SEATTLE, Wash. - They're little, but they're out there: shallow quakes of 4.0 magnitude and below, startling residents up and down the coast from Oregon to Alaska, and across the Rockies into Idaho. Some aren't that little-a recent series of quakes along the Blanco Fracture Zone off the Oregon coast ranged from 3.7 to 5.6. Some aren't that shallow, witness last week's 2.0, seventeen miles below the Seattle Urban Area. According to FEMA Regional Administrator Susan Reinertson, the spate of temblors is no cause for alarm, but no cause for complacency either.
"We live in a seismically active region, and while faults along the coast get a lot of attention, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and Idaho get their share of tremors," said Reinertson. "Future activity cannot be predicted, however, people living anywhere in the Pacific Northwest could potentially experience a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake. Planning is not prediction, but planning for the worst and hoping for the best is good advice in the disaster preparedness profession."
Emergency managers have long encouraged all Americans to maintain 72 hour disaster preparedness kits with food, water, prescription medication and first aid supplies, battery-powered lanterns and radios, and extra batteries. Disaster preparedness kits, coupled with current family disaster plans, guarantee a degree of autonomy regardless of whether or not the emergency is driven by weather effects and other natural causes, pandemics or even terror strikes. Commonsense considerations in fine-tuning plans to incorporate seismic threats include:
Preparing your home for an earthquake
Eliminate hazards by moving heavy items to lower shelves and securing heavy furniture. Secure hanging items, such as mirrors and paintings and never hang things over beds.
Make sure that you water heater is secured properly to the wall studs. Your water heater weighs a couple hundred pounds and during an earthquake it could fall, breaking gas lines on the way down.
Verify that your home is bolted securely to the foundation. If your home is built before 1950 houses weren't required to bolt to the foundation. Have a licensed contractor check.
Make sure that your chimney is securely braced. During an earthquake it can topple over end fall through the ceiling, becoming a major hazard.
During an Earthquake
Stay inside and away from falling objects and glass. Drop down and cover your head (drop, cover and hold) to protect against falling debris.
If you are outside, stay away from power lines, glass windows, and large building. Move to a clear area.
After an earthquake
Check for injuries on yourself and others and perform necessary first aid.
At this point emergency services and phone lines are overloaded, so only use the phone to report life threatening emergencies.
Know where your utility connections are, and how to shut off utilities to prevent further damage to your home.
Put out small fires with your fire extinguisher. Remember, if you smell gas or think that it may be leaking.
Evacuate your home immediately and shut off your utilities.
Expect aftershocks and be prepared to take cover when they occur.
How to improvise a survival shelter in less than ten minutes.