… because we’ve never been in a big one. so what with the planet getting kicky and all, we did a lil’ research ya know, just in case.
Amazingly thorough earthquake sites abound on the Internet. This stuff is common knowledge to California kids but for Southern girls, there was the one time in Memphis when we were a wee lass and the New Madrid Fault jiggled a little, and we told our parents the Devil was shakin’ the house.
And other than that, we always seem to be walking, in the car, hanging out near a train yard, or otherwise in motion when an EQ strikes. However, Father Sun is flirting with Mother Earth pretty hardcore these days, so it was time to study up.
There’s a guy named Doug Copp who claims to have worked rescue on most of the world’s major disasters in the past few decades. He says he’s seen enough fatalities in earthquake-aftermath situations to believe he’s got a lock on some patterns in the chaos, and he invented a “Triangle of Life” theory about earthquake response which might save your hide … or kill you.
He may be lying about some stuff. The American Red Cross rebuts many of his statements on this page, claiming the majority of Doug Copp’s experience is in countries where building codes aren’t as strict as American ones. We don’t entirely trust the Red Cross either, knowing what we know about the Lower Ninth Ward and the way they withhold information from organizations in the neighborhood who need it … is why we’re presenting Copp’s side of the argument also, or rather, linking to the Wikipedia article on it.
The car-on-the-freeway part is what caught our eye, as that’s what we always think about on the Bay Bridge … Copp says, if you’re driving during an earthquake and there’s a freeway above you, get out and lay beside your vehicle to avoid being crushed in it. So make your own best guesses, we s’pose.
All that said, here’s some REAL earthquake advice which nobody argues with.
1) “Drop, cover & hold on” is still the recommended action to take during the shaking according to all major and credible earthquake safety authorities.
2) You are more likely to be killed or injured from building contents and imploding glass than from structural collapse. To protect yourself from these hazards,
a) Contents of homes, offices and schools should be braced or secured with proper seismic restraint devices, AND …
b) You must also take protective cover within three seconds or less during an actual earthquake.
3) Getting under a table is not always necessary, but cover should always be used when it is available, if it is available within the three-second rule.
a) Contrary to Copp’s claims that cover will “always” crush the victims, numerous actual post-earthquake studies show clear evidence that cover helps to protect the victims from injury from flying building contents and imploding glass, AND…
b) Cover can provide crucial support in the event of structural collapse. For instance, in one earthquake, one building had student desks that consisted of merely a chair with a writing arm, and it was the writing arms of those desks that held up the collapsing story from above.
4) It is better to drop, cover & hold on within three seconds, even if no table is immediately available to get under, than to attempt to get to another “safer” location. The time element is critical.
a) Victims who try to move on their feet during serious shaking are often thrown violently by the seismic forces and can suffer serious injury from being thrown AND…
b) Are at risk for suffering life-threatening injuries from being simultaneously imbedded with glass shards. Actual post-earthquake data show that large and dagger-like shards of glass can travel more than 20 feet, and with enough force to penetrate solid wood. If you are attempting to move on your feet, your entire body is exposed to glass and other objects that can forcefully fly from every direction.
… and here’s another burning question we had, answered on Secrets of Survival dot com:
“Q: Will California eventually fall off into the ocean?
A: No. The San Andreas Fault System, which crosses California from the Salton Sea in the south to Cape Mendocino in the north, is the boundary between the Pacific Plate and North American Plate. The Pacific Plate is moving in northwest with respect to the great North American Plate at approximately 46 millimeters per year (the same rate, incidentally, as your fingernail growth). The earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault are a result of this plate motion.
The plates are moving horizontally past one another, so California is not going to fall into the ocean. However, Los Angeles and San Francisco will one day be adjacent to one another!”
“Perhaps an earthquake’s greatest danger lie in the fact that it can occur almost at once. If you live in a location that’s prone to earthquakes, preparation before the event is certainly key.
To paraphrase the American Red Cross: ‘It’s not the shaking that hurts. It’s the stuff that falls on your head’. Collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects cause most quake-related injuries and deaths.
Look around your house for things that could fall or move. Ask yourself what may happen if your cupboard doors fly open during a quake, allowing dishes or God-knows-what to fall across the floor. Is the TV and stereo fastened down and are shelves fastened to walls? Do you have hanging plants or light fixtures that might fall? Is there a heavy picture or mirror on the wall over your bed?
Know the danger spots. Secure all tall and heavy furniture that could topple over, such as bookcases, china cabinets or wall units. Hang heavy pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit. Keep breakables or heavy objects on bottom shelves.
Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, or appliances if a quake hits; stay out of the kitchen – it’s a dangerous place. In short, stay away from anything that could conceivably fall on you. Don’t run downstairs or rush outside while the building is shaking, or while there is a danger of falling or being hit by falling glass or debris.”
Secure a water heater by strapping it to wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
Before and after a quake, repair any deep cracks in ceilings, chimneys, or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Unnoticed damage could cause a fire – or worse.
Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
Make sure you have a properly installed and working smoke detector in your home/apartment.
Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
Keep food and water supplies on hand. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and loved ones for a period of 72 hours. This is how long it is estimated for help to arrive, as they have to deal with the same predicaments as you.
Create a family disaster plan. Discuss with your family the types of disasters that could occur. Explain to your kids how to prepare and respond to each type of disaster. Print the plan for everyone.
Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone. Teach children how and when to call 911, police, fire department, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.
Learn first aid and CPR. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and training.
Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
Learn how to help kids cope with disaster.”
Thanks again to Holly, our Coonass shaman who inspired this post, as she is a beacon of Steel Magnolia cheerful disaster prep, and a food-and-supplement-science storehouse of information for these best-get-back-to-the-land times.
Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.