Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Chile. New Zealand. Japan.  All of these countries have recently experience major earthquakes. Like Oregon, these countries are located along the “Ring of Fire”, a geologically active area along the edges and throughout the interior of the Pacific Ocean.  As we have seen from the latest earthquake in Japan, the effects of a large earthquake in any of these areas will affect not only the area directly surrounding the earthquake.  The resulting tsunami was experienced from the coast of Japan, many Pacific islands, and North and South America.

Before an Earthquake

  • Put together home emergency and evacuation kits. These should be stored in a safe and accessible area in your home.
  • Make sure you know your family emergency plan. If you do not have a plan, you can visit Ready.Gov and use their Family Emergency Plan tool to create a quick and easy print-ready plan.
  • Make sure your family members know how to shut off utilities in your home.
  • Check your home for possible earthquake hazards. Brace heavy objects that could fall such as bookshelves, ceiling lamps and fans, large pictures and appliances. View or download and print the Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt  to find out more you can do to prepare your home.
  • Sign up to receive emergency communications from local authorities during an emergency.

During an Earthquake

  • DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON. Try to stay clear of windows, heavy furniture, fireplaces and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or wall hangings
  • if you are indoors, STAY INSIDE until the shaking until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside
  • if you are outdoors, STAY OUTSIDE and stay away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires
  • if you are in a vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in your vehicle
  • once the shaking stops, evacuate and proceed cautiously to a safe area
  • refer to this Earthquake Emergency Response Guide for more information

After an Earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary earthquakes are usually not as violent as the main earthquake but can be strong enough to do more damage to already weakened buildings.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for instructions and information from authorities.
  • Use your phone only for emergency calls. During an emergency, phone lines may be overloaded and you may not be able to make a phone call. Consider sending text messages or email as they may get through even when phone lines are busy.
  • Stay away from damaged areas.
  • Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas.

For more information read Cascadia Subduction Zone.  Living on Shaky Ground: How to Survive Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Oregon  gives more detailed information on how to prepare for an earthquake.

People with disabilities or access and functional needs have special planning considerations for earthquake preparedness. The following resources address some of those needs. ·


  • Know your emergency evacuation route.
  • If you have to evacuate, follow evacuation routes or, if none are apparent, proceed to higher ground as soon as possible.
  • Stay away from the coast until officials reopen the area for you to return. The first surge is not usually the largest and additional, and larger, surges can occur after the initial one.

For more information about tsunamis on the Oregon Coast, check out the Oregon Tsunami Clearinghouse and read this Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Guide.

Public Health Quick Links
General Information
Phone Numbers
General Public Health Inquiries and 24-hour Emergency Contact: 503-397-7247
Fax: 888-204-8568
Emergencies: Dial 911
230 Strand St.
Columbia County Courthouse Annex
St. Helens,

Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. to 4:30


Columbia County Public Health is committed to improving the quality of life and protecting the health and well-being of all residents by addressing social, economic, and environmental conditions. Our goal is to ensure that all people in Columbia County have the opportunity for a healthy life.