How to Conduct an Earthquake Drill

With The Great Shakeout quickly approaching, many buildings and organizations are considering holding an earthquake drill. But what does that involve?

When planning a drill, first determine how extensive you’d like it to be.  Will it only include your organization or the entire building or campus? Will you provide earthquake response training or distribute resources prior?

Other planning considerations:

– How will you initiate the drill? Via a PA announcement? Email blast? Rapid notification software? Bullhorn?

– Do you want occupants, floor wardens, and building staff to simulate their responses after the shaking stops (a building safety check for staff)?

– Will you solicit feedback from participants? If so, how?

Here are the steps to conduct an earthquake drill:

1. Make sure you inform everyone who will be affected well in advance – tenants, vendors, security staff, etc. On the day of the drill, consider posting signage on your entry doors to alert guests.

2. At the appointed time, initiate the drill. If using a PA, simply inform everyone that the drill has started, and they should Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Also ask them to look around while they are in a protective position for objects that could fall nearby. These should be relocated or secured after the drill.

To make the drill more realistic, consider downloading realistic earthquake sound effects and play them during your drill. These can be found at

3. After one minute, announce that the shaking has stopped and either that the drill is over or occupants should proceed to their shelter in place refuge area near the core of the building.

4. If you’re sheltering in place, instruct occupants to locate their emergency supplies. Floor wardens should search their floor to ensure everyone is responding. After another three to five minutes, announce that the drill has ended.

If building staff will be practicing a building safety inspection, make sure engineers check systems in order of priority for life safety: fire panel first, fire pumps and sprinkler system pressure second, gas leaks, falling glass, flooding, etc. Record how long it takes to complete a full inspection.

5. After the drill, debrief with staff and tenants, and follow up on any concerns.

Earthquake drills can be more elaborate and involved than the basic drill described above. Buildings could simulate post-shaking problems such as power failure, elevator service suspension, and stairwell doors being stuck shut due to building movement. Organizations can simulate activation of their business continuity plans and rehearse how they will communicate with employees, tend to the injured, and assess damage.

Finally, while The Great Shakeout will take place this year at 10:19 am on Oct. 19, you can set up a drill whenever convenient.  Building staff teams may want to do all or part of their drill after hours so as not to interrupt tenants, however tenants should participate in at least the Drop Cover and Hold portion of a drill.

For more information, contact us or visit The Great Shakeout web site, which provides a host of excellent ideas and resources.