Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dealing With Shaky Predictions

Adapted from USGS map

# 11,278

With two major (M7.0 and M7.8) earthquakes - the first in Japan, followed a day later by an even bigger one last night in Ecuador - the inevitable tidal wave of predictions warning of cataclysmic follow-up quakes are already hyping their way across YouTube and other social media channels.

And if a third major quake occurs, anywhere in the world in the next few weeks - I'm sure they will take `credit' for getting it right - carefully ignoring all their failed predictions of past.

As the USGS earthquake frequency chart below shows, major quakes (range 7.0-7.9) are not all that uncommon, with an average of 15 occurring every year. In 2010, there were 23 such quakes, and while many occurred in isolated areas or too deep to cause a lot of damage, it is inevitable that some big cities along the ring of fire will eventually be hit. 

Which is why, regardless of the events of the past 48 hours, everyone who lives in seismically active areas - and that includes earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes - needs to be prepared.

 And not just for the next few weeks.

In 2014, a USGS study published in the journal Earthquake Spectra, nearly doubled – to 143 million - the number of Americans who live or work in areas susceptible to potentially damaging ground shaking  (see USGS: Nearly Half Of U.S. Population Exposed to Potentially Damaging Earthquakes).

While only last month, in USGS: Induced Earthquakes Raise Chances of Damaging Shaking in 2016 USGS released their first report and risk map for induced earthquakes, primarily in six Midwestern states (Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas), that have the potential to affect the roughly 7 million people who live and work in those regions.

A few previous blogs on earthquake hazards include:

OSU: Pragmatic Action - Not Fatalism - In Order To Survive The `Big One’
Dr. Lucy Jones: `Imagine America Without Los Angeles’
USGS: Eastern Earthquakes - Rare But Powerful
Estimating The Economic Impact Of A San Andreas Quake
         UN Agency Warns On Global Seismic Risks
A Look At Europe’s Seismic Risks

A less well recognized hazard, at least here in North America, are tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, both of which have occurred in recent memory in the United States.  Few Americans know that the United States has 169 `active’ volcanoes within its borders, with about 40 of those in the `lower 48’ states.

A few previous blogs include:

Tsunami Preparedness Week - 2016
The Caribbean’s Hidden Tsunami Potential (Revisited) 

Washington State: Volcano Awareness Month


Living in Florida, I don't have to worry about local seismic events (although tsunamis are a infrequent threat to coastal areas), but I do have to prepare for hurricanes every year.

When I lived in Missouri - very near the New Madrid fault - my priorities were reversed.   

Wherever you live or work, you need to think about potential threats and how you will deal with them should one emerge.  FEMA, our military, and local, state, and federal emergency response units all plan and practice to deal with emergencies, and so should you and your family.   

If a disaster struck your region today, and the power went out, stores closed their doors, and water stopped flowing from your kitchen tap for the next 7 days . . . do you have:
  • An emergency plan, including meeting places, emergency out-of-state contact numbers, and in case you must evacuate, a bug-out bag
  • A battery operated NWS Emergency Radio to find out what was going on, and to get vital instructions from emergency officials?
  • A decent first-aid kit, so that you can treat injuries?
  • Enough non-perishable food and water on hand to feed and hydrate your family (including pets) for the duration?
  • A way to provide light (and in cold climates, heat) for your family without electricity?   And a way to cook?  And to do this safely?
  • A small supply of cash to use in case credit/debit machines are not working?
  • Spare supply of essential prescription medicines that you or your family may need?
If your answer is `no’, you have some work to do.  A good place to get started is by visiting

Beyond having the basic skills and supplies for you and your family, I would strongly urge that you cultivate a network of  `disaster buddies ’ (see In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?) among your friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors.

Although Internet predictions of impending doom are overpriced at a dime a dozen, the truth is that millions of people are caught up in local disasters every year.  They can happen anytime, anywhere, and often come with little or no warning.

While being prepared doesn't guarantee a good outcome for you and your family, it certainly improves your odds.

To become better prepared as an individual, family, business owner, or community, I would invite you to visit the following preparedness sites.


And for more on increasing your level of preparedness, you might want to check out:

When 72 Hours Isn’t Enough
#NatlPrep: Half Of All Americans Need An Earthquake Plan
#NatlPrep - The Gift Of Preparedness

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