Feeling the Shakes? Here’s a Brief Earthquake Review

In the past few days, there have been a few earthquakes just west of Lehi. As this page shows, we’ve had three small earthquakes (2.5-2.8) in the past three days. Events such as these provide us a great reminder of the need to be prepared. If the earthquake were much larger, would you know what to do? What immediate action should you take?

The following is some information which may prove useful for your review, in preparing for a future earthquake that affects us at a substantial level.

First, as a summary of the situation here in Utah living along the Wasatch Fault, this 10 minute video by the Utah Geological Survey is a great starting point.

One question you might have is whether this succession of small earthquakes is indicative of a larger one in the near future. Here’s one answer on that:

For instance, in California, if you look at the US Geological Survey (USGS) website, you can count hundreds of earthquakesthat aren’t even felt, occurring with great regularity. If these little earthquakes are precursors to big earthquakes, then we’d constantly be having large earthquakes. On the other hand, small earthquakes suggest a certain level of fault line activity and pressure building up, and scientists regularly suggest that we must all prepare for the Big One, since it could occur at any time. Thus you can say little earthquakes are precursors to big earthquakes because they do suggest that eventually, at some point in the future, a big earthquake is likely.

Before an Earthquake

To be prepared for future earthquakes, FEMA lists the following as recommendations:

  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
  • Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.
  • Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
  • Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover, and hold on!

During an Earthquake

  1. Remain calm! Think through the consequences of all your actions.
  2. Stop, drop, cover, and hold on to something sturdy, where you are.
  3. If you are indoors. . .
    • stay indoors.
    • take cover under a heavy desk, table, bench, archway, alongside a sturdy wall or in a narrow hallway.
    • stay away from and out of windows and all other forms of glass, elevators, stairwells, and doorways with doors, (doors can swing closed, causing injuries).
  4. If you are outdoors. . .
    • stay outdoors.
    • move away from buildings, roofs with clay tiles, antennas, or satellite dishes, large trees, signs, power lines, and any other utility wires or buildings on stilts.
  5. If you are in a crowded place. . .
    • stay away from overhead walkways and do not rush for a doorway.
    • take cover and move away from display shelves holding objects that can fall.
  6. If you are in a high-rise building. . .
    • get under a sturdy desk or table away from windows and outside walls.
    • stay in the building on the same floor. An evacuation may not be necessary.
    • be aware that the electricity may go out and that the sprinkler systems and fire alarms may go on.
  7. If you are in a moving vehicle. . .
    • stop as quickly and safely as possible, and stay in your vehicle.
    • try not to stop near power-lines, bridges, tall fences, or gas stations.
    • watch for road and bridge damage before proceeding.
  8. Hold on to small children and pets. They scare easily and may try to run into dangerous areas or situations.
  9. Do not use any open flame during or immediately after an earthquake in case there is a gas leak.

After an Earthquake

Expect aftershocks, and cautiously ensure everybody is okay. Move to a safer location in anticipation of further quakes. Also check for hazards (if you smell gas, turn off the main gas valve; if you have damaged electrical wiring, shut off power at the control box).

Additional Information

Some of the preceding information was extracted from this pamphlet which contains some very useful information on this and other topics. It is a great resource to print and keep on hand for consultation.

One Reply to “Feeling the Shakes? Here’s a Brief Earthquake Review”

  1. Great advice on preparation. You might also want to purchase earthquake insurance for your home. Most policies can have earthquake insurance added for $200 to $300 a year. It won’t cover the full replacement but will give you about 90% coverage.

    My home is all paid for so I have carried earthquake insurance for years. I don’t want to have to start all over from scratch.

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