Nov 2, 2022 - News

Seattle residents aren't prepping for "the big one," poll says

Illustration of a cellphone emanating an earthquake warning.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Has Seattle given up on getting ready? Maybe so, a poll on earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest recently found.

Driving the news: Residents of the region expect to see a major earthquake in their lifetimes, according to a PEMCO Insurance poll released this fall; but nearly half say they haven't done what they should to prepare.

  • That's a drop from 75% of respondents who said they were ready seven years ago, the poll found.

Why it matters: The movement of three tectonic plates — the Pacific Plate, the North American Plate and the small Juan de Fuca Plate — drives up earthquake hazard in this region, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN).

  • Each year, the Pacific Plate moves about 7 to 11 centimeters northwest; the North American plate moves 2.3 cm to the west-southwest and the Juan De Fuca Plate moves about 4 cm east-northeast.
  • That shift generates the M9 subduction zone earthquakes that rock our region every 550 years on average, PNSN says.

Zoom out: In California, much of the strain generated by the grinding of the Pacific Plate against North America is taken up in earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault.

What they're saying: The dip in preparation could be caused by people feeling more resilient after surviving a major pandemic, said Bellevue-based psychotherapist Sam Louie.

  • "Or they could swing from thinking, 'It won't be that bad,' to catastrophizing and thinking, 'We're all going to die,'" he said. "Either can lead to a 'why bother' attitude."

Be smart: For a list of what should be included in every basic disaster supply kit, click here.


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