Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill Held Today

October 17, 2013

More than 18.6 million participants nationwide and across the globe are scheduled to take part in an earthquake drill today. The annual Great ShakeOut earthquake drill is scheduled to be held at 10:17 A.M. today.

In California alone there are expected to be 9.5 million participants. Southern California is known as “Earthquake Country,” according to the Santa Barbara County Aware & Prepare Initiative.

In a press release earlier this year, the agency outlined research completed by UC Irvine which identified that the San Andreas Fault has caused a major earthquake approximately every 137 years during the last 700 years. The earliest recorded earthquake was in the Imperial Valley April 19, 1892 registering at 7.1. Since then California has experienced over 10 earthquakes measuring over 6.1.

While California carries a significant risk of a big quake, other parts of the nation are also at risk. On August 23, 2011, a magnitude 5.8 quake hit Virginia causing widespread damage there and in neighboring states. And in Oklahoma an intense 5.6 magnitude earthquake occurred on November 6, 2011.

In the United States about 5,000 quakes strike each year. Since 1900, earthquakes have occurred in 39 states and caused damage in all 50. One of the worst catastrophes in U.S. history, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, would have caused insured losses of $96 billion, had the quake to hit under current economic and demographic conditions, according to AIR Worldwide.

“Earthquakes can strike suddenly, without warning and can occur at any time, and in any season of the year,” said Loretta Worters, vice president of the I.I.I.

According to statistics released by the I.I.I., the costliest U.S. earthquake, the 1994 Northridge quake, caused $15.3 billion in insured damages when it occurred (about $24 billion in 2012 dollars). It ranks as the fifth-costliest U.S. disaster, based on insured property losses (in 2012 dollars), topped only by Hurricane Katrina, the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Sandy.

In addition, seven of the costliest U.S. quakes, based on insured losses, were in California, according to Munich Re. In 2011 a 5.6 magnitude quake in Oklahoma and a 5.8 magnitude quake in Virginia rattled regions not usually affected by earthquakes.


Costliest U.S. earthquakes occurring from 1900 to 2012, based on insured losses when occurred.

($ losses noted in millions)

Rank[1] Overall losses when occurred When occurred In 2012 USD ($) [3] Fatalities Rank based on insured losses in 2012 USD ($)
1 $44,000 $15,300 $23,700 61 1
Jan. 17, 1994 California: Northridge, Los Angeles,San Fernando Valley, Ventura, Orange
2 $10,000 $960 $1,780 68 3
Oct. 17, 1989 California: Loma Prieta, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Silicon Valley
3 $2,000 $300 $390 1 4
Feb. 28, 2001 Washington: Olympia, Seattle, Tacoma; Oregon
4 $524 $180 $4,175 [4] 3,000 2
Apr. 18, 1906 California: San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Jose
5 $150 $100 $105 NA 7
Apr. 4, 2010 California: San Diego, Calexico, El Centro, Los Angeles, Imperial; Arizona: Phoenix, Yuma
6 $360 $75 $150 8 6
Oct. 1-4, 1987 California: Los Angeles, Whittier
7 $200 $50 $57 NA 9
Oct. 15, 2006 Hawaii: Big Island, Kailua Kona, Oahu, Honolulu
8 $80 $50 $67 NA 8
Sep. 3, 2000 California: Napa
9 $150 $50 $51 NA 10
Aug. 23, 2011 Virginia: Mineral, Richmond; Washington DC; New York; Maryland; Baltimore
10 $540 $45 $335 131 5
Mar. 27-28, 1964 Alaska: Anchorage, Kodiak Island, Seward, Valdez, Portage, Whittier, Cordova, Homer, Seldovia; Hawaii
  • [1] Ranked by insured losses when occurred
  • [2] Insured losses
  • [3] Adjusted to 2012 dollars by Munich Re.
  • [4] Adjusted to 2012 dollars based on 1913 Bureau of Labor Statistics data (earliest year available).

NA=Data not available.

Source: 2013 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE

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