Whenever there seems to be an earthquake, the lives of everyone affected take a sudden unexpected turn. While it is a good idea to remain well-prepared for such natural disasters all the time, the fact of the matter is that it is not always possible to tackle every bit of the scenario effectively. More often than not, making certain essential repairs to the home becomes absolutely crucial after an earthquake. At times, locating good resources for help becomes very much necessary as well.
In order to provide helping hands in this hard time, we have sincerely put together this article with a view to explaining what an earthquake actually is and what devastations you may expect. Additionally, you are going to find detailed information regarding right ways to prepare for an earthquake and measures to take after being hit by one. Moreover, certain geological information has also been included along with assistances you may expect after the event occurs and ways to help your neighbors and others. It is possible that you may have certain questions unanswered even after reading this extensive article; so in case that happens, please do not hesitate to approach your local authorities or house professionals with your questions in order to keep yourself and your family safe before and after the earthquake.
Understanding how earthquakes work
Earthquake, on a very basic level, may seem to be a disaster responsible for collapsing of giant buildings and chaos in every direction. However, when you look at it scientifically, the picture is quite different. Earthquake, on scientific terms, occurs due to either man-made or natural aspect when vibration occurs and travels to the crust of the earth. The crust shakes violently because energy is released in the process, leading to the formation of ground-level seismic waves. Due to this kind of shakes, two or more than two rocks that create the crust, called tectonic plates, begin to push or catch against each other. When the interaction between the tectonic plates continues for a long time, there occurs sufficient tension which leads, ultimately, to an earthquake.
The US Department of Commerce notes that crustal plate boundaries such as the Pacific Plate historically witness more than 90% of total earthquakes. That information does not suggest that earthquakes are never found along the boundaries of the United States, because the fact remains that earthquakes can occur anytime anywhere within the country. Certain states, however, are more affected than others. For instance, being near the San Andreas earthquake zone, the state of California frequently withstands earthquakes of different degrees and sizes.
As far as the data of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is concerned, Alaska has to tolerate the highest number of earthquakes yearly mostly in areas where people do not live. The state of California has the highest frequency of earthquakes, and several thousand small or big earthquakes are
found to occur throughout the United States every year. Although historically the central part of the United States has witnessed the worst ones, majority of the earthquakes seem to occur on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. Missouri, unfortunately, had to witness the largest earthquakes between 1811 and 1812, being affected by 3 huge earthquakes in a period of just 3 months. The quakes were results of the New Madrid fault line.
Normally, an earthquake is categorized into 3 major parts called mainshock, foreshock, and aftershock. The mainshock is the actual earthquake which causes most of the building damages and major chaos. The foreshock normally occurs within the mainshock day as a preview of the actual earthquake, singularly or as a group of quakes. On the other hand, aftershock is the part which can either occur hours or days after the primary mainshock, or can take months of gap to occur. This normally causes or compels certain weak buildings to fall – buildings weakened when the mainshock occurred.
Magnitude is the measure of an earthquake. Initially, Richter scale involving any digit from 1 to 10 was used to measure the strength of an earthquake. However, these days, a moment scale which is more precise is made use of. The later scale is better equipped than the Richter scale as it helps people prepare for an upcoming earthquake effectively. An earthquake is minor if the magnitude is between 3 and 5. It is considered strong in case the magnitude falls between 5 and 7. Quakes having 7 to 8 magnitude are considered as major, and those exceeding 8 are treated as great. Notice that, statistically, every year at least one earthquake having 8 magnitude occurs somewhere.
Destructions caused by earthquakes
The US Geological Survey claims that the 1964 earthquake that occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska was the last of the historic earthquakes so far. The date of the quake was 28th of March, and the magnitude was an astonishing 9.2 on Richter scale. Tsunami was involved along with the earthquake too, causing a total loss of 128 lives. As many as 30 blocks of houses as well as buildings were collapsed or severely damaged by the event. 520,000 square kilometers were displaced due to the disaster, leading to a deadly tsunami. British Columbia, Western Yukon and certain other Alaska regions witnessed shakes as well.
In 2010, the month of January seemed tough for Haiti, as an earthquake which proved to be the worst in 2 centuries struck the region. The magnitude of the mainshock was 7.0, however, aftershocks of 5.5 and 5.9 intensities were witnessed as well. Causing deaths of 222,750 people, this earthquake did not spare emissaries from China, France, Jordan and the UN. This quake occurred due to the fault line running near the Port-au-Prince, and ended up damaging 7.8 billion dollars worth of properties.
The largest earthquake to ever set foot on Japan occurred in March, 2011. Since 1900, the earthquake was the 4th largest in the world, and brought a magnitude of 9.0 with it. The sub-sea earthquake occurred below 15.2 miles of the ocean, and 231 northeast of Tokyo. The quake led to the rise of a deadly tsunami, striking a coast that was close to Fukushima. This huge earthquake killed almost 18,000 people, and it led to many nuclear reactors of the region hit meltdown. Thankfully, radiation deaths did not occur, otherwise the numbers would have been much larger.
Dealing with a particular earthquake effectively
In order to tackle the horror of an earthquake, forming a strategy in advance is vital. Normally, choosing a spot where shelter can be taken during the event is helpful. Be sure that you choose a spot under certain sturdy furniture, or a wall that has no chance of breaking or collapsing. You must also keep an emergency kit with you in case power supply or water supply suddenly stops. You may get trapped in the same place for hours or days too, in which case, the kit can prove to be a true lifesaver. Essential things like first aid items, water gallons, dust masks and protective goggles, ready to eat food items, battery consuming flashlights and radios etc. must make way into the kit.
It is a good idea to check whether your home is well-prepared for an earthquake or not. The FEMA maintained ready.gov website suggests fastening of the shelves to secure walls, keeping large or heavy items only on lower shelves, making repairs to gas or electrical items, connections and appliances etc. as essential steps. The page called “Before an Earthquake” of the website mentions the steps in detail, so if you need to know more, make sure that you check the page! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also outlines some of the crucial steps to take in order to prepare a house for earthquakes. The “Home Hazards” page mentions security measures for light fixtures, shelves, appliances, cabinets, bathroom fixtures, furniture etc.
If your family members are not staying in the same house or place during the event, you must have a proper communication plan along with maintaining the house safety measures. A proper evacuation plan which outlines where to be during the event, where to find each other, and where to go after the calamity should do the trick. You must also mention steps to take during the occurrence of the earthquake. There is a sheet named Family Emergency Plan on ready.gov site which can be filled and kept for keeping track of things during the hard times. The popular news network ABC suggests that you must not head toward the house door if your house is still intact, and there is no visible collapse. Further, in case you are in a car, the safest way to handle the situation is to park your car somewhere where buildings, trees, electric wires or other things that may fall over your car do not exist. Let the mainshock pass before coming out of your house or car.
Handing things after the quake
As soon as the mainshock seems to be over and things settle down a bit, check yourself carefully for any kind of minor or major injuries. In case you are alright or injuries are minor, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, gloves, and goggles in order to protect your body from any debris. Disable any gas or electrical connections and appliances. You may fix the minor damages to your house. Go out and help your neighbors. Keep yourself well-updated regarding any emergency appeals or notices using the battery operated radio. You must remain alert about any fallen electric wires as well. In case aftershocks arise, be sure to drop, take proper cover, as well as hold tight in a single place.
Emergence of tsunamis is possible after an earthquake passes; therefore, in case your place is near a water body, consider moving to a different place which is high above the ground immediately. Do not make use of your car, use your foot instead. In case you seem to be trapped, consider moving to another floor that is higher or a tree. Even if your place is not near a sea, you may consider staying at a safer region for a few days. Generally, many emergency agencies organize shelters during such an event, so you may consider choosing a shelter for yourself. In order to know where to find these shelters, listen to the news on your battery-oriented radio. There are many other things or safety measures you can take after the occurrence of the disaster. To know things in detail, read the Improve Safety page of the Earthquake County Alliance.
Organizations frequently in spotlight during earthquakes
There are many agencies and organizations around the world – national, local, international, independent or government – that come forward in order to help the victims of natural disasters. The FEMA or Federal Emergency Management Agency is a very well-recognized organization that provides relief to natural disaster victims in the form of shelters and other helping ways. Very often, this organization is the first one to arrive at the spot in order to meet the first-degree emergency needs.
The Salvation Army is another true blessing to those who go through unfortunate scenarios. The organization arranges foods and clothes, and helps in many other ways during earthquakes and other major natural disasters. The American Red Cross is not to be ignored either, as the organization meets some of the most crucial needs by providing on-site volunteers, doctors, nurses, medical assistances, medications and raising funds from donors.
Very often, the National Guards are seen to come for rescue during the earthquakes too. The chief effort of such guards is rescuing of people stuck in the buildings, under trees etc. The guards help
tremendously with reconstruction attempts as well. Normally, the president commands these guards, and they are accompanied by state guards.
Besides the above organizations, REACT International, NERT or National Emergency Response Team, Volunteers of America and many other agencies come forward in order to tackle the calamities of earthquakes collectively.
Ways to Donate
Most of us cannot go to a particularly affected area, and help by assisting as doctors, nurses or volunteers. However, we can help by donating if we want to be of assistance. All of us can do that, and even though the amount may be small, it can be a lifesaver for someone who is waiting for your helping hand. Most of the times, you can find “Donate” button on websites of different organizations. Additionally, the Red Cross, WHO or certain other UN-based organizations normally arrange donation raising events for every big disaster.
Below are links to some pages for earthquake relief organizations donation pages:
1. Harris, Tom and Patrick J. Kiger. “How Earthquakes Work“. How Stuff Works. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
2. “Why do Earthquakes Happen?“. UPSeis: An Education Site for Budding Seismologists. 2007. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
3. “What do tectonic plates have to do with earthquakes?“. Planet Green. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
4. NOAA. “Earthquakes”. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 5. Dellinger, Joe. “The San Andreas Fault and the San Francisco Bay Area”. Stanford University. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
6. FEMA. “Earthquake Fast Facts“. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
7. SCEC. “What’s a Foreshock?!“. Southern California Earthquake Data Center. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
8. OSHA. “What are aftershocks?“. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
9. Oskin, Becky. “What Ever Happened to the Richter Scale?“. LiveScience.com. 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
10. “Seismic Destruction“. National Geographic. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
11. USGS. “Historic Earthquakes: Prince William Sound, Alaska“. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
12. “Why Haiti’s quake was so devastating“. CBC News. 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
13. “Haiti Earthquake: Devastation Emerges“. Common Dreams. 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
14. “Haiti devastated by massive earthquake“. BBC News. 2010-13-01. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
15. “Haiti Earthquake Recovery 3 Years Later: Where Has The Money Gone (Infographic)“. HuffPost Impact. 2013-01-12. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
16. “Japan Earthquake-Tsunami Fast Facts“. CNN. 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
17. “Google Street View shows Japan’s tsunami, earthquake devastation“. Global Post. 2013-09-05. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
18. “Prepare for an Earthquake“. American Red Cross. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
19. “Earthquake Safety Tips: Keeping Safe“. National Geographic. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
20. “Earthquakes: Before an Earthquake“. Ready.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
21. CDC. “Inspecting for Home Hazards“. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2003-12-23. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
22. “Make a Plan“. Ready.gov. 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
23. “Preparing for an Earthquake: What You Can Do to Stay Safe“. ABC News. 2011-03-30. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
24. “What to do immediately after an earthquake“. Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
25. “Step 6: Improve Safety“. Earthquake County Alliance. Retrieved 2013-09-05.