. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, located just off the Oregon coast, is actually a 600-mile long earthquake fault stretching from offshore northern California to southern British Columbia. This fault builds up stress for hundreds of years as the Juan de Fuca and North America plates push against each other.

Eventually, the two plates slide violently against each other, creating some of the largest earthquakes and tsunamis on earth. There are more than 1,000 earthquakes over magnitude 1.0 in Washington and Oregon every year, with at least two dozen being large enough to be felt. Since 1872, there have been 20 damaging earthquakes in Washington and Oregon and an estimated 17 lives lost.

Oregon is also susceptible to crustal earthquakes. The two largest earthquakes in recent years in Oregon, Scotts Mills (magnitude 5.6) and the Klamath Falls tremors (magnitude 5.9 and magnitude 6.0) of 1993 were crustal earthquakes.

For the state’s nearly 4 million residents, a major earthquake could cause complete devastation.

The 2015 ShakeOut drill was the largest preparedness event in U.S. history, with more than 500,000 signed up in Oregon alone. Those who signed up were charged with taking five minutes out of their schedules to “drop, cover and hold on,” a seemingly simple task that could save your life.

Registered participants received information on how to plan their drill and how to talk with others about earthquake preparedness.

A great step after the drill is to practice how to communicate with family, friends and co-workers. Texting first before making phone calls is highly recommended.

Admittedly, thinking about a catastrophic earthquake is not the most pleasant way to spend one’s time. But ignoring the inevitability doesn’t change the fact that it will happen someday.

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