Prepare yourself

Being prepared for any emergency is as simple as planning ahead. This begins with thinking about your daily activities, the people you care for or who rely on you, and how a disaster would change the way you get things done. Use the information in this section to learn how to plan for your own safety and needs, along with those of your family and pets. If someone in your family relies on special equipment or medications make sure your planning includes how to make sure those special needs will be dealt with.

Learn how to get prepared for disasters by viewing the infographic below. You can also print a fillable disaster plan template.  

Infographic showing backpack and numerous emergency supply items like food, water, radios, etc.

When the earth shakes, DROP to the ground, take COVER under a desk or table and HOLD on to the desk or table so it doesn't bounce away.

Stay there until the shaking stops.

Studies show that most earthquake injuries in the United States are caused by falling objects or people losing their footing during the shaking. Safety during an earthquake comes from taking quick action and finding a "quake-safe" place within 3 to 4 seconds. If you are in a place without a table your goal is to make sure that your head is not the tallest thing in the room. Start by getting low. If there is no table around you to get BENEATH, then think BESIDE (an inside wall or heavy furniture), or BETWEEN (rows of chairs) and take a quake-safe action quickly!

Myth Buster!  Despite what some of us learned as children, doorways are NOT considered a safe place to be in an earthquake.  WHY?  It's hard to stay in the doorway during the shaking and typically there is a door in the doorway, which swings open and closed during the shaking, hitting whoever might taking refuge there.  Best to get low, cover your head and hang on!

Additional Information about 'Staying safe in an Earthquake'

Staying Safe in an Earthquake - Brochure

How to be safe in an Earthquake - 1 page handout

Triangle of Life - Dangerous Misinformation

The "Triangle of Life" is an alternative safety concept that is inappropriate for earthquakes in the United States and dangerous to follow.

The concept comes around the emergency management community every few years, and we do our best to de-bunk it. Because building codes here in the United States are among the best in the world, most injuries and deaths in the U.S. from earthquakes occur from non-structural threats (stuff inside the building), not from structural threats (the building itself). The best way to react to an earthquake is to "Drop" - get under a table, desk or counter top, "Cover" - protect your head and neck, and "Hold on" - to a table leg or to that cover, until 30 seconds after the shaking stops. We encourage you to disregard the Triangle of Life message - it is dangerous misinformation.

For correct information for the U.S., go to: There, you'll find links and statements from the Washington State Emergency Management Division, King County Emergency Management, as well as other pertinent news stories. Skill classes are offered in Simple Search and Rescue, Disaster First Aid and Becoming an Amateur Radio Operator.

Putting together an emergency kit does not have to be difficult or expensive. We recommend that your kit has enough supplies to last you seven to 10 days. Its also could to have a smaller to-go kit in case you need to quickly leave your home. Having kits at work and in your car is also a good idea. To get you started, here are five things that are absolutely necessary to have in an emergency kit.


  • 1 gallon per person per day
  • 1/2 for drinking, 1/2 for cooking/sanitation


  • Store food that's high in calories and has a long shelf-life
  • Consider meal replacement bars, canned foods and dry food items that don't need to be cooked to eat
  • Make sure to include food you like to eat 

Light Source

  • Avoid candles to minimize fire risk
  • Include safe light options like a battery-powered flashlight with extra batteries or a hand-crank flashlight
  • Light sticks are a long-lasting source of light that are inexpensive and fits easily into any size bag

Warm & Dry Clothes

  • Include at least one change of clothing
  • If you get wet, it's important that you get dry as soon as possible because moisture pulls heat away from your body (wool or synthetic clothing that wicks moisture away from your body is recommended)
  • To stay warm and dry you can also pack extra blankets, a tarp or rain gear

First Aid Kit

  • Include items for basic care like adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, scissors, tweezers and pain-relief medication
  • Make sure to include medications and equipment specific to your needs

After the five basics, what you stock in your kit is up to you. The information below will give you a number of things you can add to your kit and some fun and easy ways to put them together, not only for your home, but your car, workplace and school.  The most important thing is to start.  Don't be one of the people who after the disaster says, "I wish I had put a kit together." 

Download Information and brochures

We offer hands on training for people interested in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to respond to disasters. Our classes focus on the three priority responses we encourage everyone to take after a major incident - control utilities and small fires, search for and help others, and care for injuries. 

  • Small Fire Suppression and Utility Control:  Learning how to use a fire extinguisher and when and how to turn off your utilities are two of the most important skills you can have.  We combine these two topics in one class.  For handout materials click on the topic you are interested in.  Control Utilities & How to use a Fire Extinguisher

  • Light Search and Rescue: This hands-on class provides instruction on how to safely conduct a search and rescue operation after a disaster. Participants will practice safe lifting techniques, how to leverage heavy objects, and how to search a room. 

  • Basic First Aid: Learn how to care for and respond to injuries after a major disaster when 9-1-1 is overwhelmed or unavailable. Skills-based format provides practice on how to recognize and treat life-threatening conditions, how to conduct a patient assessment and how to creatively use blankets, pillows and other household items as first aid materials. Class does not meet requirements for certification. First Aid certification is highly recommended either before or after taking this class.

To see a listing of upcoming classes view our Events Calendar

Watch one of our YouTube videos for a quick tutorial on controlling utilities and using a fire extinguisher

Controlling Gas 

Controlling Water and Accessing Water Heater

Using a Fire Extinguisher

After a disaster, bathroom facilities may not be available if water and sewer lines have been disrupted. Because cleanliness is essential to maintaining good health, it is important to know how to improvise emergency sanitation facilities. 

Have emergency sanitation supplies on hand:

  • medium-size plastic bucket with tight lid
  • plastic garbage bags and ties(heavy duty)
  • absorbent material, cat litteror shredded newspaper
  • household chlorine bleach· soap, liquiddetergent
  • rubber orvinyl gloves· toilet paper
  • antiseptic towelettes· hand sanitizer

View Instructions on creating an emergency toilet

Image of SPU Sanitation Brochure



Water is essential for life. After a disaster, safe drinking water can be in short supply and those without it may find themselves waiting in long lines to get it. We recommend that every household store enough water for at least 7 to 10 days. Each person in your house requires 1 gallon per day. Half of that is for drinking, the other half is for cooking and sanitation. Before you do the math, remember you have a lot of water already stored in your house, which will be available if you have strapped down your water heater and turn off the water service to the house if there are broken water pipes.

Even with that source, you should still store water. Storing water can be as easy as buying an extra case or two the next time you are at the store. You can also use old pop bottles, which are great for storing water. If you decide on this you should follow the steps outlined below to ensure that the water remains drinkable.

  • Make sure the bottle is clean. Put about 1/8 of a teaspoon of bleach and 2 cups of water in the bottle. Put the lid on and shake the bottle gently. Be sure to wash around the lid and the top of the bottle.
  • Empty and fill with fresh water all the way to the top of the bottle (leaving as little air space as possible). Screw the top on tight and label the bottle as 'emergency drinking water' (download a  1 Gallon  or 1 Liter label). Make sure to put the date you filled the bottle on the label
  • Empty and refill the bottles every 6 months (we recommend doing it when you change your clocks and check your fire alarms). Don't just pour the water down the drain, use it to water your plants, rinse your dishes or even drink it
  • We don't recommend using glass bottles as they break easily during earthquakes. Plastic milk jugs are hard to seal and degrade quicker than plastic soda bottles. Stay away from bottles that have had bleach or other toxic chemicals in them



Follow this link (Deaf & Hard of Hearing) to find information on:

  • Assessing how a disaster can impact your day to day routines
  • Ways to empower yourself before, during and after a major disaster
  • Resources that you may want to access in a disaster

Download Print friendly version

Follow this link (Low Vision/Blind) to find information about:

  • Assessing how a disaster can impact your day to day routines
  • Ways to empower yourself before, during and after a major disaster
  • Resources that you may want to access in a disaster

Download print friendly version


Follow this link (Medical Needs) to find information about:

  • Assessing how a disaster can impact your day to day routines
  • Ways to empower yourself before, during and after a major disaster
  • Resources that you may want to access in a disaster

Print Friendly Version

Follow this link (Low Mobility) to find information about:

  • Assessing how a disaster can impact your day to day routines
  • Ways to empower yourself before, during and after a major disaster
  • Resources that you may want to access in a disaster

Download a print friendly version

Follow this link (Seniors) to find information about:
Assessing how a disaster can impact your day to day routines

  • Ways to empower yourself before, during and after a major disaster
  • Resources that you may want to access in a disaster

For more information download Preparing Makes Sense for Older Adults

If you rely on a service animal it is very important that you develop a plan for making sure your service animal is as prepared for the disaster as you are.
Some key actions to take prior to the disaster are:

  • Identify potential shelters
  • Develop a Pet/Animal disaster kit
  • Ensure your animal has current and proper identification
  • Note where your pet/animal likes to hide during extreme weather.  This will help you know where to look in a real disaster.
  • Reduce hazards after a disaster. 

Emergency Management

Curry Mayer, Director
Address: 105 5th Ave S, Suite 300, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 233-5076
Fax: (206) 684-5998

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The Seattle Office of Emergency Management partners with the community to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

During an emergency go to for the latest information
EMERGENCY: Dial 911 | Non-Emergency Police: 206-625-5011 | Non-Emergency Fire: 206-386-1400