Earthquakes are the result of vibrations being released from the Earth’s crust. They can also be caused by volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes can damage infrastructure such as bridges and highways, interrupt the flow of services and goods and destroy property and homes. Washington state is considered a high-risk area for earthquakes. Historically, the state has experienced significant earthquake events and will continue to experience earthquakes, both small and large.

Earthquakes can cause landslides, liquefaction and surface ruptures, but can also cause secondary hazards including tsunamis, seiches, flooding, fires and avalanches. 

What is the Cascadia Subduction Zone?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone (also known as the CSZ) is a 700-mile long fault zone located off the western coastline of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern California. It is capable of generating severe earthquakes that would impact the entire west coast. This is sometimes called "The Big One" by news media. A major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone could also generate a tsunami that would impact coastal communities along the west coast (including areas within the Puget Sound). 

Earthquake Activity in Island County

Along with the risk of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake event, there are several fault lines that run through Camano and Whidbey Island. Notable faults include the Devil's Mountain Fault (North Whidbey), Strawberry Point Fault (North Whidbey), Utsalady Point Fault (North Whidbey and Camano Island) and the southern Whidbey Island Fault (Central and South Whidbey). Any of these faults could produce a significant earthquake that would impact Island County residents. 

Earthquake Preparedness

While there is little we can do to avoid earthquakes, there is much we can do to prepare for them. Here are a few things you can do before, during and after an earthquake.


  • Get together with the members of your household and put together a disaster plan.
  • Assemble disaster supplies and store them in an easy-to-get to location.
  • Identify safe spots and danger zones in each room.
  • Consider buying earthquake insurance.
  • Know how to shut off all utilities.
  • Ensure your house is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
  • Store breakable items on low shelves or in cabinets that can fasten shut.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Fasten shelves to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas and inflexible utility connections.
  • Securely fasten water heaters and gas appliances.
  • Anchor wood burning stoves to the floor. Secure stove pipe to the flue exit and securely fasten stove pipe segments together.


  • If indoors, take cover under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall, and hold on, "Drop, Cover and Hold." Stay away from the kitchen.
  • If outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, street lights and utility wires.
  • If outdoors near tall buildings, step inside a doorway, drop down and cover your head and shoulders to protect yourself from falling glass and other debris.
  • In a high-rise building, take cover under sturdy furniture away from windows and outside walls. Stay in the building on the same floor. An evacuation may not be necessary. Wait for instructions from safety personnel. Do not use elevators.
  • In a vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits, and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses or utility wires.


  • Check yourself and others for injuries.
  • Prepare for after shocks.
  • Wear sturdy shoes to prevent injury.
  • Use flashlights or battery powered lanterns if the power is out.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound - open a window, leave the building and shut off the main gas valve outside.
  • If water pipes are damaged -- shut off the water supply at the main valve.
  • Check your home for structural damage to include the chimney.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, and flammable liquids.
  • Visually inspect utility lines and appliances for damage.
  • Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Use the phone only to report a life threatening emergency.
  • Listen to the radio for the latest emergency information.