My memory of being in a major earthquake

by Jen Leslie, Loss Prevention Engineer, State Compensation Insurance Fund


It was just after 5:00 p.m. on October 17, 1989, and I was still at work in the Bay Area. All of a sudden the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck. I crawled under my desk for protection and watched as huge plate glass windows flexed and rippled. Cabinets and storage units toppled over, computers bounced off desks, pictures flew off walls, and shattered glass went everywhere. Outside, cars bounced like ping pong balls in the parking lot.

We still cannot predict when earthquakes will occur, but experiences like the one I had nearly 30 years ago serve as a reminder of how important it is to be prepared for an earthquake.

Drop, cover, and hold on

Make sure you know the Drop, Cover, and Hold On technique and share it with your employees.

  • DROP to the hands and knees.
  • COVER the head and neck with one arm and hand. If possible crawl under a nearby table or desk, or next to an interior wall away from windows. Stay out of doorways.
  • HOLD ON to the table or desk with one hand until the shaking stops.

If you are looking for an opportunity to practice, good news! Each year, State Fund and countless other businesses and organizations practice this drill during the Great California Shakeout in mid-October. On that day, we get an alert, hit the ground, and follow the other steps listed above. Eight million people participate statewide. You can conduct the drill at your jobsite for free just by registering at the Shakeout website.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On is widely recognized as the best way to respond to an earthquake. Practicing each year during the Great Shakeout, and at other times throughout the year help ready your employees so they can respond quickly and safely in an earthquake.

Earthquake proof the office

In addition to Drop, Cover, and Hold On, you can take a few steps to help prevent the cabinets and other things throughout the office from falling or flying around. These include:

  • Secure tall and heavy items such as cabinets and desks to the floor or wall.
  • Relocate heavy items and hazardous chemicals from top shelves to lower ones.
  • Bolt pictures, mirrors, and other mounted items to the walls rather than hanging them on nails or hooks.
  • Secure computer equipment to the desk with Velcro fasteners or non-slip pads.

Earthquake preparation is about two things: what to do when the quake happens and what to do before the quake happens. Let’s all practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On this Thursday and then take the additional steps to secure movable objects at the workplace before the next earthquake strikes.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.


Copyright © 2018, State Compensation Insurance Fund