Taking the long view. . .
These last few months have been consumed with COVID and with politics and it’s tough to escape from the grip of what’s happening this week, this day, even this hour.
From an emergency preparedness standpoint, we can always profit by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. So today, readjust your focus to consider earthquakes, and the inevitable “Big One.”
We happen to live in Southern California where earthquakes are more frequent than in other parts of the U.S or some parts of the world. We know, for example, that a major quake along the San Andreas fault (which runs right through the City of Los Angeles) is due sometime in the not too distant future. We’ve had some warnings: Northridge, in 1994 and then Ridgecrest, just a couple of years ago in 2019. (That one offered plenty of warnings, if you want to know! Virginia wrote several Advisories about the 2019 experience!) So we know we have to be prepared for the Big One.
People who live in Northern California had a major earthquake over a decade ago — the Loma Prieta quake that hit during the 3rd game of the 1989 World Series. That quake was caused by the San Andreas fault, too. (It runs up through the state and then heads out into the Pacific right at San Francisco.) So Northern Californians know they have to be prepared.
In the Northwest
More and more in the news lately — the Cascadia Subduction zone. This very long fault slips a couple of hundred feet every three hundred years or so. (Last big “slip” was in 1700 — so again, it’s overdue.) When the next one occurs, it will likely measure 9.0 and impact Washington and the whole Pacific Northwest. This will truly be The Big One!
In the Midwest
If you live in the Midwest near the Mississippi River, you could be at risk from one of the most dangerous faults of all. Even though we don’t hear too much about it, the New Madrid fault in the central United States is among the most active in the country, running from St. Louis to Memphis.
And those of you who live in fracking country have become increasingly aware of the — heretofore small but now increasing in number and in intensity — earthquakes in your region. States most impacted: Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas.
In the Mid-Atlantic
And, imagine the surprise of people living in the Mid-Atlantic area when Washington D.C. experienced a significant – but non-lethal – 5.9 earthquake on August 23, 2011.
How to prepare for the Big One?
The fact of the matter is that we know all too little about the existence of earthquake faults around the world. New faults are discovered on a regular basis, even right here in the middle of earthquake country!
And we have even less ability to forecast earthquake activity level. Yes, new technology continues to be developed, including the ShakeAlert Early Warning System. Its collection of sensors up and down California could give us a few seconds or even a few minutes warning. (We have had this system on our smart phones for over a year, but it has never alerted us IN ADVANCE because it’s apparently set to “note” quakes only over 4.0.)
Other iPhone apps track quakes worldwide. Nearly every morning I get an alert on my phone from QuakeAlert, with maps, info, etc. Just look for “Earthquake” in the app store to see a number of options. Caution — some of the apps are free, and others not.
The bottom line? Everyone has to take some responsibility for knowing what the earthquake threat is in their own region of the country. And we all have to take some responsibility for our own survival and well-being when the Big One hits. There is only so much our government agencies can do — and most of that help will come well AFTER the fact!
Five Action Items to help prepare for the Big One.
- Find out about the history of earthquakes where you live. You may never have experienced a quake — but there are likely people who have!
- Analyze your day. If a quake hits at 10 a.m., what problems would you encounter? What about if it hits at 1 a.m.?
- Do you, and family members, know how to protect yourself when you feel the shaking? You don’t really have time to think much about what to do! You want your response to be immediate! (And you want to avoid the discredited theories like getting into a doorway!)
- In a severe quake, power will be out and roads may be impassible for hours or days. Do you have supplies to carry you though as you shelter in place?
- Should you plan now to make changes to your home that will make it safer in an earthquake?
We have written again and again about earthquakes here at Emergency Plan Guide. (Use the Search bar to find some of those articles.) We’ve discussed earthquakes again and again at our neighborhood meetings, where we focus on what to expect from the authorities, and how we need to prepare to take care of each other!
Most recently, Virginia and I published a whole booklet as part of our Mini-Series, titled “Prepare Your Home for Earthquake!” We certainly can recommend that as an easy and complete resource that will address all the 5 action items above. And more . . .!
However you decide to prepare for the Big One, you can feel justified in starting any time. Think long-range. Because the Big One is bound to come!
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
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