As a native Northwesterner, I ducked and covered my way through annual earthquake drills at school. But when I made an offhand mention of such drills while at college back East, most friends were confused. One California friend nodded at our shared memory. But the Bostonians and New Yorkers and Floridians? Nuthin'.

So if you're a Portland transplant clueless about quakes, or a native who's forgotten your elementary school lessons, take note of the Great Oregon ShakeOut scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 26. At 10:15 am, Oregon businesses, schools and individuals are encouraged to drop, cover and hold on (nope, don't stand in a doorway, and definitely don't dash outside) for the statewide, minute-long earthquake drill.

Next week's drill will be Oregon's first ShakeOut, but organizers at Oregon Emergency Management hope to make the event an annual one (California has been holding yearly ShakeOuts since 2008, and British Columbia will join Oregon on Wednesday with a ShakeOut of its own). OEM says more than 24,000 participants have already registered for the Oregon drill.

And why Jan. 26? That's the 311th anniversary of the great Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, whose magnitude measured somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2 (Haiti's earthquake was a 7, and Chile's an 8.8). That massive tremor rattled the entire Pacific Northwest and caused a tsunami in Japan.

And since no one can predict when a big quake might hit here, that makes emergency preparedness that much more important, urges Christine Miles, a spokeswoman for the Portland Office of Emergency Management. She encourages households to assemble emergency kits and make family plans.

“An emergency kit is like an umbrella. You have it around, but you hope that you don’t have to use it.”