Although I’ve lived most of my life in Florida - one of the few regions of the United States with little or no seismic risk - I did spend a decade living within spitting distance of the New Madrid fault (well inside the red bulls eye in the middle of the map above).
While earthquakes were always a concern, the added hazards of ice storms, floods (we lived on a river), and tornadoes also spurred us to stay prepared.
And while we never experienced the `big one’, there were certainly occasions when we were glad we had at least a couple of weeks of food in the pantry, battery operated lanterns, a windup radio, and enough water stored to last a week (we also had a river, two springs, and a water filter as a backup).
The recent M6.0 Quake That Rattled Region North Of San Francisco was but a small taste of what will happen to a great American city at some point in the future. Like pandemics, earthquakes along fault lines are inevitable. It is just the timing that is unknown.
Last December, in Dr. Lucy Jones: `Imagine America Without Los Angeles’, we looked at a presentation given by Dr. Jones at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (held this year in San Francisco), that emphasized that should the `big one’ hit Southern California, we could literally `lose’ Los Angeles.
She warned that the damage could be far greater, and last much longer, than most people believe. While 99 out of 100 modern buildings might remain standing, the (often buried) infrastructure needed to provide water, electricity, internet connectivity, and natural gas – the lifeblood - to the region could be devastated (see CBS News report).
f this sounds like hyperbole to you, in 2010 (see Revised Risk Of `The Big One’ Along San Andreas Fault) we looked at a study that suggested that Southern California may be more overdue for another major quake than previously thought.
And in 2011 (see Estimating The Economic Impact Of A San Andreas Quake) we looked at a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that endeavored to gauge the crippling impact that a highly feasible (and long overdue) 7.8 magnitude Southern California earthquake would have on jobs and local businesses.
A quake of this magnitude, they estimate, could affect 430,000 businesses and 4.5 million workers and deliver a devastating – and prolonged – blow to the local (and national) economy.
What may be even a greater threat lurks along the Cascadia Fault line, which runs parallel to the Pacific Northwest Coastline, and has a long history of a producing major earthquakes and tsunamis, the last one in the year 1700.
The geological record indicates massive quakes have struck the region at least 7 times over the past 3500 years. If we wait long enough, another is sure to strike again. We looked at the threats posed by this particular fault line back in 2011 in Just A Matter Of Time.
Although large earthquakes in the Eastern half of the United States have been recorded in the past (including the Charleston, SC earthquake of 1886), the August 2011 5.8 earthquake that rocked Virginia and the Nation’s capital (see USGS Statement On The Virginia Earthquake) provided fresh evidence not only of their potential to occur, but also how widely felt they may be (see USGS: Eastern Earthquakes - Rare But Powerful).
Another strong quake hit the Heartland a few months later (see 5.6 Mag Quake Rattles Oklahoma), and since then, the number of quakes in north central Oklahoma have increased to the point that last May, the USGS/OGS issued a Joint Statement On Increased Earthquake Threat To Oklahoma warning of the risks of a bigger damaging quake.
And if all this weren’t enough, seismic threats extend beyond just earthquakes
They encompass volcanic eruptions (see Washington State: Volcano Awareness Month) - and Tsunamis – both of which have the ability to affect both people and property thousands of miles away from the originating event (see The USGS West Coast Tsunami Scenario Report & East Coast Tsunami Threats).
Even though the majority of Americans live in a seismically active region of the country, few are really prepared to deal with the aftermath of a major quake. As a bare minimum, everyone should have a well thought out disaster and family communications plan, along with a good first aid kit, a `bug-out bag’, and sufficient emergency supplies to last at least 72 hours.
In When 72 Hours Isn’t Enough, I highlighted a colorful, easy-to-follow, 100 page `survival guide’ released by Los Angeles County, that covers everything from earthquake and tsunami preparedness, to getting ready for a pandemic.
The guide may be downloaded here (6.5 Mbyte PDF).
While designed specifically for the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County, this guide would be a valuable asset for anyone interested in preparing for a variety of hazards. And in Los Angeles, the advice is to have emergency supplies (food, water, etc) to last up to 10 days. In my humble opinion, 2-weeks in an earthquake zone isn’t overkill.
Working to improve earthquake awareness, preparation, and safety is Shakeout.org, which promotes yearly earthquake drills and education around the country (see NPM13: A Whole Lotta Shakeouts Going On). If you live in one of these seismically active areas, I would encourage you to take part in these yearly drills.
As September is National Preparedness Month, now is an opportune time to become better prepared as an individual, family, business owner, or community to deal with all types of disasters I would invite you to visit the following preparedness sites.
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/
And lastly, in NPM13: The Greatest Prep Of All, I wrote about what I consider to be the most important preparedness step you can take – having, and being, a disaster buddy. Cultivating a network of family and friends to whom you can turn for help in a disaster, to who can turn to you for aid, if they need it.
Because no matter where you live, its just a matter of time before the next disaster strikes.