An earthquake can strike any given place at any time without notice. Depending on the gravity of the quake and the build-up of the affected area, the impact of an earthquake may include fire outbreak and damage to public infrastructure and utility lines. There are also environmental effects to expect such as soil liquefaction, landslides, tsunamis and avalanches. According to the USGS, earthquakes are caused by unexpected slips in the underground fault lines. The movements can be traced to the slow, but continually shifting tectonic plates. The high risk areas for earthquake include California, Alaska, Oklahoma, Hawaii and the Mississippi Valley.
The earthquakes that have hit California mostly emanate from the North American Plate that covers large swathes of the North American Continent and the Pacific Plate that covers much of the California Coast line and the Pacific Ocean floor. The San Andreas Fault forms the boundary between the two continental plates. The fault line stretches for about 800 miles with depths of up to 12 miles. Studies show the Pacific Plate rubs the North American Plate at the rate of two inches every year. However, due to uneven movements across the fault line, powerful strains capable of causing an earthquake are largely subdued and may take hundreds of years to form.

Are You Prepared?

Earthquakes can hit an area suddenly and violently. For this reason, it is important to be prepared and know exactly what to do should such a calamity strike your area. When crafting an earthquake preparedness plan, you need to identify all potential hazards to safeguard your life and that of your family. This is important because most injuries and deaths from earthquakes are caused by shifting and falling objects. A good in-house plan should also include safe places to gather and ways to get connected when a family member is trapped.

The plan should be rehearsed every often to increase awareness and survival rate, and also minimize the overall impact of the earthquake. For cities and municipalities, relevant agencies must work together with engineers to implement designs that can withstand earthquakes the best way possible. The plans can be used when designing or constructing new infrastructure such as highways, bridges and buildings. Old structures can be retrofitted to make them strong. Here are 5 tips to prepare for an earthquake as listed by the California Academy of Sciences:

1. Check for potential hazards

Items that have the potential of causing bodily harm should be stored safely or secured firmly. For instance, heavy and fragile items like mirrors and picture frames should be removed and tuck them away from where people sit. If you have flammable products, insecticides and herbicides, place them on the lower shelves of a lockable cupboard. Structural weaknesses in building foundations, walls and ceiling must be reported to the relevant authorities and repaired immediately. Repairs should also be made on leaky gas pipes and defective electrical wires.

2. Identify safe indoor and outdoor places

When developing an earthquake preparedness plan, you must identify safe places to take cover, both inside and outside the home. The best places to consider include under a sturdy table and against the inside walls of a building. The chosen location must be a safe distance from windows, heavy furniture or upstanding book shelf. If you are outside a building, go out in the open field, but remember to avoid overpasses, trees and power lines.

3. Educate yourself and the family about the earthquake

Learning about the earthquake and preparedness strategies will give you and your family valuable lessons on how to stay safe. This information can easily be sought from the Red Cross offices or local emergency management services. Ensure the children know how to call the police and fire department through 911. Family members also need to be shown how and when to turn-of electricity, water and gas in the event of an earthquake and other emergencies.

4. Craft an effective emergency communication plan

Earthquake aftermaths can leave you disorganized and confused. Under the circumstances, communication may be difficult and moving from one point to the other may be impossible. Your emergency plan should focus on helping reunite people after a disaster. Remember, a disaster can strike when parents and kids are away at work and school respectively. To cushion yourself from the inconvenience, request a relative or friend outside the state to act as your contact person. Each member of the family should be given the emergency contact number.

5. Prepare a disaster supply

When an earthquake hits, it is vital to have a well-stocked disaster supply kit ready in your hand. For your earthquake survivalist kitty, get a portable radio, first aid kit, furniture to wall braces, tool-kit, non-slip mats, flashlights and emergency phone numbers. The portable radio and flashlights must be accompanied by extra batteries to cover for power outages and movement constraints that may make it difficult to venture out. Family members need to know the radio stations to tune for emergency news and information. Lastly, keep at least two weeks supply of non–perishable food and ensure medicines, cash and credit cards are easily accessible.

What you need to do to stay safe during and after the earthquake

Always try to stay as safe as possible when an earthquake is striking. Some earthquakes may be followed by aftershock’s or an even a bigger quake. To minimize the risk of injury, you need to avoid unnecessary movements. If the earthquake strikes when you are in an indoor location, drop to the ground and move under the table. You can also hold onto a sturdy piece of furniture or move to the corner of a building. Wait until the shaking is over before making a move. Once the earthquake is gone, carry your disaster relief or supply kit and move to a safer place. If you are in a position to assist those who are injured or trapped, you may do so.

The myths about earthquake

There are a few myths about earthquakes you should know about. A long held belief holds that the doorway is the safest place to be when an earthquake strikes. Far from it, research shows it is much safer to get yourself under a study bed or table. The other myth is the belief that earthquakes only happen in the US West Coast. Research shows earthquakes can happen anywhere and have been recorded in almost all the states in the US. For this reason, everyone living in the US must be well-informed by earthquakes and prepare for such an eventuality. Once the earthquake has occurred, you should not assume the worst is over since aftershocks may follow. Aftershocks can take several minutes before subsiding. The extra precaution is necessary because aftershocks can cause just as much injury and damage as the real earthquake.

History of Earthquakes

Earthquakes have historically been very devastating as evident in the number of fatalities and damages visited on the affected regions. Here are a few facts and statistics about the earthquake. It is important to recognize that the magnitude of on an earthquake is closely linked to the location and depth of an earthquake fault. According to the USGS (2), the San Andreas Fault that measures 800 miles long and 12 miles deep can only record an earthquake of magnitude 8.3 or lower. The largest earthquake to strike the US occurred in Alaska in 1964.

The magnitude 9.2 quake took the lives of 130 people. The deadliest earthquakes in the recorded history can be traced to China. In 1556, an earthquake killed about 830,000 people in the Shensi province of China. More recently, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Tangsan, China in 1976 and took the lives of over 400,000 people. The other countries that have experienced devastating earthquakes include Iran, the Philippines Islands, Japan, Indonesia and Chile.