• 5 Earthquake Myths to Get Out of Your Head

    Maralin Hoff, the “Earthquake Lady,” from the Division of Emergency Management in the Utah Department of Public Safety, has traveled all over Utah teaching state residents how to prepare for earthquakes. In her travels over the last 20 years, she’s heard a lot of earthquake myths. Here are a few she’s heard and a few more collected from around the web.


    Earthquake Myth #1: You don’t have to think about earthquakes in most states

    Damaging Earthquakes in the US (1750-1996) - Earthquake MythWhile California and Alaska are generally considered the most seismically active areas in North America, Oklahoma had that distinction in 2014. The state saw a huge increase in the number of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    For that matter, in the last 250 years nearly every state has seen an earthquake of intensity of level VI (6) or higher on the Modified Mercalli Scale, according to this USGS map. The Modified Mercalli Scale measures earthquake damage. Level VI denotes a severe earthquake that can include damage like broken windows, heavy furniture moved, plaster cracks and falling objects.


    Earthquake Myth #2: Earthquakes are predictable

    “Imagine looking at a freshly plastered wall and trying to predict where the first crack will show up. That’s where we’re at with earthquake prediction right now,” said California Geological Service Supervising Geologist Charles Real, in a release.

    earthquake frequency causing damage - Earthquake MythEarthquake scientists can, however, suggest earthquake probabilities. This map from the USGS shows a forecast for how often areas in the U.S. might see a level VI or higher earthquake.

    “We don’t claim any special insight into when earthquakes will occur – simply the knowledge that they’ve occurred in the past and will occur in the future.” said Dr. John Parrish, the California State Geologist, in a release.


    Earthquake Myth #3: Don’t “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”

    Stephanie Robertson, who was raised in California and lived through several earthquakes, remembers being taught to stand in a door frame during an earthquake. Nowadays, that’s not recommended.

    Hoff said many door frames today are made of metal inside, though they may look like wood. Therefore a door frame without windows or glass nearby might provide some protection in a building collapse. However, as the Earthquake Country Alliance pointed out, the frame won’t protect you from flying objects – or, for that matter, the swinging door.

    Hoff says the best way to protect yourself in an earthquake is Drop, Cover and Hold On. It’s pretty self-explanatory. If you feel an earthquake, do the following:

    • Drop to your hands and knees.
    • Cover your head and neck with both arms. If there’s a sturdy desk or table nearby, crawl under it, keeping one arm over your head. If there isn’t, go next to an interior wall or low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you.
    • Hold on to your shelter (or head and neck) until the shaking stops.

    Drop Cover HOLD ON, NELLY! - Earthquake Myth

    A few years ago, some web postings suggested protecting yourself in a “triangle of life,” where you crouch down beside a shelter such as a table, instead of under it. Hoff said she researched the idea when she first saw it then consulted with many other experts. They disagreed with it.

    “To make a long story short,” she said, “We’re still teaching students [Drop-Cover-Hold On].”

    Hoff pointed out you can’t direct which way objects will fall during an earthquake.

    “Who’s to guarantee a tall piece of furniture is going to hit the table and not you if you’re beside (and not under) it?” she asked.


    Earthquake Myth #4: It costs a lot of money to prepare an emergency kit

    K7_E200 Earthquake Emergency Kit - Earthquake Myth

    Yes, some emergency kits can cost hundreds of dollars. And, frankly, it is way more convenient to buy a kit that’s all packed up and ready to go, with almost everything you need. Heck, for this ShakeOut season (happening October 15 in your state), we’ve put our Earthquake Emergency Kit on sale, so you don’t have to sell your firstborn to be prepared.

    However, you don’t have to go that route, Hoff said. Ready.gov and others have lists of what to put in emergency kits, and Hoff’s own list is here.   Be Ready Utah has a “Top 10 List for Preparedness on a Budget.”

    “We think an emergency kit is going to cost an arm and a leg. No. It’s a shoestring,” Hoff said.


    Earthquake Myth #5: Everyone will panic when “the big one” hits

    “Research shows that people usually take protective actions and help others both during and after the shaking. Most people don't get too shaken up about being shaken up,” according to the Earthquake Country Alliance.

    Hoff’s mantra is “Train Your Brain.”

    In other words, by thinking about what you would do in an earthquake, and preparing for it, you’ll be able to act without panicking if one occurs. And then you’ll be able to help others.

    - Melissa


    What are some other earthquake myths that you have heard? Let us know in the comments!


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  • How to be Safe During an Earthquake While Driving

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    California Highway CollapseOn October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake jolted the north-central coast of California. It caused $1.8 billion in damage to the transportation system. A landslide closed State Highway 17, a 26-mile parkway between San Jose and Santa Cruz. In the San Francisco Bay area, a 1.25-mile section of the double-decker Cypress Street Viaduct, part of Interstate 880, collapsed, killing 42. An upper deck section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. Every airport in the area closed overnight. All cable cars, electric trains and buses – half of the Bay area’s mass transit – halted when they lost power.

    Whether traveling or just commuting to work, you can take steps before, during and after an earthquake to be safe while on the road.

    Before an earthquake, keep your car in good condition, make a car emergency kit and make a family communication plan.

    Gas GagueTo keep your car in good condition, keep your gas tank more than half full and perform seasonal checkups, according to ready.gov. A full gas tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Check all fluid levels, filters, tires, brakes, and lights. Watch for leaks in the exhaust system. Make sure the defroster and windshield wipers work.

    We have both a car emergency kit as well as an earthquake emergency kit, so you can check those out as somewhere to start. We’re even giving an earthquake emergency kit away (see the bottom of this post to enter)!

    If you want to make your own, use this list from ready.gov:

    • Car maintenance supplies: basic tools, jumper cables and flares or a reflective triangle.
    • Winter equipment: cat litter or sand for traction, a shovel, and an ice scraper.
    • Food: canned goods – don’t forget a can opener – and protein-rich food like nuts. Also remember baby formula and pet food, if applicable.
    • Water: one gallon per person per day.
    • Powered devices: flashlight with extra batteries, radio and cell phone car charger.
    • Warm clothes and blankets or sleeping bags.

    A communication plan includes information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. FEMA and Red Cross have blank contact cards. Everyone should have an out-of-town emergency contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to ready.gov.

    During an earthquake, a car will be harder to control, according to the Red Cross. As quickly as possible, pull over to a clear location, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid bridges, overpasses, trees, and power lines. If you’re in the mountains, watch for falling rocks and debris.

    Most importantly, stay in your vehicle with your seat belt buckled. If you leave your vehicle, it will block the road so emergency crews will have a harder time getting where they need to be. If a power line falls on your vehicle, staying inside it will prevent electrocution.

    Cracked road after earthquake at Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

    After an earthquake, the Red Cross suggests you be cautious when you start driving and have alternate routes. A pedestrian overpass, for example, can rapidly become a crosswalk that will block the whole road. Stay out of damaged areas as much as possible. Avoid bridges and ramps that the earthquake may have damaged, according to ready.gov. Watch for fallen power lines. Broken water mains can create sinkholes. Look for those and other signs like large cracks and squirts of sand that suggest the surface beneath the road might be unstable. Assume traffic lights won’t work.

    The nice thing about preparing your vehicle for an earthquake is that same effort helps if your vehicle breaks down. Seasonal checkups will also keep your car running longer. So aren’t a few minutes for preparation worth the time and money?

    - Melissa


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    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: vehicle, auto, road, earthquake kit, great shakeout, Earthquake Emergency Kit, Shake Out, ShakeOut, car, Earthquake

  • The World Series Earthquake of 1989

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    “We could have had a real catastrophe here!”

    Ballpark - World Series EarthquakeSo exclaimed a freshly frazzled Will Clark, first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, in his distinctive Lousiana drawl about an hour after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Called the “World Series Quake,” the 6.9 magnitude quake happened on live television before millions of national viewers as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s were warming up for Game 3 in Candlestick Park. Clark was noting that among the 50,000 fans, concessionaires, staff, umpires, two teams and their entourages, no one was killed—not even seriously injured.

    The rest of the Bay Area did not fare as well. The 15 second quake (formally called the La Prieta Earthquake after its epicenter 60 miles south of San Francisco) caused over $7 billion in damage and claimed over 60 lives.

    San Fran Infastructure Damage - World Series EarthquakeOctober 17th will mark the 26th anniversary of the infamous event, yet the images can be vividly recalled in the minds of those who were there, or viewed the extraordinary live news reports. Images like the Oakland Bay Bridge collapse, where the top westbound lanes fell onto the lower eastbound lanes, killing one driver. Much worse was the mile-and-a-quarter-long section of the elevated Nimitz Freeway that likewise collapsed. Forty-two died there. The rubble of burning homes in the Marina District, live television going black, people in offices, malls, and city streets going from complete calm to total panic in seconds—it’s all too easy to recall.


    Damaged Home - World Series EarthquakeIn the aftermath of the La Prieta quake, a long list of emergency protocols and civil ordinances were enacted to help guard against the next big shake-up. Community alert systems, including tsunami warning “amber alerts,” are a growing part of the Bay Area culture. Parking garages, apartment buildings and masonry construction standards have all been stiffened to do the same for these types of structures. Whole sections of the Bay Bridge and adjoining freeways have been renovated, or entirely replaced, as well.

    But such precautions will have relatively small benefit when the next one hits if individual households neglect preparing in simple, yet essential ways. In a History Channel video short, James Dalessandro, author and 1906 San Francisco earthquake expert, boldly asserts that the city, as a whole, is not ready.

    “One of the greatest problems is the apathy of the people in San Francisco and Northern California,” Dalessandro asserts. “Probably 99% don’t have water supply and a food supply. It could be a week or more before anybody could possibly get to you.” He further advises, “The more self reliant, the more prepared you are, the greater your chances of survival.”

    Of particular note, in news footage video, a San Francisco Police Officer is seen standing in the street directing emergency efforts at a crumbled row of formerly elegant and expensive homes. Yelling to the crowd of people with nowhere to go, he directs them to fill their bathtubs, collect canned foods, and know that it will be “at least 72-hours before help will arrive.”

    Map - World Series EarthquakeThe entire western third of the US is seconds away from a similar scene, as well as most the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Every citizen of large western cities know first-hand the feel of a mild rumble. A section of the Mississippi Valley called New Madrid is also highly prone to the occasional shake. And over the last 5 years, believe it or not, Oklahoma has evolved into the most earthquake-prone state in the country. With every occasional little tremor, everyone is asking themselves…”Is this it?”

    Quake 101 - World Series EarthquakeThe irony in all this is that, despite the broad knowledge of the impending danger, few living in these regions are ready…or even know how to get that way. Perhaps it’s time to change all that.


    At the 25th anniversary of the World Series Earthquake, the San Francisco Examiner asked Will Clark about that historic day at the ballpark.

    “Oh my goodness, that was pretty traumatic,” he remembers. “Any disaster like this, everybody's affected in some way," Clark said. "You know somebody, or a friend's friend. It kind of sits with you, and you take it with you wherever you go."

    You can be sure, among the millions affected that October evening in 1989, getting ready for the “Big One” is a daily thought. Hopefully, for their sakes, it’s also a deliberate action.


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    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: Earthquake Emergency Kit, Catastrophe, World Series Quake, World Series, 1989, San Fransisco Earthquake, Earthquake

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