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7.6: Preparing for the Next Earthquake

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    • 7.6.1: Introduction
      We are in denial about earthquakes. During the past fifteen years, scientists have reached a consensus that great earthquakes have struck the Pacific Northwest, and more will arrive in the near future. Government has responded by upgrading construction standards and establishing an infrastructure of emergency services down to the county level. Media reports take it as a given that there will be future damaging earthquakes.
    • 7.6.2: Getting Your Home Ready
      Chapter 11 focused on steps you can take to make your home and its contents more resistant to earthquake damage. This chapter presents ways you can prepare yourself and members of your family to survive an earthquake and to help others survive as well. It’s analogous to the fire drills in school or aboard an oceangoing ship. We’re pretty sure our school or the ship will not catch fire, but we conduct the fire drills all the same. Fire drills are built into our culture.
    • 7.6.3: Earthquake Preparedness Kit
      Designate a kitchen cabinet or part of a hall closet in your house as the location of an earthquake preparedness kit. Everyone should know where it is and what’s in it. Make it easy to reach in a damaged house. The kitchen is okay, and so is an unused and cleaned-out garbage can in your garage—unless the garage is prone to collapse due to “soft-story” problems. Many items listed below are handy in any emergency—not just an earthquake.
    • 7.6.4: Other Preparations
      After a major earthquake, civil authorities will inspect your neighborhood to see whether damage has occurred, and they might determine that your house is dangerous to live in. This is due to fear that the structure might collapse with you inside. If your house is labeled with a red tag, you will not be permitted to live in it, and the house will have to be torn down. If your house is labeled with a yellow tag, you will have to leave and will not be able to return until the repairs are made.
    • 7.6.5: Neighborhood Plan
      Many neighborhoods already have a “neighborhood watch” plan for security. Arrange a meeting once a year to discuss contingency plans in case of an earthquake. Are some of your neighbors handicapped or elderly? Are there small children? Do some of your neighbors have special skills? There are advantages to having a plumber, carpenter, nurse, or doctor for a neighbor.
    • 7.6.6: Your Child’s School and Other Buildings You Use
      Damaged school buildings were the impetus for the first California law upgrading building standards—the Field Act of 1933. Oregon and Washington waited until after the general building code upgrade of the mid-1970s. Since then, major school retrofit programs have begun in Seattle, Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis, generally funded by bond issues and addressing other needs besides earthquakes, such as antiquated furnace systems.
    • 7.6.7: During the Earthquake
      The strong shaking will stop. For an M 6 to M 7 earthquake, strong shaking will last less than a minute—in most cases less than thirty seconds—but it might seem the longest minute of your life. A subduction-zone earthquake can produce strong shaking of one to four minutes, but it, too, will stop. The earthquake mantra is duck, cover, and hold on. Duck under something such as a table or desk, and cover your face and neck with your arms. Hold on until the shaking stops.
    • 7.6.8: After the Earthquake
      Look for fires in your own home and the homes of your neighbors. Look out for downed power lines. Has anyone been injured? Is your house damaged enough to require it to be evacuated? Consider your chimney as a threat to your life until you have assured yourself that it’s undamaged. Check for gas leaks, and if you smell gas, turn off the main gas valve to your house (Fig. 11-7), which will extinguish all your pilot lights.
    • 7.6.9: Aftershocks or a Foreshock?
      Crustal earthquakes and subduction-zone earthquakes have many aftershocks, and they will cause a lot of alarm. In a large earthquake, aftershocks will continue for months and even years after the main event. Many of these will be felt, and some can cause damage to already weakened buildings. This is one of the reasons you might be asked to leave your house. Though still standing after the main earthquake, it could be so weakened that it might not survive a large aftershock.
    • 7.6.10: Special Problems with Tsunamis
      In the case of a distant tsunami, such as the one that originated in Alaska and struck Port Alberni, B.C., Seaside, Oregon, and Crescent City, California, in 1964, a warning will be issued by the Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska, including an expected arrival time of the tsunami. You will have time to evacuate to high ground. It’s critical that you have a portable radio turned on to listen for tsunami warning updates.
    • 7.6.11: Psychological Issues
      Children are especially traumatized by earthquakes. Familiar surroundings—everything that is supposed to stay put in their lives—suddenly move, are damaged, or become a threat. Children might have to leave home for an extended period of time. They will fear that the shaking and destruction will get worse, or will happen again and again. Assuring the physical safety of your child is only the first step. Include the child in all your activities and encourage the child to talk out fears.
    • 7.6.12: Leaders in Earthquake Mitigation; Are You Ready To Step Forward?
      I close this chapter with two people who are ordinary citizens, not earthquake scientists or engineers, but who took on the role of citizen leader. The first is Diane Merten of Corvallis, a housewife with a large family, who began attending meetings at Oregon State University soon after the paradigm change recognizing the earthquake hazard facing the Northwest. Diane took it on herself to organize leaders in the city of Corvallis and in Benton County to prepare against earthquakes.

    This page titled 7.6: Preparing for the Next Earthquake is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert S. Yeats (Open Oregon State) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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