5 Earthquake Myths (and What You Should Do When the Ground Shakes)
Many people mistakenly believe earthquakes only threaten California. Wrong! Learn the top 5 earthquake myths and how to protect yourself and your family.
Chances are pretty good that you live in a place (or will visit a place) where quakes happen. So what should you know about surviving a quake? For starters, lets explode five myths and then let's look at what you should do when the ground shakes:
1. The Greatest Risk is in California.
Surprise: The San Andreas Fault in California may be the most active in the world, but in terms of risk and power, it isnt at the top of the list, according to Wired Science. That distinction belongs to the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the Pacific Northwest. This 800-mile long fault is capable of quakes with a magnitude of 9 or greater, some 30 times more powerful than the worst San Andreas quake.
Other quake zones include the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, which poses a 7 to 10 percent chance of a major earthquake between magnitude 7.5 and 8 in the next 50 years. There are also risks in Salt Lake City, Utah and Alaska and Hawaii.
2. The Safest, Strongest Place is in a Doorway.Wrong. Thats just an old myth from the days when adobe homes crumbled in quakes, leaving behind wooden door frames. If you live in an old mud or brick house, your doorway may still be the best place to take shelter. But in newer homes, doorways are no stronger than any other part of a house.
3. Animals can sense when earthquakes will strike.
According to the USGS, "Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and
insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds
before an earthquake. However, consistent and reliable behavior prior
to seismic events, and a mechanism explaining how it could work, still
eludes us. Most, but not all, scientists pursuing this mystery are in
China or Japan.
Reports of animals predicting quakes, according to National Geographic News, are a function of "'the
psychological focusing effect,' where people remember strange behaviors
only after an earthquake or other catastrophe has taken place. If
nothing had happened, they contend, people would not have remembered
the strange behavior.
4. Most earthquakes happen in the morning.
Wrong. "Earthquakes are equally as likely to occur at any time of the day or month or year," according the USGS. "The factors that vary between the time of the day, month, or year do not affect the forces in the earth that cause earthquakes."
5. Most Injuries Are From Collapsing Buildings.
Nope. For starters, the shaking itself rarely causes injury or death. Most casualties are a result of stuff falling and flying through the air. Around 55 percent of injuries come from objects hurtling through the air. Only 1 percent of injuries are caused by building damage.
Ground displacement is a big danger, including landslides, mudslides and tsunamis. Flash floods happen when dams and levees break. Fires from downed power lines and ruptured gas lines are another big threat.
So, now that you know five of the myths, what should you do in an earthquake? How can you protect yourself and your family?
Here's a quick TSC Earthquake Survival Guide:
1. Find your safety zone.
Obviously, your optimal response depends on where you find yourself when the shaking starts. So make a habit of asking yourself: What would I do right now in a quake? Wheres my safety zone?
> Home: If youre at home, that means drop, cover, and hold on. Ideally, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on firmly. If you arent near a desk or table, drop to the floor against the interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, pictures or mirrors on the walls, flat screen TVs, tall furniture and appliances, and kitchen cabinets. Do not go outside.
> Outside: If youre outside, hurry away from trees, walls, buildings, and power lines. High rise: If youre in a high rise, avoid windows and outside walls. Its best to position yourself under a table. Do not use elevators.
> Driving: If youre driving, pull safely to the side of the road and stay in your vehicle till the shaking stops. Avoid overpasses and power lines.> Crowd: If youre in a crowded place with no place to go, crouch and cover your head and neck with your hands.2. Practice Readiness.
Rehearsing what youll do in an earthquake will improve your chances. Its especially important to practice with your children. Remember the rule of 2+2. You should identify 2 meeting places one near your home and one someplace else if your street or neighborhood are inaccessible. You should also have 2 contact numbers: one near where you live and one out of state (in case local phone lines are down or overwhelmed). Stockpile: Water, gas and power may be out, so you should stockpile at least three days of food, water and medicine for each member of your family. (Thats one gallon of water per person per day). You should be prepared to be self-sufficient with enough cash and gasoline in the event usual conveniences are shut down for a while.