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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Preparing for Earthquakes

The thing about earthquakes is that they are both inevitable and unpredictable. Recent quakes in Chile, California and other spots have raised current awareness levels - though there are assurances that the level of quake activity has not risen dramatically though the ability to locate them has improved and earthquake years have "averages":
According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year.
If you live in the United States, there are regions that are more prone to earthquakes that others - California, Alaska, and the West Coast come to mind, but it's not just those areas. Here's a useful map from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):

Worldwide? Well, this USGS page lists daily activity of earthquakes over 2.5 on the Richter scale. At the time of this writing, that list shows 63 such quakes. This map shows the daily activity:

USGS is working on developing "early warning" for quakes - as set out here:
Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) uses existing seismic networks to detect moderate to large earthquakes very rapidly so that a warning can be sent before destructive seismic waves arrive to locations outside the area where the earthquake begins. These warnings allow people to take protective action and can also triggering automatic responses to safeguard critical infrastructure.
You might note that the idea is to warn people outside the immediate quake area. For those at or near the epicenter, I guess you'll know when the quake arrives - when the quake arrives. Areas of greater or lesser earthquake risk are known, but where and when - not so much.

National seismic hazard map for the United States. Colors indicate peak horizontal ground acceleration (in % g) with a 10% probability of exceedance in 50 years. The earthquake early warning system is initially being developed in the western United States (California and Washington) where the seismic hazards are greatest and the density of seismic instruments approaches what is necessary to produce a useful warning.
The caption of the "Seismic Hazard Map" of the U.S. does a nice job of explaining risks. You might note the risks of the "New Madrid" (right center of map) and South Carolina zones. The USGS provides a poster of "20 Cool Facts about the New Madrid Seismic Zone" which include:
***In 1811, the population of what is now the central United States was very sparse. Still considered to be the western frontier, there were only about 5,700 people in the St. Louis area at the time. Most historical reports (journals, letters, and newspapers) describing the earthquake shaking and its effects were written by people who were located east of the Mississippi River. Today, about 11–12 million people live in the St. Louis–Memphis region.
I hope you get the idea that there are a few locations in the U.S. that are historically safe from earthquakes, but there are also vast regions that have, as they say, a "history."

All of which gets to the point of this post, which is what to do to prepare yourself and your loved ones for a serious earthquake. Naturally, the American Red Cross has some ideas at Earthquake Preparedness and Safety:
  • Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake safety plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice “drop, cover and hold on” in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed in case the earthquake strikes in the middle of the night.
  • Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
  • Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
  • Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
  • Learn about your area’s seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction.
  • Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location.
Ah, yes, emergency supplies. The Red Cross has a list. You know, water, food and the like. Kept in a place unlikely to have your house drop on top of it. If you want to forgo doing your own kit assembly, there are kits you can buy. Including a commercially available kit from iPrepare that covers 5 people for a few days and runs about $160.

For people living in earthquake country, I would add some things - things I have also recommended for people living in hurricane country, including tools to move stuff out of the way to get to your emergency kit -like a "come-along" and a serious pry-bar.

The radio? Hand-cranked with some walkie talkies to allow communications if you send out scouts.

Some people suggest having some sort of "protection" from looters and those other varmints who, having failed to prepare for disasters, come looking to you for "assistance." I have previously suggested something like the Taurus Judge, chambered for .45 and .410. I still like the choice especially with more .410 than .45 rounds. Less chance of shooting a neighbor by accident is my thinking. But . . . you may have different views, including deciding that a weapon is just too much to worry about. Up to you.

I would offer the idea that the best protection may come in encouraging your neighbors to get their own emergency kits and discussing neighbor assistance programs, perhaps including Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Always a good idea to know your neighbors, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:57 AM

    I thought California said that fracking was the cause of earthquakes.......