Drop, Cover and Hold On…


As California’s lead emergency management agency, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) coordinates with local, state, and federal partners in all hazard’s response after an emergency – like an earthquake.

Cal OES and its partners work quickly to help California communities respond if a sizable earthquake hits California. On December 20, 2022, this coordination and series of steps were put into action.

Humboldt County Earthquake

On December 20th at 2:34 am, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Ferndale, California. This earthquake was followed by approximately 156 aftershocks the Largest occurring 5 minutes after the mainshock in Rio Dell. As the aftershocks continued to cause concern the two largest were a 4.3 which was in Ferndale, California and a 4.0 located in Hydesville, California.

Through California’s Earthquake Early Warning System, powered by ShakeAlert, around 270,000 people were alerted to take protective action prior to shaking being felt.

In the hours that followed, Governor Gavin Newsom activated the State Operations Center to coordinate the ongoing emergency response with local and tribal governments and provide any needed resources, including shelter, food and water, and aid in damage assessments of buildings and roadways.

Cal OES worked with local officials, tribal governments, and state agencies to provide needed resources to local communities. The Cal OES Disaster Logistics team staged resources like water pallet, cots, blankets, comfort kits, meals Ready to Eat (MREs), and generators. These and many more resources continued to become available once Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency.

In addition to local and tribal coordination, Cal OES coordinated with California Department of Transportation to ensure the safety of roadways, California Highway Patrol to ensure public safety and the Department of Public Health and Emergency Medical Services Authority to aid local hospitals, among many others.

Sending Help

During a large emergency, the state will send teams of highly specialized personnel to help with the response, assessment, and recovery efforts. For an earthquake, these recovery efforts are centered around assessing the repairing damages, restoring power, and ensuring the surrounding communities have the resources they needed to survive.

Specifically for the 2022 Humboldt County Earthquake, assessing the impacts from this earthquake, a 7-member team of Cal OES Safety Assessment Program (SAP) trained evaluators, led by the Cal OES Fire and Rescue Branch, worked through the Christmas weekend to conduct nearly 600 structure assessments.

Getting as many survivors as possible back into their homes quickly is key giving a local community the confidence and hope for a full community recovery.

Assessing and Repairing Damages

During the aftermath of an earthquake, specialists work together to assess and evaluate damaged buildings and public infrastructure, including schools and roads.

For the 2022 Humboldt County Earthquake, Cal OES coordinated with local officials and state agency leaders including, the California Department of General Services (DGS) through the Division of the State Architect (DSA), to conduct structural safety assessments on buildings that sustained damages during the earthquake.

In particular, the DSA deployed a specialist to inspect the damage at Eagle Prairie Elementary School. The DSA provides design and construction oversight for K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and state-leased facilities to ensure that they comply with all structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes.

In addition, Cal OES worked with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for crews to continue assesses and repair to the Fernbridge along State Route 211. 

If the power goes offline due to a large earthquake, Cal OES works with the utility company to restore that power as rapidly as possible. For the 2022 Humboldt County Earthquake, Cal OES worked closely with PG&E to restore power to the nearly 70,000 residents impacted by Tuesday’s earthquake. This effort though small helped bring the community on step closer to a sense of normalcy.

Training and Preparedness

California is known for its earthquakes, so it’s best to be prepared. There are steps Californians can take now to ensure they’re ready for the next one.

Indoors:  Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass. Do not go outside during shaking. If seated and unable to drop to the floor: bend forward, cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands.

Individuals using a wheelchair: Lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Always protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

In a stadium or theater: Drop to the ground in front of your seat or lean over as much as possible, then cover your head with your arms, and hold on to your neck with both hands until shaking stops.

In a store: Getting next to a shopping cart, beneath clothing racks, or within the first level of warehouse racks may provide extra protection.

Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards. Then Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

In addition, following the 2022 Humboldt County Earthquake, Cal OES conducted a tabletop exercise, bringing in state leaders to hold a mock earthquake tabletop exercise. This work is essential to ensure all facets of state response and recovery are well equipped during times of need.

Earthquake Preparedness

Consider these steps to begin preparing your home and family, per the Cal Earthquake Preparedness:

  • Create a family-preparedness plan.
  • Create emergency bag.
  • Protect yourself during earthquake shaking.
  • After the quake, check for injuries and damage.
  • When safe, continue to follow your disaster-preparedness plan.

How to Receive Earthquake Alerts 

To receive earthquake warnings, there are three ways for individuals and families to get alerts through the Earthquake Warning California system.

MyShake App: Free smartphone app that provides iPhone users with audio and visual warnings, available in both English and Spanish.

Android Earthquake Alerts: Android phones with updated operating systems are automatically subscribed to Android Earthquake Alerts, which uses the same technology as the MyShake App; and

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs): No-cost text messages for emergency situations sent through the nation-wide system providing lifesaving information for the State of California

Additional resources


US Geological Survey (USGS)

California Earthquake Authority (CEA)