The Trembling Earth

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Tag Archives: mitigation

Sunday Reading

This is the inaugural post of a weekly series I promised to start that will supplement my more in depth but sporadic blogging about topical seismic events. A couple months ago I joined Twitter to broadcast some of the interesting seismic news snippets I come across daily, including lots of content that didn’t really warrant drawn out posts. As I promised then, I’m now compiling my full week of Tweeted links into a “weekend reading” sort of post, to let you catch up on all the earthquake news you missed as it flew by on Twitter. So here goes: a bunch of articles about earthquakes to read, and why to read them.

Earthquake Early Warning

The biggest U.S. quake news was the tremor that rattled L.A. a couple weeks ago and spawned renewed lamentations about the stagnant state of California’s earthquake early warning system. The New York Times had the most comprehensive story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/us/california-lags-behind-on-a-quake-warning-system.html

…but some local media outlets had their own lamentations to add:
http://sfist.com/2013/03/22/cas_earthquake_alert_system_is_basi.php

To me the highlight of the New York Times piece was the imaginative explanation of what benefits early warning of an earthquake could provide:

“[Japan’s EEW system was able to] activate computerized programs to slow commuter trains so they did not go off their tracks, stop elevators so passengers were not stranded between floors, flash highway warning signs instructing motorists to slow down and avoid overpasses, and open doors at fire stations so they would not be stuck shut should power be lost.
The warning would go out to home computers and personal cellphones, giving surgeons a moment to withdraw scalpels, workers at Disneyland time to shut down Space Mountain, home cooks an opportunity to turn off the gas and everyone a moment to… dive under a desk.
If you are cooking, you can step away from the boiling water… it would help people psychologically, decreasing the surprise that can freeze people in confusion and fear when the ground starts moving, or lead to panicked and dangerous reactions, like running outside a building.”

I like the introduction of the intangible psychological benefits of reducing the paralyzing suddenness with which earthquakes set upon us.

Emergency Kits

A bunch of articles have just come out regarding earthquake survival kits.

Oregon Live asks where to put them (the answer is “everywhere… and make sure they’re accessible”).
http://www.oregonlive.com/living/index.ssf/2013/03/earthquake_preparation_where_t.html

The USA Today introduces us to some particularly dedicated preppers:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/23/oregon-earthquake-survivalists/1996555/

And the New Zealand Herald describes an effect I think most seismologists would be ecstatic to learn of: small tremors have a huge impact on emergency kit sales (up 300%), signaling that people really do treat the benign moderate jolts as reminders of real hazard.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10873205

Prediction vs. Mitigation

On a subject intimately related to the prior two, The Guardian published an article by Dave Petley, director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk, and Resilience at the University of Durham (and perhaps known more familiarly as the author of AGU’s Landslide Blog). Dave presents the elusive ideal of earthquake prediction through a simple and plainspoken set of thought exercises, which ultimately illustrate that prediction isn’t truly what we want. Mitigation, preparation, and a few moments warning should suffice… and may have to.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/may/30/attempts-predict-earthquakes-harm-good

Tsunamis Galore

On the 2nd anniversary of the March 11, 2011 M9.0 Tohoku earthquake, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reminded us that twenty eight other tsunamis have struck various parts of the world since then.
http://www.nnvl.noaa.gov/MediaDetail2.php?MediaID=1304&MediaTypeID=1

Earthquakes Rock the Atmosphere

A widely circulated research result this past week was the discovery of significant signals from the Tohoku earthquake… recorded by satellite gravity measurements as pressure waves passed through the edge of the atmosphere. There’s a great animation of the data here:
http://spaceinvideos.esa.int/Videos/2013/03/Earthquake_felt_in_Space

That should do it for now. Tune in again next weekend, or Follow me on Twitter! @TTremblingEarth

ShakeOut this week! World’s largest ever earthquake drill

This is a big week in U.S. (and world) earthquake history. In the U.S. we mark the anniversaries of several major, important earthquakes that have struck the country.

On October 15, 1979, a M6.9 earthquake struck the Imperial Valley of southern California/northern Baja. In 2006 a M6.7 earthquake rocked the island state of Hawaii, damaging thousands of buildings at a cost of $73 million. On October 16, 1999, people throughout the U.S. southwest were rolled from their slumber by the massive M7.1 Hector Mine earthquake that struck the Mojave desert at 2:46am. And of course… on October 17, 1989, the Battle of the Bay baseball World Series was interrupted in San Francisco by the devastating M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. …And let’s not forget the 1935 M6.3 Helena, Montana earthquake of October 19, part of a series that cost the city dearly, and should serve as a reminder that the intermountain west and the Rocky Mountain front are not free from seismic danger.

Capitalizing on that spate of anniversaries, and on the early date in the U.S. school year, a host of quake-dedicated agencies have organized the fifth annual ShakeOut drill.

This year the drill has expanded far beyond California, incorporating participating agencies in countries around the world. The U.S. is divided into official ShakeOut regions, including many individual states and some at-risk regions like the New Madrid seismic zone, each with their own specific issues when it comes to earthquake hazard. Nearly the whole country is covered, so I encourage ALL of you to sign up and Shake Out.

In most of the U.S. the drill takes place on Thursday, October 18, at 10:18am. In the Central U.S. the drill will take place on February 7, to mark the largest of the 1811-12 New Madrid quakes, and Utah will hold theirs on April 17. Participation is voluntary, unless your employer or educator has opted in for you, but already one third of California’s population is registered. Globally, 17 million people are signed up. Of course it behooves everyone to know what to do in an earthquake, and what resources you will have available, so there’s hardly any reason not to join in.

Visit http://www.earthquakecountry.info/ for information on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake, and to obtain resources for your own drill. Every family that faces the threat of earthquakes (that’s all of you) should know how to find each other and cope with the aftermath. You should also brush up on your Drop, Cover, and Hold On. No doorways. No triangle of life. No sprinting down the stairs to the street like a frantic animal. Stay in place and get under something sturdy. The Earthquake Country Alliance has put together an informative set of instructions on how to protect yourself in a wide variety of situations.

Sign up for the drill, and get the word out to your friends and coworkers. This is invaluable practice. We can’t predict earthquakes, but we do now how to deal with them. The best defense we have as individuals is our own awareness and preparation.

Share your ShakeOut plans or experiences in the comments, to help pool preparedness plans.

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