The Fault in the Facts: Am I safe in my doorway during an earthquake?

In this first edition of The Fault in the Facts, Makayla Clark learns the truth about some of those myths about where to stand in an earthquake.
Published: Feb. 20, 2022 at 1:59 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaskans are no strangers to earthquakes. They happen beneath us every day, whether we know it or not.

Alaska’s News Source has recently started a new segment called The Fault in The Facts to talk about the truth and history of mother nature and explain her natural hazards.


There are many misconceptions of what to do when an earthquake strikes.

A fault or a fact?
A fault or a fact?(KTUU)

Some people say to stand in a doorway. In school, students are taught to get under their desks. And some people use the triangle of safety by getting next to something. But which of these are the fault in the facts? And which one is actually a fact?

Michael West with the Alaska Earthquake Center explained the right thing to do.


I think you’ll find pretty universal agreement amongst all agencies and all advocacy groups involved with earthquakes that our three-part drop, cover and hold guidance actually makes a lot of sense,” West said.

He said people should “drop” and get to the floor when they feel shaking.

“Because earthquakes can create very violent motions, at one point or another you may end up on the floor anyway, might as well start there,” West said. “‘Cover,’ which is get something over your head. A table is the most common thing but there you could certainly have other creative solutions, and the third part, ‘hold,’ that’s hold on.”

Alaska gets minor and major earthquakes. West said it’s best to drop, cover and hold for any size of quake.

“If we go back in our history, some of our largest earthquakes actually start out with very modest shaking,” he said.

It’s common for magnitude eight and nine earthquakes to start with minor tremors.

“When earthquake shaking begins, you probably are not going to know where it’s headed, and I would say, even for relatively minor shakes, I would act. I would drop, cover and hold. I do,” West said.

But in some cases, there won’t be something to get under, like at a grocery store. West said the key is for people to assess their environment and move quickly from things that look hazardous.

“This isn’t rocket science,” he said.

“There’s no desk to jump under in a grocery store, but if I’m in the aisles where there are things stacked high around me, yeah, I’m going to get away from that,” he said. “Use your judgment. Use your intuition.”

West said sometimes when he is in a new space, he scans the area in the same way someone might to look for fire exit routes.

“It’s not a crazy idea to look around and say, ‘Huh? Where would I go in earthquake? Oh, I’m going to go there. Got it,’” West said. “And then I move on.”


“I think there’s bad advice for earthquakes,” he said. “…There’s better advice.”

West said running outside during a quake could also be bad advice.

“Intuitively, that seems like a logical, a good reaction for us,” West said. “But there’s a number of reasons why that can be a problem.”

He also said standing in a doorway during a quake can be dangerous. The side-to-side motion can lead to broken bones and smashed fingers.

And he said it’s a misconception that doorways are sturdier; many doors in homes are not in a structural wall and don’t offer that security.

Email questions about Mother Nature’s truth and history to

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