Severe Weather Toolkit

1.10 Earthquakes and Seismic Activity

While earthquakes in Texas are rare, Texas does on occasion, experience seismic activity. Historically, Texas earthquakes and seismic activity has been minor.

Texas schools should include at least basic earthquake awareness and preparedness in their emergency planning. This includes actions to protect people and vulnerable infrastructure, such as utilities, buildings, equipment, and personal property.

Because Texas does experience localized earthquakes and seismic activity, it is prudent to ensure that the risk is identified in the district's hazard analysis and addressed in its emergency plans. Measures may be taken to mitigate damage from seismic activity by anchoring equipment, shelving, and storing materials appropriately.

In the event that seismic activity has occurred in the area recently or with increasing regularity, the district should include earthquake protective measures as part of campus safety drills.

Earthquake protective measures involve "Drop-Cover-Hold":

  • Drop to the floor
  • Take cover under a sturdy desk or table or crouch on your knees near a wall, face away from windows and cover your head with your arms
  • Hold on firmly to the furniture or brace against the wall

(Click above image to download as .jpg)

If school is in session and an earthquake occurs, these emergency protective measures are appropriate. Instruct students to take cover under desks or other sturdy items if they are indoors, and have them assume a protective posture similar to that used for severe weather. Safe locations for severe weather, are the most structurally sound locations of the building with no windows, large roof spans, bookcases, or other unsecured furniture and fixtures.

Do not run out of the building as most people are injured in earthquakes by falling objects. Do not allow individuals to stand in a doorway as it does not protect them from falling objects. Also note that, people are safer under furniture than standing next to it.

Once the earthquake stops, staff should observe their immediate surroundings for signs of damage or breakage and report their findings to their supervisor or designated representative. Staff should follow instructions from campus administrators and/or first responders to determine whether evacuation is needed or whether regular activities can resume. Schools can follow fire evacuation practices for earthquake evacuation as well.

Additional drill and training considerations:

  • If in a wheelchair - Seek an area with structural protection, apply wheelchair brakes, and cover head and eyes.
  • If inside a building, stay inside.
  • If outside, move away from buildings, trees, light poles, and utility lines.
  • If in a car or on the bus, the driver should stop the vehicle and everyone should stay inside. If you have a seatbelt on, leave it on.

As part of emergency planning, school districts should identify and train employees to conduct a detailed damage assessment and empower them to address and/or report potential hazards or disruption of services. In some cases, outside experts, such as emergency managers and private contractors may be asked to assist with the inspections.

School safety is the responsibility of everyone. All school stakeholders, should assist with activities as needed following an event to render aid to the injured, identify, report and mitigate property damage.

Earthquake and Seismic Activity Resources

Seismic Activity Checklist

The Great Texas ShakeOut

The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Safety Video

United States Geological Service (USGS)

References

National Research Council. (2013). Induced seismicity potential in energy technologies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

U.S. Department of Energy. (2014). Environmental impacts of unconventional natural gas development and production (DOE/NETL-2014/1651). Retrieved from: http://www.netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Oil-Gas/publications/NG_Literature_Review3_Post.pdf.