I think of myself as a pretty resourceful guy, and handy with duct tape and a pair pliers. When a deer charged my car and knocked my rearview mirror off a few months ago, I was able to fix it myself just fine. But as a new resident of the state of California, I’m starting to realize that I am not really ready to deal with EVERY problem. A large earthquake is going to hit California in the near future, a fact confirmed recently by scientists and researchers. So how should I react when it happens?
This is the question I asked myself last week, to which I had no definitive answer. Unlike many other dangerous situations, watching episodes of MacGyver had not prepared me for an earthquake. Therefore, I decided to search the net for earthquake safety tips. I have distilled my findings into the following blog post.
What’s My Risk?
A large earthquake is going to hit California soon. The question is not if, but when. Here are some probabilities to help evaluate your risk (data from http://www.scec.org/ucerf/).
- 99.7% chance of magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake during the next 30 years
- 46% chance of magnitude 7.5 or larger earthquake during the next 30 years
- 2% chance of a magnitude 7.5 or larger each year
What to expect?
How large is a magnitude 6.7 earthquake?
There is likely to be a moderate amount of damage. To compare within California’s history:
- Northridge Los Angeles Earthquake, Magnitude 6.7, injures ~9000 (source)
- Loma Prieta Earthquake, Magnitude 6.9, injures ~4000 (source)
How long do they last?
The initial shaking will typically last from 10 – 30 seconds. Power may go out, and fire alarms may sound. Aftershocks can occur in the hours, days, weeks, or months following an earthquake.
How should I react?
FEMA has a long list of instructions in this helpful PDF, but I have whittled down a flowchart which I feel is easier to visualize and remember. Most of the information was compiled from the ready.gov site, but I supplemented it with this and this.
How can I prepare?
If you are interested in being more prepared, knowing how to react (above) is definitely a good start. Here are some more links with good information on preparedness:
- A few weeks ago, Emily had posted some good information about soft-story buildings.
- You can participate in the Great California Shakeout (http://www.shakeout.org/california/).
- FEMA runs the http://www.ready.gov/earthquakes site which has this helpful PDF, and I have picked out a few of the following points they recommend:
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
One of our readers (j.bradbury) also pointed out some great general preparedness tips:
- FEMA offers a lot of online courses (http://www.training.fema.gov/IS/crslist.aspx)
- Take it one step further and join your local CERT program
I hope you found this useful. Leave a comment if you think I have left something out, or if you have more earthquake tips!
Chris Kuryak, Chief Operating Officer of Recovers