Preparing for Earthquakes

An earthquake is a terrifying natural phenomenon that results in sudden – and often unexpected – violent shaking that occurs in the ground in a certain region. This occurs when the rock beneath the earth’s surface starts to break and shift as a result of accumulated strain. The earth's outer crust is make up of large amounts of rock referred to as “Tectonic Plates”. When these plates start to break and move, an earthquake may occur. In many instances, this movement is slow and gradual. In other instances, the plates may become locked. When this happens, a large amount of pressure builds up. Over time, the pressure becomes so immense that the locked plates then break free from one another. This the initial stage of an earthquake. If you live in an area that is known to experience earthquakes, it is imperative that you learn as much as you are able to regarding earthquake preparedness. Even if you do not live in an area that is naturally prone to these occurrences, it is advised that you read the information contained within this emergency preparedness guide. No single area on earth is immune from this type of natural disaster. While it is true that many regions are not prone to plate complications, it is not impossible for the plates beneath the earth’s surface to experience shifts in areas that typically do not experience earthquakes.

Earthquake Basics

As mentioned previously, an earthquake occurs when tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface experience such a high amount of pressure that they break and start to move. The edges of these plates are typically marked by what many refer to as “Faults”. In some instances, these are referred to as “Fractures”. It is common for these disasters to occur in areas that are referred to as “Fault Lines”, by scientists. When the plates in these known regions start to slip past one another, or even when they bump into each other, an earthquake may develop. When these masses of rock start to shift suddenly, it results in the development of shock waves. These may carry a small amount of force, or an exceptionally powerful amount of force. If the force is powerful, it has the ability to actually change the earth’s surface. These changes may include thrusting up various sized cliffs, or even creating moderate to exceptionally large cracks within the ground. Additionally, the force of the shock waves could result in an immense amount of damage. The most common types of damage may include collapsed buildings, breaking lines associated with certain utilities such as gas and electric, the development of tsunamis and even the eruption of volcanoes. By learning about earthquake preparedness, you have the ability to properly prepare yourself, your loved ones and your property for the shock waves associated with this type of natural disaster.

The surface of the region where at least two sections of the earth have slipped or may slip past each other is referred to as a “Fault”. There are many scientists that may refer to this as a “Fault Plane”. The area below the surface of the earth where an earthquake originates is referred to as the “ Hypocenter”. The area that is located on the surface of the earth, immediately above the origin of the earthquake is referred to as the “Epicenter”. The vibrations that extend from the fault of the earthquake are referred to as “Seismic Waves”. These may travel up to many miles each second. These vibrations that are associated with these waves are said to result in most of the destruction that occurs during an earthquake. The amount of sheer energy that is released when an earthquake occurs is identified as the “Magnitude”. In a short time following an earthquake, another earthquake may occur that is equal or less to in intensity than the original earthquake. This is identified as the “Aftershock”. By becoming familiar with the basics, you have taken the first step in earthquake preparedness.

Active Earthquake Locations

It is a fact that no single part of the surface of the earth is considered to be immune to the possible development of an earthquake. This is why it is imperative for all individuals to learn the preparedness measures associated with this type of natural disaster. The most common locations that experience these disasters are those that are near the boundaries of tectonic plates, or where these plates meet one another. According to scientists that specialize in the study of an earthquake, there are three different types of boundaries associated with plates. The following highlights each of these types and general information pertaining to the regions of the world that are impacted by these boundaries:

  • Spreading Zones – In this type of zone, rock that is molten rises. The energy produced by the rising rock pushing the plates apart. As a result, new material is added on the edges of the plates. These types of boundaries are most often found in the oceans throughout the world. The most popular plates that are located in spreading zones is the North American plate and the Eurasian plate, which are both located in the area identified among professionals as the “Mid-Atlantic Ridge”. The earthquakes that develop in a spreading zone boundary are typically shallow in depth. This means that they occur within nineteen miles of the earth’s surface.
  • Transform Faults – These types of boundaries have plates that are able to successfully slide past each other. The earthquakes that develop in these boundaries are typically shallow and form what is considered to be a relatively straight linear-type pattern. The fault known as the “San Andreas” is considered to be a transform fault boundary. It is located on the coast of the State of California and the northwestern region of Mexico.
  • Subduction Zones- These boundaries are defined by a plate that overrides another plate, resulting in the weaker plate to push down into a mantle. When this happens, the weaker plate then melts. These zones commonly have deep trenches within the ocean, earthquakes that may occur at either shallow levels or deep levels, and even mountains that contain volcanoes that are considered to be active. The most common subduction zones are located in the northwest coastal region of the United States, the western region of Canada, the southern area of Alaska, as well as the Aleutian Islands.

According to statistics, approximately 95% of all of the earthquakes that occur within the world happen at the most active of all plate boundaries. The areas that are located on these boundaries include the State of California, the Philippines, Alaska, the region of South America and Japan. Approximately 5% of the world’s earthquakes occur in areas where the plates associated with the event are located at an exceptionally far distance from the main plate boundaries. Additionally, it has been established that approximately forty five different states and/or various territories located within the United States are at an exceptionally high risk for the development of an earthquake. This also includes the fault line known as the “Madrid”, which is located in the central region of the United States. Despite this knowledge, it is also known that it is exceptionally challenging to predict when this type of disaster may occur and where it may occur. This is why it is so important to become familiar with, at least, the most basic of earthquake preparedness tips.

Precautionary MeasuresEarthquake Preparedness Kit

When learning earthquake preparedness measures, you will find that there are many precautionary measures that should be taken prior to the development of an earthquake. These measures will allow you to protect yourself, those that you love, and your personal property in the event that a plate issue develops and an earthquake develops. The following outlines the precautionary earthquake preparedness tips:

  • The first and most basic precautionary measure that you should take in earthquake preparedness is to ensure that you purchase or construct an emergency kit. This kit should include water and food for everyone in the home, and supplies. You should include enough supplies that will last you and the members of your family for up to 72 hours.
  • If there are shelves in your home, basement or garage, you should secure them to the walls. Items that are large and are considered to be heavy should be placed on the lower regions of the shelves. Breakable items, such as foods that are bottled, glass and similar items should be placed on shelves that have doors and latches or secured with quakehold museum putty.
  • Items that are heavy, such as wall mirrors and picture frames, should be tightly secured to walls and placed in areas where people do not rest or sit.
  • You should ensure that the foundation of your home is secured and free of damage. If any visible signs of damage are present, you should have the issues repaired as soon as possible.
  • Appliances within the home should be secured to wall studs. Examples of these items include the refrigerator, deep freezer units, hot water heaters, and furnaces.
  • You should outline areas of the home that are considered to be “Safe Spots” in the event that an earthquake develops. Examples of these areas include regions against sturdy walls, and areas underneath strong tables.
  • You should ensure that you and your loved ones participate in regular earthquake drills. Be certain to reinforce the concept of, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”.

What to Do During an Earthquake

If you are in your home during an earthquake, there are many preparedness measures that you should become familiar with in order to ensure your safety, and the safety of your loved ones. First, it is critical to ensure that all movements are minimized. While it is acceptable to move to an area within the home that you have previously identified as a “Safe Zone”, you should limit the amount of movements that you engage in when the ground is vibrating. In addition to this, the following earthquake preparedness measures should be engaged in:

  • You should drop to the ground, take immediate cover and hold on to something sturdy until the vibrations and movements have completely stopped.
  • It is critical to avoid regions of the home where glass is located, those areas near the outside walls and the outside doors of the structure, and any type of item that could fall during an earthquake.
  • It is important to avoid taking cover in a doorway as most are not constructed to offer ample protection during an earthquake.
  • You should always reside within the home until the shaking of the earthquake has completely stopped.

What to Do After an Earthquake Disaster

There are many earthquake preparedness steps that you can expect to take immediately after the event has transpired. First, you should evaluate the area that you are in and the surrounding areas to determine if it is safe to relocate. It is imperative to expect aftershocks to occur. While the vibrations are typically not as strong as the initial vibrations, they may still prove to be dangerous. Be certain to remain in a relatively safe area until the aftershocks have occurred. The following outlines additional earthquake preparedness steps that may need to be performed following the disaster:

  • You should get the emergency supply kit that you have set aside for the emergency and retrieve the medical supplies from the kit. Now, you should evaluate anyone in your immediate vicinity to determine if medical care and/or treatment is necessary.
  • Once you have assessed the health of those around you, you should obtain a fire extinguisher and evaluate your home, and the homes nearby for fires – which commonly occur during an earthquake. Once a fire is identified, make every effort to ensure that it is extinguished properly and in the safest manner possible.
  • Once all immediate fire dangers have been contended with, you should find your emergency radio and/or television for updates on the situation in your region. Additional instruction may be provided through these media venues. It is critical to follow any and all advice offered by emergency personnel.

As you can see from the information contained in this emergency preparedness guide, there are many earthquake preparedness steps that should be taken before, during and immediately after this type of disaster has occurred. By learning these measures and applying them in the event of an earthquake, you not only have the highest chance for remaining unharmed, you have the highest chance of surviving the disaster. If you live in an earthquake-prone region, you should take every measure possible to protect yourself, your loved ones, your property and your personal belongings. The information here will help guide you on the resources, supplies and tools that you need in earthquake preparedness. By preparing today, you are sure to enjoy many safe tomorrows!

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