I Feel The Earth…Move…Under My Feet.
This article is focused more toward those who don’t live in areas normally hit by earthquakes. Those of you who live in the high occurrence areas, I’m looking at you California, already know (I hope) what to do and how to respond.
An earthquake is caused by the shifting of rock beneath the Earth’s surface. For hundreds of millions of years, the force of shifting plates has shaped our planet. The huge plates that form the Earth’s surface move slowly over and under each other. Sometimes, the movement is very gradual. At other times, the plates lock together, unable to release the accumulating energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free causing the surface ground to shake. Most earthquakes occur at the edges where the plates meet; however, some earthquakes occur in the middle of plates.
Earthquakes can collapse buildings and bridges; disrupt gas, electric, water and phone service; trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and huge ocean waves called tsunamis. Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill and other unstable soil, trailers, and homes not tied to their foundations can be shaken off their mountings during an earthquake. When an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it causes death and injury and extensive, expensive property damage.
There are 41 states and territories in the United States which are at moderate to high risk from earthquakes, and they are located throughout the country. California experiences the most frequent damaging earthquakes; however, Alaska experiences the greatest number of large earthquakes, most of which are located in uninhabited areas. The largest earthquakes felt in the contiguous United States were along the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, where a three-month long series of quakes from 1811 to 1812 included three quakes larger than a magnitude 8 on the Richter Scale. These earthquakes were felt over the entire Eastern United States, with Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi experiencing the strongest ground shaking.
Where earthquakes have occurred in the past, they will happen again.
What To Expect
Ground Movement – Although terrifying, the movement of the ground isn’t the direct cause of death and injury. Most earthquake-related deaths and injuries result from collapsing walls, exploding windows and falling objects or people trying to navigate distances during the shaking. Most damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable.
Falling Items – Expect things which used to be up to come down. Roofing, bricks, air conditioners, tree branches, power lines, etc. If the quake is strong enough, it will dislodge many items and send them crashing to the ground. Don’t be under them. If you are outside, stay away from any overhead objects.
Aftershocks – Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that follow the main shock and can cause further damage to the weakened buildings, roadways, and bridges. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days or even months after the main event. Also, be aware that some earthquakes are actually “fore-shocks” and a larger earthquake may be minutes away.
Plan For It
- Find The Safest Places In Your Home – The doorway is no longer considered the safest place in the house. Doorways of modern homes are not as sturdy as the houses of say, 30+ years ago. A safe place would be under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance you move, the less likely you will be injured. Statistics show that people trying to move more than 10 feet during the shaking are more likely to be injured. If you are outside when a quake happens, stay outside. Move away from buildings, power lines, trees and anything with the potential to fall. Crouch down and cover your head and neck. Make sure your kids understand this as well.
- Practice Makes Perfect – Drop and crawl under a sturdy desk or table, hold on and protect your face by pressing it against your arm. If the furniture in your home isn’t sturdy enough, sit with your back against an interior wall, away from windows, with your arms covering your head and neck. Constant practice will make this an automatic response. During an earthquake or any other disaster for that matter, many people hesitate, try to remember what they are supposed to do and panic. By training everyone in your household and then practicing often, you will respond quickly and automatically which may help protect you and yours from injury or worse. Practice the “drop, crawl and hold on” at least every other month. More frequently if desired or you feel you need it.
- Have Your Gear And Supplies Ready – Being prepared ahead of time not only provides you with piece-of-mind but may just save the day should disaster strike. If you have put together or bought a bug-out-bag then you have everything you need except shelter. You may want to think about adding a large tent or a few small tents to your list of gear. Having the essentials right there in hand will ease tension and help everybody feel safer and more confident. If you’re building a kit, some of the items you should have include: a first aid kit large enough for the whole of your household and comprehensive enough to treat any wounds. Earthquakes tend to cause a lot of deep cuts and crushing injuries. Emergency food rations, emergency water packs, hand crank and/or solar powered radio, signaling device (whistles, mirrors, flares), Mylar “space” blankets, hand crank flashlight and other sources of light, fire starter, personal hygiene items, HAM or CB radio and a solar charger and batteries for electronics, lights and phones.
If you live in an urban or suburban area, help should get to you relatively quickly. If the roads are damaged or blocked by debris, you may have a longer wait. If the damage is significant, you will be on your own and, while the unprepared are wandering around wondering what to do, you and your family will be warm, fed and hydrated.