Earthquakes – Hit or Myth?

 In 2022, Tip of the Week

 

September is National Preparedness Month, and this month we are focusing our safety tips on emergencies. One type of emergency we should always be prepared for is an earthquake. Unlike other natural disasters, like hurricanes where there is some advanced warning, when an earthquake strikes, it is most often a shocking surprise. The only way to be ready for an earthquake is to learn about them and use that knowledge to be prepared.

We are going to give you some commonly held beliefs. You can see if they are “hits” or “myths.”

1. California has the most earthquakes in the U.S. Hit or Myth?

That’s mostly a myth. It’s not number 1, it ranks number 2. Alaska was first, with Hawaii a close number 3. Washington State is number 5. The interesting one is number 4, Nevada. Many of us learned about the “Ring of Fire,” based on the volcanoes that form a ring around the Pacific Ocean. But there is no ocean near Nevada! (See more at USGS, linked here: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/which-state-has-most-earthquakes-cause-damage-which-state-has-most-earthquakes-not-human)

The point is that, looking at the whole list of earthquakes by state, although Florida and North Dakota have the fewest earthquakes, they are not immune to them. Earthquakes can happen anywhere, at any time. We all must be prepared. You can’t plan for an earthquake, but you can prepare for one.

2. If you can’t get under a table or desk during an earthquake, stand in a doorway. Hit or Myth?

This is dangerous myth! Don’t feel badly if you got this one wrong, you are in the majority, as most people don’t know the answer. If you think about doorways, they have one thing in common – a door. When the ground is shaking, a hinged door is going to do what it is supposed to do, which is to try to slam shut. If you are in the way, you will get banged by the door, and if your fingers are gripping the door frame, you are going to get hurt.

During an earthquake, if you can get under a sturdy table or desk, do so. Hold on to the table legs to keep it from scooting away from you, leaving you defenseless. If you are not near something to dive under, crouch against a wall, facing away from windows that could break, and cover your head with your arms.

When should you plan what to do, where to take shelter during an earthquake? Now. Not tomorrow. You must plan before the earthquake happens.

3. After the shaking stops, run outside to get away from the building before it collapses. Hit or Myth?

Another myth. Many buildings, particularly newer construction, have been designed to withstand seismic activity. Some older buildings have been retrofitted to be able to withstand considerable shaking. Additionally, the potential exists for outdoor overhead things (roofs, chimneys, etc.) to fall. People running outside can be injured by things falling outside. Stay where you are. You are safer inside. Use the suggested protective measures in point 2.

4. We need to prepare for earthquakes in advance. Hit or Myth?

This is a hit. We have said it 3 times in this tip. You can’t hope that you will know what to do during an earthquake. You must prepare for an earthquake before it happens. There’s no advance warning system. Once the ground starts shaking, it’s too late to prepare.

OSHA requires that employers prepare for anticipated emergencies and train their employees on what to do in the Emergency Action Plan regulation, 29 CFR Part 1910.38 (https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.38). Our children have earthquake drills at school. We recommend that businesses do the same.

We also recommend that you prepare for earthquakes at home. The Red Cross has a good web. Page on preparation. There is even a video on training your children on what to do. It’s linked here for your convenience. https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/earthquake.html

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