Earthquakes are a regular occurrence. The National Earthquake Information Center detects anywhere between 12,000 to 14,000 earthquakes yearly. Sometimes, it just gives us a little shake then we continue with our lives afterward. But there are also times when it devastates us and the establishments around us, particularly old buildings and those with weak foundations. Before getting all paranoid and calling up concrete repair services in Salt Lake City or San Diego to strengthen your property’s foundation, let’s take a look first at some facts.
Earthquake 101: Getting the Basics Down
Why do earthquakes happen?
The Earth is constantly moving, not just on its axis but even under its surface. This surface is made up of blocks of plates, like huge puzzle pieces, which are constantly moving and sliding against each other as they go in different directions. When these plates touch each other, they produce tremors that we know as earthquakes. As their edges, also known as faults, get stuck to each other, the other plates continue to move. This causes a huge amount of energy to be stored and once they get unstuck, the energy released is what causes earthquakes. As these plates are massive, even if they have the speed of the growth of our fingernails, they carry a great deal of power once released.
Where do they mostly occur in the United States?
In 2005, researchers from the University of Nevada came up with a list of states where strong earthquakes happen frequently. Their research was based on the strongest earthquakes recorded between 1568 to 1989 with seismological data from the year 1898 to 2005. Below is the list they came up with:
- Alaska (6.70)
- California (6.02)
- Nevada (5.11)
- Hawaii (5.0)
- Washington (4.97)
- Wyoming (4.67)
- Idaho (4.57)
- Montana (4.47)
- Utah (4.29)
- Oregon (4.24)
While this list does not reflect the risk in other areas, it does not mean those regions are safe from seismic activity.
How does an earthquake impact society?
There are three aspects of society that are greatly affected by strong quakes: social, economic, environmental.
- Social impact refers to its effects on people. The short term effects include injuries and deaths, broken communication lines, lack or loss of electricity and power, disruption of businesses and communities. Some long term effects are sickness, disease, and loss of homes and businesses.
- Economic impact refers to its effects on the wealth of the local area. The short term effects include loss of income, looting, and difficulties in trade. Some long term effects are loss of property, costly rebuilding projects, investments are geared towards rebuilding and not economic growth, and loss of income.
- Environmental impact refers to its effects on the landscape. The short term effects include destroyed buildings, fires, landslides, tsunamis, and floods. A long term effect is damage or loss of historical sites and landmarks.
What should I do in case of an earthquake?
Before an earthquake:
- Prepare an emergency kit for all types of emergencies.
- Plan an evacuation route with your family and follow it to a T.
During an earthquake:
- Keep your cool and not panic.
- Drop, cover, and hold.
- Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, and any heavy furniture or equipment.
- If you are outside, go to an open area far from falling objects and structures.
- If you are in the car, carefully park your car away from possible threats and stay inside until it is finished.
- If you are up in the mountains, watch out for falling trees, rocks, debris, and landslides.
- If you are in a coastal area, follow these rules.
Understanding earthquakes and its effects and knowing what to do can spell the difference between life and disaster.