Since the beginning of the 20th century, earthquakes have occurred in 39 states and have caused damage in all 50. In the U.S. about 5,000 quakes can be felt each year. And, you may not believe this, but the most violent earthquakes occurring in the U.S. happen in the central states.
The estimate of annual earthquake losses is more than $4 billion, which is close to the losses from floods and hurricanes. According to a study by the National Climatic Data Center, 84 percent of the nation's annual losses are expected to occur in California, Oregon, and Washington, with California accounting for the largest portion.
Other risk areas include the central U.S. that falls within the New Madrid Seismic zone. This zone includes parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, and the Charleston, South Carolina area. California notwithstanding, the cities among the top 40 high-loss-potential urban areas include Seattle, Portland, New York City, Salt Lake City, and St. Louis.
Because earthquakes occur suddenly and without warning, it is important that you and your family know exactly what to do in a split second should you feel the tremblers of an earthquake. The way to prepare is to rehearse your earthquake safety plan over and over again.
The first thing you should do is assess your vulnerability to earthquakes by asking local governmental agencies for seismic information in your area. Also have your home or business inspected by a structural engineer and prioritize strengthening measures, such as adding steel bracing or sheer walls to frames and strengthening columns and foundations.
Inspect your home for any item that could fall, spill, break, or move during an earthquake … then take steps to reduce the hazards.
Earthquakes in the U.S. are not covered under standard homeowners' policies. However, this coverage is usually available in the form of an endorsement to a home policy or as separate policy for homeowners, renters, and small-business owners. Cars and other vehicles may be covered under the comprehensive part of an auto insurance policy. But it is better to assume nothing. Talk to your insurance agent.
The scope of an earthquake is based on the Richter Scale, which measures the size of the earthquake waves while the intensity of a quake is based on the Mercalli Intensity Scale. Today, seismologists use the Moment Magnitude Scale that measures the size of the earthquake's fault and how much of the earth slips at the time of the quake. The readings are adjusted to the Richter Scale. According to the MMS, the severity of an earthquake is categorized:
An increase of one unit of magnitude, for example, from a 4.0 to a 5.0 quake, increases the wave amplitude by 10 times or about a 30-fold increase in energy released. The difference between a 4.0 and a 6.0 magnitude quake would be a release of energy 900 times as great as a 4.0 magnitude quake.
Earthquake Safety Plan
First and foremost, don't panic. The shaking usually lasts less than a minute, and most damage is caused by failing objects and resulting fires.
Before an earthquake hits:
Find a safe place in every room – under a sturdy table or desk or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you.
Practice drop, cover, and hold on at least twice a year. (Drop under a sturdy desk or table; hold on; and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm. If there is no table or desk nearby, sit on the floor against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. Teach your children drop, cover, and hold on.
Choose an out-of-town family member to contact.
Talk to a structural engineer.
Take first aid classes.
Get training on how to use fire extinguisher from your local fire department.
Eliminate the hazards by:
Bolting bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs.
Installing strong latches on cupboards.
Strapping the water heater to wall studs.
If you are indoors:
stay away from glass.
take cover under a table or in a doorway.
don't use candles or any open flames as earthquakes sometimes break natural gals lines that easily catch fire.
If you are outdoors:
move away from buildings and electrical wires.
stand in the open until the shaking stops.
If you are in a car:
move away from bridges or elevated highways.
stop in an open area and wait until the shaking is over.
After an earthquake.
Check yourself for injuries and protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
Check others for injuries, and give first aid to those with serious injuries.
Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate any fire hazards, such as turning off gas.
Listen to the radio for instructions.
Expect aftershocks and take precautions.
Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if home is unsafe.
Use the phone only for life-threatening emergencies.
An Earthquake Supply Kit should include:
Portable battery-operated radio
First aid kit and manual
At least three gallons of water per person
Non-electric can opener
Essential medicines, including prescription drugs
Protective clothing and rainwear