How many earthquakes are there in Nevada? According to the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, maintained by the University of Nevada, Reno, there are thousands of earthquakes each year in Nevada and eastern California, which are too small for anyone to feel. There might be 10 to over one hundred earthquakes over a year that are large enough to be felt. On average, an earthquake that is strong enough to be damaging, if it strikes a populated area, occurs about every three years in this region. 

In fact, over the last 150 years, Nevada has been the third most active state in the number of large earthquakes. Since the 1850s, 62 earthquakes with potentially destructive magnitudes of 5.5 or greater have occurred in the state. Given the many “earthquake-generating” faults there are in Nevada and the many historical earthquakes, it is clear that earthquakes will continue to occur in the state. Some of these events will be very large, and some will be near our communities.

Therefore, a review of what to do in case of an earthquake in the area would be appropriate. For those who experience the next major earthquake that affects Nevada, whether in a rural or urban setting, the financial and psychological impacts could be life changing. If earthquake preparedness is neglected, the shaking from earthquakes can even be life threatening.

How rational do you think you will be during the violent shaking of a major earthquake? Before the next earthquake, get together with your family and/or co-workers to plan now what you will do during and after that event.

1. Teach everyone to “Drop, Cover, and Hold.” If you are not near a desk or table, drop to the floor against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors and tall furniture. 

2. Stay inside if you are inside a building and outside if you are outside during the earthquake.

3. Teach everyone who could be home alone how to turn off the gas — but only if they smell, hear or see a leak.

4. Establish an out-of-area contact person who can be called by all family members to relay information. In an emergency, out-of-area calls are often easier to place than local calls.

5. Store supplies and prepare a personal earthquake bag.

It is also necessary to be aware of nonstructural hazards. What is a nonstructural hazard? Any object in a building that is not part of the structural framework is a nonstructural component. This includes bookshelves, windows, televisions, computers, water heaters, lights, dishes, paintings, office equipment, file cabinets and ventilation ducts, to name a few. Nonstructural components become hazards during an earthquake, when they can be thrown down, shaken down or toppled. This hazard can be avoided by securing; relocating, replacing, removing and taking cover from nonstructural hazards.

Once the earthquake is over, then there is the aftermath — the risk of fire, the potential lack of utilities and basic services, and the certainty of aftershocks. Electrical, water, transportation and other vital systems can be disrupted for several days after a large earthquake. Emergency response agencies and hospitals could be overwhelmed and may be unable to provide immediate assistance. Be prepared to be on your own for 72 hours or more. Knowing first aid and having supplies will make life more comfortable and help maintain health and order until emergency responders become available.

Practice your plan often before the next earthquake, so habit can overcome fear. Also, work with your neighbors to prepare a neighborhood plan. You may have elderly or disabled neighbors who could need the help of others during an earthquake. The support of friends and neighbors can reduce stress for everyone.

If you would like more information on preparing for, surviving and recovering from an earthquake, you can go to  and download the “Living with Earthquakes in Nevada” publication, produced by the Nevada  Bureau of Mines and Geology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Also, visit the website of the University’s Nevada Seismological Laboratory, Finally, registering for The Great Nevada Shakeout is a great place to start in being prepared.