Geology And Geophysics

Disaster Planning for Earthquakes



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The sudden shaking of the earth's surface that drives one out of one's composure is thought to cause damage worth an estimated 200 billion dollars in the US alone. Earthquakes remain the most hard-to-predict and destructive natural hazards on the earth's face, about 5 billion years after its formation. To cope with the possible damage to life and property caused by a quake, careful planning has become a sine qua non. The primary factors, of course, remain awareness and predictability of the coming disaster. Both, in turn, demand a proper understanding of the causes of earthquake phenomenon, a knowledge that alone abates part of the fear of a quake.

Causes of Earthquake

Three major causes account for the occurrence of a quake. First are the surface causes like land-sliding processes or (what is less probable) impacts of heavenly bodies with the earth. These quakes can be mild to severe though, often, not disastrous. The second major cause is volcanism-gushing out of molten rock material (lava) on land or underwater. These are stronger quakes but still not very destructive. The most destructive quakes come from tectonic causes i.e. fracturing of large blocks of rock beneath the earth's surface. The process is called faulting and the effects are often disastrous. Recent quakes in Turkey and Pakistan are examples of the latter. In the US, California is the main sufferer of strong quakes due to the San Andrea Fault system, the boundary between the North American continent (or what geology terms as plate) and the Pacific Ocean.

Elements of Disaster Planning for Earthquakes

The first step in planning for safety against a possible quake is to gain awareness about the area you inhabit. In the US, forty-one states are listed as possible risk spots with regards to earthquakes that range in intensity from moderate to high. Thus, it is important to contact the local emergency services office or browse the archives of State Geological Survey to have an idea about the history of frequency and intensity of earthquakes in your state and possible future shocks and damage. In case, you feel your living place is in the danger zone, equip yourself with strategies for possible tremors. Following are some of the measures by which you can ensure the safety of yourself and your family in case of a seismic event.

Mark beforehand all the safe places where you can promptly seek shelter in case of a sudden seismic onset. This includes strong furniture pieces like tables or desks etc. Be quick enough to position under such shelters and don't move through large distances. Keep away from heavy bookshelves or other furniture items that might crush you down. Rehearsing beforehand helps a great deal in preparing for such emergencies.

In shelter, press your arm against your eyes so as to protect them from flying splinters and particles that might claim a serious injury to eyes.

Do not use the elevator in case of exiting; carefully step down the stairs. If you are outside already, stay there till shaking stops. Call emergency if you have family stuck in the house.

Keep objects like cabinets, bookcases, and furniture items braced or anchored by chains to a rigid support. This will prevent them falling on you and also from getting damaged.

Overhead lighting fixtures must be braced.

Always make sure the foundations of your house are strong enough to survive a strong quake. Seek the counsel of a structural engineer.

The Local Red Cross and Fire Department are of great assistance in training against would-be harm. Make use of their training services.

Inform your children and family on safety measures in case of possible quake.

Keep in touch with local news and media to be informed on probability of a natural hazard in your area.

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