The floor is shaking, your wall hangings are moving in odd and inexplicable ways and your brain finally grasps what’s happening – earthquake! While a few short years ago we would expect this to happen to our California cousins, today it could well be an event occurring anywhere in Oklahoma.

According to the experts, Oklahoma has been experiencing an upswing in earthquakes since 2009.

“In Oklahoma, most earthquakes that occur are not strong enough to be felt,” says Mark Gower, the director of emergency response and homeland security for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. “However, it’s still wise to be prepared for how to stay safe if a stronger earthquake does occur.”

Gower notes that many earthquake precautions, such as ensuring heavy furniture is attached to walls to avoid tipping over, are helpful safety tips for households in general, whether for earthquake safety or as a general precaution.

“Earthquake-related dangers may include injuries from falling objects or stepping on broken glass after an earthquake occurs,” he says. “Be sure objects that could fall, such as large-framed pictures or glassware on open shelving, are secured so they will not fall in the event of a strong earthquake.”

Gower notes that many people “still believe” the safest place to be during an earthquake is in a doorway.

“In fact, the best way to stay safe is to drop, cover and hold on,” he says. “Drop to the ground, take shelter under a sturdy table or desk while covering the back of your neck, and hold on to the table or desk to keep it steady.”

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It is also common for people to want to rush outside when an earthquake occurs to assess the potential damage.

“Strong earthquakes can cause damage to the building’s brick facades or create other safety hazards that could injure someone as they try to exit,” he says. “Wait until the shaking has fully stopped before exiting, and avoid anything that could cause an injury on your way out.

“Be sure your family has a plan for what to do in case of any type of emergency or hazard that can occur in Oklahoma,” he concludes, “such as earthquakes, fires, severe weather, tornadoes, ice storms and more.”

Practical suggestions
for earthquake safety:

  • Secure your space
  • Create a plan before an earthquake hits, including how you and your family will communicate
  • Drop, cover and hold on
  • Evacuate afterward, if necessary
  • Evaluate your earthquake plan and make any needed changes.
  • If you are indoors, stay there. Don’t get too close to appliances, heavy furniture or windows. (The kitchen is not a good place to be.)
  • If you are outdoors, move away from power lines and buildings into an open space
  • If you are driving, carefully stop. Do not park under trees, an overpass or a bridge
  • If you are in a mountainous area, watch for trees, rocks and other debris that could be headed toward you

Sources: earthquakecountry.org and USGS.org

What’s causing them?

Jake Walter, a state seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma explains:

“In the past decade, wastewater from oil and gas production in north-central Oklahoma was disposed into deep geologic formations that caused old faults to become reactivated and produce some of the largest earthquakes in the state’s history,” he says. “State agencies worked together to assess that information to promote safer disposal practices that the industry adopted, which has led to a dramatic decline in seismicity. The state went from experiencing over 100 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater per month in mid-2015 to about 2 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater per month today.”