Although most people associate U.S. earthquakes with the west coast, the phenomenon can strike anywhere.
Virginians learned that on August 23, 2011, when an earthquake of a 5.8 magnitude (and several 4.8 aftershocks) started in Louisa County and spread throughout the east coast, including the Middle Peninsula region.
The earthquake, along with one that struck the New York-Ontario border in 1944, was the largest to hit the east coast since 1897.
It is estimated that the 2011 Virginia earthquake was felt by one-third of the U.S. population, the most in U.S. history, and impacted people as far as Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Quebec.
Damage to Louisa County was estimated at $80.6 million, $63.8 million of which was due to public school building damage; several historical markers in Washington D.C., including the Washington Monument and Washington National Cathedral, also sustained damage.
This year, the Southern California Earthquake Center is encouraging east coast residents to participate in the SouthEast ShakeOut, on Thursday, October 17 at 10:17 a.m.
Nearly 1.5 million ShakeOut participants on the east coast, including the New Kent County Government and Schools, will practice the internationally recognized Drop, Cover and Hold On protocol to better protect themselves during earthquakes:
•DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!).
•Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table.
•HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.
According to the Earthquake Country Alliance, studies on earthquake injuries and deaths over the last several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building, which is why Drop, Cover, and Hold On is the major earthquake protocol.
Those that live in earthquake-prone areas can also reduce chance injury or damage to belongings by securing them.
The Earthquake Country Alliance recommends securing top-heavy furniture to walls with flexible straps and using earthquake putty or Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture, and install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed.
In most circumstances, the Earthquake Country Alliance recommends that you Drop, Cover, and Hold On immediately.
However, earthquakes often hit without warning, and you might find yourself at the mall, in bed, at the beach, or somewhere else when it hits, which will effect how you get to safety.
It is important to note that for years, people were encouraged to move into a doorway during an earthquake, and that now safety experts are advising against it.
The initial advice came from the image of an adobe home in California with the door frame as the only standing part following an earthquake.
This only true if you live in an old, un-reinforced adobe house, according to Earthquake Country Alliance.
"In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. You are safer under a table," it reported.
If an earthquake hits when you're:
•In a room away from a table or desk: Drop to the ground and crawl into a corner of the room (if possible). It is important that you crawl so that you protect your vital organs, and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Do not move to another location or outside.
•In bed: Hold on and stay there, while protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are because broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.
•In a high-rise: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. The sprinkler systems or fire alarms could activate.
•In a store: When the shaking starts, Drop Cover and Hold On. A shopping cart or the inside of a clothing rack could provide some protection. If you must move to get away from heavy items on high shelves, drop to the ground first and crawl the shortest distance necessary.
Whenever you enter any retail store, take a moment to look around and access what is above and around you that could move or fall during an earthquake.
•Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards.
•Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.
•In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat or drop to the floor between rows and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don't try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall during the aftershocks.
•Near the shore: Drop, Cover, and Hold On until the shaking stops. If severe shaking lasts twenty seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground, as the earthquake may have generated a Tsunami. Immediately move inland two miles or to land that is at least 100 feet above sea level. Don't wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards.
•Below a dam: Dams can fail during a major earthquake. So, if you live downstream from a dam, you should read up on flood zone information and prepare an evacuation plan in advance.
•In a wheelchair: Lock your wheels, and cover your head and neck. The force of the earthquake may knock you off your feet or throw you to the ground. Be careful when trying to get back up because there may be aftershocks.
The Earthquake Country Alliance encourages residents to create a family disaster plan so that if an earthquake hits, they will know what to do.
A family disaster plan is composed of:
•A Personal Support Team (PST) at home, work and every place you spend a lot of time: A PST is made up of at least three people who are within walking distance and can assist you immediately, such as neighbors and co-workers. These team members will need to know how to enter your home or office and check on you in case you are injured or cannot answer the door.
•An Out of Area contact: Identify an Out of Area contact (that lives out of state or 100 miles away) that is your main point of contact. This person should be who friends and family call to report their status. Be sure your PST has the contact information.
•An evacuation plan: Identify a meeting place just outside your home where you can make sure everyone is safe. Identify a second meeting place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.
•A care plan for pets: Because only service animals are allowed in shelters, your pets should have a care plan, which identifies your pet, and someone who can watch him.
•A disaster kit for each person, which includes:
—Extra medications (including over-the-counter and prescription), and medical supplies, such as a nebulizers, hearing aid batteries, blood glucose testers, etc.
—Medical information and medication list
—Emergency contact information
—Flashlight with extra batteries
—A radio with extra batteries (consider a NOAA weather radio)
—Pair of heavy gloves
—Extra pair of clothes
—First aid kit
—Face mask to protect from dust and debris
—Copy of a recent color photo or I.D. card and utility bill (for proof of address)
—Service animals and pet supplies, including: license and ID tags, vet records, extra food, water and feeding bowls, harness and/or leash.
The Earthquake Country Alliance also recommends attaching a "Go Bag," to your bedpost or bed frame. The "Go Bag" would include: flashlight, batteries, sturdy closed-toed shoes, heavy gloves, a whistle or noisemaker, and your emergency information.
Wherever you are on Thursday at 10:17 a.m., Drop, Cover, and Hold On, and consider the earthquake safety guidelines and the best way for you to get to safety.
By practicing the drill and by preparing an emergency family safety plan, you and your family will have a better chance of being unharmed when an earthquake unexpectedly hits your town.
Visit: http://www.daretoprepare.org for more information on securing your home or office before an earthquake.
For more information on earthquake safety, visit: http://www.dropcoverholdon.org.
Information courtesy Earthquake Country Alliance
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.