Earthquakes 101 for Easterners

By: Eric Vanderham

For the population in North America living along the west coast, the California earthquake and British Columbia earthquake zones are very informed compared to the rest of the population on average, about earthquakes. For those who are not, a few facts would help:
Earthquakes result from the shifting of tectonic plates in the earths crust. These small and large plates are always moving, slowly yes, but still moving. This results in small tremors and earthquakes of many sizes. The result of an earthquake can be minimal to deep crevices formed that create disastrous results for whatever was on the ground where the crevice occurred.
Can earthquakes be predicted? Well, the study of earthquakes is not there for amusement. There is the prevalent thought that they cannot be predicted, but I suggest we view the most recent earthquake in LAquila, Italy, in which one now famous seismologist Giacchino Giulini set up information online about a disastrous earthquake in the very near month or two. The earthquake registered 6.2 magnitude. The Italian government, not sure which sector, ordered him to take his information off the internet, afraid he was scaring the population of Laguila without good reason. Unfortunately the earthquake did occur in April, 2009 and he is likely being offered top positions in the world for being able to predict an earthquake. He was not using watching the stars, he was using results from his study on the radon gas buildup in concentrated areas with seismic activity. Giacchino was also employed with the National Institute of Astrophysics.
Many of us have experienced slight tremors and small earthquakes that moved beneath us and shook us up a bit, but for some their biggest fear at night is whether the next earthquake will hit their area. Large earthquakes can result in swaying of the high rise building you are in, floors moving, a rolling motion to the floor as if you are on a boat, furniture sliding or falling, unsecured fixtures dropping, and fire and sprinkler systems automatically setting off. Windows may shatter. There may be a roaring sound. In the 1994 California earthquake, homes were left in complete ruins from that earthquake and we can safely say that more than the floors moved that day, as homes were almost completely in collapsed disarray. We are not amused.
Prepare for an Earthquake:
Does it help to prepare? Absolutely yes, it can make a difference. Those decisions we make in advance can save lives, ours and others.
- Teach everyone how to shut off the water and electricity. Label the switches and fasten a wrench by the natural gas tank so it will be handy for use.
- Fasten heavy appliances so they don't move around.
- Keep flammable solvents away from heat sources.
- Keeping curtains shut will help keep shattered glass from showering into the house too much.
- Use safety latches to prevent cupboards from automatically opening up during tremors.
- For people owning mobile homes, consult with the manufacturer if necessary about having a structural brace included in order to limit the chances of the trailer falling off the supports.
- Don't hang heavy mirrors and pictures above the bed. Hang the mirror on another wall, as well as that ugly velvet painting of Elvis that you bought thirty years ago which would hopefully be ruined in the earthquake.
When An Earthquake Hits Your Area:
- follow the rules of Drop, Cover and Hold. You are to drop down on the ground under heavy furniture, cover your head and hold onto the heavy furniture or whatever you have dropped under so that you have some protection. If you cannot get under heavy furniture, drop down flat against an interior wall. Face away from windows. For those in wheelchairs, secure the locks of the chair, and try protecting the back of your neck and head. If you are in an elevator, hit the button for every floor and get out as soon as it opens.
- Pull over to the side of the road and stop the vehicle. Avoid underpasses, overpasses, bridges and anything that could collapse. Listen to the radio for instructions from emergency broadcasting systems. If you are on the coast, remember that a tsunami can result from an earthquake so you have double trouble to be aware of. There could also be landslides, or flooring in low areas.
After an Earthquake:
- Remember that aftershocks can occur and will likely occur, resulting in more tremors.
- Do not enter your home if there is structural damage. Check the area around it first before entering.
- If tap water is still running, fill up as many containers as possible such as sinks and tubs, because the water supply may be shut down from the earthquake damage. Don't flush toilets if you think the sewer lines have been damaged.
- It is very important to remember not to light up with matches or lighters if there is the odor of gas from gas leaks or flammable materials leaking from containers.
- Form a neighborhood group who can organize searches and ensure other neighbors are safe and taken care of. It takes a community to raise a child, and a community to stay alive sometimes.

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For those of us who don't liveon the west coast, we sometimes take for granted the absence of earthquake forecasting. Some of us need a quickreminder to teach ourselves and our families what to do in the event of an earthquake. Earthquake Preparedness 101

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