Earthquake Facts

Earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning. They can occur throughout the year at any time of day or night. Each year 70-75 damaging earthquakes occur around the world. In Maine we experience an average of five earthquakes per year.

Forty-five states and territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes. Maine is classified as a moderate risk state.

Ground vibrations during an earthquake are seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects caused by the ground shaking. It is extremely important for a person to move as little as possible to reach the place of safety he or she has identified, because most injuries occur when people try to move more than a few feet during the shaking.

Much of the damage caused by earthquakes is predictable and preventable. We must all work together in our communities to apply our knowledge to enact and enforce up-to-date building codes, and avoid building in hazardous areas, such as those prone to landslides. We must also identify and eliminate hazards at home, make an emergency earthquake plan and practice that plan.

During an earthquake, you should get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on.

Avoid doorways as they generally are no stronger than any other part of the structure and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you.

It’s a common myth that during an earthquake, the earth cracks open and people, cars, and animals can fall into those cracks. The earth does not crack open like the Grand Canyon. The earth moves and rumbles and, during that movement, small cracks can form. The usual displacements of the earth during an earthquake are caused by up-and-down movements, so shifts in the height of the soil are more likely than chasm-like cracks.

Not all buildings meet building codes. Many of Maine’s buildings were built prior to 1950 when municipalities in Maine had no known building codes. These buildings are called “pre-code” structures. From 1950 – 2009, individual towns and cities had a variety of building codes, but there was no statewide standard. In 2010, Maine adopted the International Building Codes. The Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) must be enforced in all municipalities with a population of 4,000 residents or more. Municipalities with less than 4,000 residents are encouraged to adopt and enforce MUBEC, but are not required to do so. For more information on Building and Energy codes in Maine, visit: and scroll down to Codes Adoption History.