Earthquake News

The 10-year anniversary of the Nisqually Quake is approaching.

The news that at least 65 people have died in a 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, comes just days before Seattle's own commemoration of the Nisqually Quake, which struck on February 28, 2001 and lasted 45 seconds.
New Zealand's tragedy serves as a stark reminder of how different things could have turned out, as well as a cautionary note against complacency. 

A 12-person project team of scientists, civil, structural, and geotechnical engineers, planners, and emergency managers created a "Seattle Fault Scenario" in 2005. They pointed out that much of Seattle's terrain, both downtown and south of downtown, would certainly liquefy in the case of a significant quake, and that lateral spreading and landslides would be expected as well.

They concluded by recommending actions such as "raise threat awareness" and "improve readiness," while also expressing concern about the threat to Seattle's transportation system. "At current state funding levels, the WSDOT seismic retrofit program will be completed in 2070," they said, laughing, "which is a long time." You won't be able to rely on immediate aid if Seattle's roadways are disrupted.

Christensen collects reports of the Nisqually earthquake on his blog, and they're still coming in, with details as fresh as if it happened yesterday. One woman had taken her father to a weekly gathering of fellow elders at Queen Anne Dick's Drive-In:

We were sitting on hard chairs linked to little tables when the room began to tremble, with the elders narrating stories. As a large chandelier in the center of the two-story area began to swing, the autos imitated the ground movement by jumping toward the building and then away. Oh no, I thought, an earthquake, but it's taking much longer than I'd like, and when will it be over?

Should I try to hide these elders under the tables in case the building collapses? But, once the show was finished, how would I get them back into their seats?
Instead, it falls on all of us to prepare for an earthquake. This checklist from King County outlines what you should do ahead of time, and what better time than now:

  1. Make a family emergency plan and practice it.
  2. In the event that family members become separated, establish meeting spots and phone numbers.
  3. Identify an out-of-state contact to contact in the event of a severe disaster or emergency; calling out of the area will be easier if local lines are congested.
  4. Ascertain that everyone understands when and how to dial 9-1-1.
  5. Ensure that your disaster supply packs are up to date. Make sure you have emergency preparedness kits for your house, vehicle, workplace, and school.
  6. To receive emergency notifications as well as up-to-date information and directions, get a tone-alert NOAA Weather Radio.
  7. Teach everyone in the household when, where, and how to turn off the utilities. Make sure you have the necessary tools on hand, such as a wrench.
  8. Make sure you're familiar with your child's school's and workplace's emergency preparations and expectations.
  9. Alternate transportation routes to and from work and other vital destinations should be planned ahead of time.
  10. Always store at least a half-tank of gas in your car; power outages are common during disasters, and gas stations rely on electricity to run their pumps.

Know what you should do in advance to assist elderly or special-needs relatives, friends, or neighbors.

UPDATE: The aforementioned points out that many disaster preparations presuppose home ownership, despite the fact that Seattle's dense, urban population includes many condo and apartment occupants. So, here's your to-do list:

  • Water in pouches, containers, and a water filter are all available.
  • Foods from cans
  • Creams and pain relievers
  • Kit of first aid
  • Prescription drugs
  • Vitamins and nutritional supplements
  • Items of amusement (books, board games and coloring books and activities)
  • Switch on the lights (flashlights, lanterns, candles and oil lamps)
  • Weather radio, AM/FM (hand-cranked, solar powered or battery operated)

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