Today’s the Day to Drop, Cover and Hold On

Posted at 8:15 a.m.

In a couple of hours, don’t be surprised if you see folks around you start dropping to the floor, crawling under sturdy desks or tables and covering their heads. It’s all part of the annual Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill that starts at 10:15 a.m.

Practicing these simple steps — drop, cover and hold on — is just one of the ways you can prepare for tremors.

Drop, Cover and Hold On for earthquake safety

  • DROP to the ground (before the shaking drops you).
  • Take COVER under a sturdy desk or table if possible, protecting your head and neck.
  • HOLD ON to the desk or table until the shaking stops.

Not to Late to Participate

Over 2 million people have registered to participate in this morning’s drill — including over 1.1 million in Virginia alone! But if you haven’t signed up, it’s not too late to do so. Just go to to register. And don’t worry if you’ve already got plans for this morning. You can conduct your own earthquake drill any time over the next two weeks to have your participation counted. So register now and drop, cover and hold on at 10:15 a.m.

Earthquakes in Virginia

Virginia experiences earthquakes each year, but only a few are felt. Since 1977, more than 195 quakes have been detected as originating beneath Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Of these, at least 29 were large enough to be felt at the earth’s surface. This averages out to about six earthquakes per year, of which one is felt.

The Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake centered near Mineral, Va., was felt by one-third of the U.S. population from Georgia to Maine and it caused over $200 million in damage. Earthquakes like that one can cause sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second. They can cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, while every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury.

Now is a good time to check your home for unsecured objects that could move, break or fall as an earthquake shakes your home. Pay attention to tall, heavy or expensive objects like bookcases, home electronics, appliances and items hanging from walls, especially over beds, tables, desks or chairs. FEMA and our emergency management office recommends that you secure those items with flexible fasteners, such as nylon straps, or relocate them.

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About Fairfax County Emergency Information

Official emergency information about preparedness, response and recovery from Fairfax County Government.

3 responses to “Today’s the Day to Drop, Cover and Hold On”

  1. Melissa says :

    Why is it you suggest to cover under a desk? I am from Mexico City (experienced the earthquake on ’85 and many more) and lived in Herndon when the earthquake on 2011. We never cover under furniture or anything because it’s dangerous for it to crush you. Instead, we look for the triangle of life which is lay down beside a taller piece of furniture (bed, sofa, filing cabinets, etc.) and as soon as the earthquake is over, to evacuate the building to check if it’s safe to stay inside. Here, there is no culture of that. On 2011, I was home with my 2 kids (who had evacuation drills at school in Mexico) and did what were tough but our surprise was to get to the parking lot right outside our building and see we were the only ones there. A woman came out to the balcony with a baby in arms asking us “what just happened?” And when we told her, she said “oh!” And went back inside. We were surprised and amazed of how dangerous it can be when people don’t know what to do in those situations.

    • Fairfax County Emergency Information says :

      Thanks for the info Melissa. We’ll be sure to pass your story along to our contacts at emergency management.

      Another good source of information is, referred by FEMA, which both advocate “Drop, Cover and Hold On” as proper guidance for earthquake safety. According to this site, FEMA and the Great Southeast ShakeOut websites, this is the guidance: “COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible)

        under a sturdy table or desk

      . If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.”

  2. Bowman Olds says :

    As we have done in past years, the Fairfax Joint Local Emergency Planning Committee after the start of its 10:00 AM meeting participated in the Great Southeast ShakeOut at precisely 10:15 AM.