Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Volcano Watch: Join Statewide Earthquake Preparedness Drill on Oct. 15

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The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory library after the magnitude-6.6 Ka‘ōiki earthquake on November 16, 1983. Much of the injuries caused by large earthquakes are from falling objects, which can be prevented by securing items to the wall. In the case of books, it is best to have shelves with raised edges to lessen the chance of objects sliding off. USGS photo.

Major earthquakes cannot be predicted. Successful earthquake predictions need to have three things correct: the location, the time, and the magnitude. The best anyone can reliably do is get two out of three correct, for earthquakes that impact the public.

There will be a magnitude-6 earthquake this week. This is true — we just don’t know where. Probabilistically, at least one magnitude-6 earthquake will happen on Earth on any given week.

There will be a magnitude-7 earthquake in Alaska. This is true — we just don’t know when. Replace Alaska with any square-inch on Earth, and that place will experience a magnitude-7 earthquake sometime in the future. It could be tomorrow, next month, or in the next few million years, but no location on Earth is exempt from a damaging earthquake.

There will be an earthquake in Hawaii tomorrow. This is true — we just don’t know how big. Actually, we can get some magnitudes generally right — there will be a magnitude-1 earthquake in Hawai‘i tomorrow. This is true — it just isn’t detected by anything other than sensitive monitoring equipment, so the prediction isn’t publicly relevant.

The timing of larger, damaging earthquakes is harder to narrow down. We can look at the record of earthquakes over the past 200 years in Hawai‘i to understand where large, damaging earthquakes have occurred in the past, but there is no way to reliably predict when damaging earthquakes will happen.


Of course, that’s not going to stop us, humans, from trying anyway. There are numerous methods, scientific or otherwise, that people use to try to predict “the next big one.” These methods deserve their own “Volcano Watch” someday.

Whether we understand the scientific method or believe in predictions, one question comes to mind: what do we do with that information? We get ready. We prepare.

Earthquake preparedness can happen at any time. This is true — we don’t need predictions of a “big one” to actually be ready for a damaging earthquake.

One way that you can train yourself to be ready for a damaging earthquake is to participate in an earthquake drill. Last year, over 42,000 individuals in the State of Hawai‘i participated in an annual earthquake preparedness drill, called “The Great Hawai‘i ShakeOut.”

International ShakeOut day, which “The Great Hawai‘i ShakeOut” is a part of, is always the third Thursday of October.


The date of the ShakeOut determines the time of the earthquake drill. This year, we invite everyone in Hawaiʻi nei to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on!” on Thursday, Oct. 15 (10/15), at 10:15 a.m. local time.

Register yourself, family, business, or organization as participants in the 2020 Great Hawai‘i ShakeOut on the web at http://shakeout.org/hawaii/register.

During “The Great Hawai‘i ShakeOut,” the public is encouraged to practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold on!” as part of the earthquake drill. “Drop, Cover, and Hold on!” will help reduce the risk of being knocked down or injured during an earthquake for most indoor situations, but not all. The ShakeOut website provides more detailed earthquake safety actions for other situations: outdoors, at school or work, at the beach, or while driving a car.

While knowing what to do during an earthquake is important, it’s also important to know what should be done before and after an earthquake. Did you know that we can greatly reduce earthquake damage with a few simple life hacks, by using putty or Velcro® strips to secure items before an earthquake happens?

After an earthquake passes, there are other hazards that should be considered, such as damaged utility lines and the potential for a tsunami being generated. Which utilities should be turned off after a damaging earthquake? How far do you go up mauka (uphill) to be safe from a tsunami?


Find the answer to these and other questions at http://shakeout.org/hawaii. Make sure to register as a ShakeOut participant and start preparing for earthquakes before they happen.

On 10/15 at 10:15 a.m., join the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory ʻohana by participating in the “Drop, Cover, and Hold on!” drill as part of the 2020 Great Hawai‘i Shakeout. Tag us on social media (@USGSvolcanoes on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook) to let us know how you are preparing to stay safe during an earthquake.

Volcano Activity Updates

Kīlauea Volcano is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level remains at NORMAL. Kīlauea updates are issued monthly.

Kīlauea monitoring data for the past month show variable but typical rates of seismicity and ground deformation, low rates of sulfur dioxide emissions, and only minor geologic changes since the end of eruptive activity in September 2018. The water lake at the bottom of Halema‘uma‘u continues to slowly expand and deepen. For the most current information on the lake, go online.

Mauna Loa is not erupting and remains at Volcano Alert Level ADVISORY. This alert level does not mean that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an eruption from the current level of unrest is certain. Mauna Loa updates are issued weekly.

This past week, about 98 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded beneath the upper-elevations of Mauna Loa; most of these occurred at shallow depths of less than about five miles. Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements show long-term slowly increasing summit inflation, consistent with magma supply to the volcano’s shallow storage system. Gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures as measured at both Sulphur Cone and the summit remain stable. Webcams show no changes to the landscape. For more information on the current monitoring of Mauna Loa Volcano, go online.

There were two events with three or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: an M3.5 earthquake nine miles SE of Waimea at an 18-mile depth on Oct. 1 at 6:55 p.m. HST and an M2.7 earthquake two miles W of Pāhala at 21-mile depth on Oct. 1 at 11:57 a.m. HST.

HVO continues to closely monitor both Kīlauea and Mauna Loa for any signs of increased activity. Email questions to [email protected].

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