Hazard Description 


An earthquake is a sudden motion or trembling of the ground caused by shifting tectonic plates. Earthquakes occur very abruptly, with little or no warning time. The duration of earthquakes ranges from a few seconds to a few minutes. Aftershocks can recur over hours, weeks, or months, usually with diminishing frequency and intensity. The State of Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the United States, and Washoe County is located in one of the most seismically active areas in Nevada. Overall, any area of the County is susceptible to noticeable effects of earthquakes.

See the history of earthquakes in Nevada here


Earthquakes are potentially catastrophic, capable of causing multiple fatalities and major structural and infrastructure damage, including disruption of utilities, communications, and transportation systems. Secondary effects can include landslides, seiches, liquefaction, fires, and dam failure. Earthquakes have the potential to cause significant, widespread structural damage throughout the region.  The severity and duration of these impacts would depend on the severity of the earthquake and damage to infrastructure and buildings across the region.


Building codes adopted by Washoe County require all development to meet building standards based on seismic zone. The currently adopted codes are the 2018 International Building Code and the 2018 International Residential Code, with the Northern Nevada Amendment package. 

To learn more about Earthquakes, visit the Nevada Seismology Laboratory website here.


The Great Nevada ShakeOut

The Great Nevada ShakeOut is an annual opportunity to practice how to be safer during big earthquakes: "Drop, Cover and Hold On." The ShakeOut has also been organized to encourage you, your community, your school, or your organization to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries. To learn more about the Great Nevada Shake Out, click here.







Sign-up for Alerts

Citizens can register for reverse telephone notification, called Code Red, as well as other notifications concerning alerts. To sign up, click on the “Regional Notification” link on the menu and follow the instructions.