Despite several popular old wives’ tales, there are no weather conditions associated with earthquakes. Earthquakes are entirely unpredictable. If you live in an area where earthquake activity is possible, it is incredibly important to prepare for them.
What causes earthquakes?
The earth is made up of 17 major and minor tectonic plates that float on a partially molten layer of Earth's mantle. Plates move around one to ten centimeters each year and often so slowly and gently we don’t even notice. On occasion two tectonic plates can “slip” and the sudden release of energy from this movement will cause seismic waves to ripple out from the epicenter, the location where the energy is released from. This causes massive ground movements and can cause earth liquefaction when soil and groundwater temporarily mix and the ground becomes incredibly soft.
An earthquake event is measured on the Richter Scale according to the magnitude of the shock, or the amount of energy that was released during the earthquake. The magnitude is expressed on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being an incredibly severe earthquake that causes incredible damage and the loss of lives. Most earthquakes are quite minor, out of the approximate 500,000 earthquakes that occur each year only 100,000, are felt and only about 100 cause any damage or loss of life.
What dangers are related to earthquakes?
Collapsed buildings or partially collapsed buildings can result from several causes related to earthquakes. The structure of the building may not be able to withstand the ground movement of the seismic waves or might be directly positioned on a faultline and be torn apart as the ground moves apart. In the case of liquefaction, the building may sink into the ground or collapse.
Earthquakes will only cause tsunamis if the earthquake originates in or very near the ocean. Inland earthquakes are not at risk for tsunamis. Tsunamis are simply massive waves that are formed as a result of the seismic waves originating from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Landslides are most common in areas with high water content in the soil. However, an earthquake can knock loose even large solid rocks sending debris and boulders into roadways, buildings, and vehicles. A landslide can affect travel, down utility lines, and bury anything in their way.
Aftershocks are smaller but also potentially dangerous earthquakes that will follow a significant earthquake event. Aftershocks can create all the same hazards and perils that a mainshock, or the strongest earthquake, caused. Be aware of buildings collapsing, earth liquefaction, landslides, collapsing roadway infrastructure, flooding, and tsunamis.
What can you do to be PREPARED?
Before an Earthquake
- Have your Bug Out Bag prepped and ready to go. Check the expiration date for your food rations and medicine.
- Earthquakes can be very hard on a city’s infrastructure. They can disrupt water treatment by damaging the facility or the pipes that carry your water, making your drinking water hazardous. Be sure you have a plan in place to keep you and your family stocked with safe drinking water throughout the emergency.
- Establish a location for your family to meet in case an earthquake occurs when a family member is out of the house. Consider having a second and third location in case the primary location becomes unsafe or inaccessible.
- If you live in an area prone to earthquakes be sure you have adequate earthquake insurance to cover property damage or injury in case of a disaster.
- Hire a professional to evaluate how secure your home is. Your home should be anchored to its foundation, and there are techniques for securing exterior features of your home such as porches, sliding glass doors, carports, and garages.
During an Earthquake
- Drop down to your hands and knees to avoid falling from the motion of the moving earth.
- Crawl away from any objects that may fall on you while covering your neck and head to protect them from falling debris.
- Stay away from glass windows during an earthquake.
After an Earthquake
- Be aware of shattered glass or other dangerous debris on the ground.
- If you are in a damaged building and have a safe way of exiting, leave the building and move to open space.
- If you are trapped in a building avoid moving around and kicking up dust. Tap on pipes or use a whistle to signal your location to rescue workers.
- Continue to monitor local news reports and NOAA radio stations.
- Be aware of the potential dangers of aftershocks.
Feel assured you are PREPARED4x
While the unpredictability of earthquakes may leave you feeling unprepared and vulnerable there are many preparations and mindsets you can take to ensure you are ready for an earthquake should one occur. Remember that most earthquakes are mild and many you can’t even feel. If you live in an earthquake-prone part of the world, your local building codes will have earthquake reinforcements meant to protect you.
Do you have any experience with major earthquakes? We would love to hear your first-hand account on Facebook or Instagram. Tag us @PREPARED4x or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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