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Monday, February 1, 2010

Earthquakes... what you should do.

There comes a time when you will feel an earthquake here in Alaska, no matter where you live. Whether in South Central, Interior, North Slope, South East or the Aleutians, you will feel them.

What to do and how you do them is all up to you. There are two types in pseudo-geological terms to worry about. Shakers and Rollers. The difference of both could be the reason and way to save your life.

A “Shaker” is the type of earthquake that will shake uncontrollably. It usually does not have life threatening effect unless it is higher on the Richter Scale. I can leave buildings crumbling; it can break water/sewer and main plumbing and at times has actually shifted buildings. Damage from them is usually minimal, but can be devastating. These are usually closer to the surface of the earth and are usually related to a pressure releases in the crust. Imagine someone holding a glass to tightly, and it explodes. That is what is considered a “Shaker”.

A “Roller”, on the other hand, is a slippage of to different land masses, one on top of another. Imagine someone with a truck, hitting your little car, and you have that accordion like waves in the back of your car (depending on how fast it hits you). Those waves in your car are what can happen on the surface of the earth.

Rollers are frightening. If you were here during the 2002 earthquakes, you know the devastation of what they did. We may not have had much damage in the urban areas concerning buildings and such, but the scarring of the land was seen for hundreds of miles as well as those in little villages or communities whose cabins were literally moved off their foundations.

Now, what you and your family should do is look at your surroundings. Do you live in a newer or older house? Are you near power lines? Do you have either gas lines or a fuel oil tank? Do you have water lines or a septic system? These are something to look at, as it may be good or bad for your situation.

Owning a newer or older home (rentals included) are first to look at. Do you see problems with the foundation? Is the roof going bad? Do you see problems with “utility boxes” and such on the side of the house? If you see any problems are they small or large… this may be a problem. Roofs that are going bad or sagging may collapse in the house. Foundation issues (cracks, not sealed correctly, crumbling) may take the house off the foundation. Keep an eye on your house and surroundings and try to fix what problems you can.

Utilities and fuel lines are a touchy subject. Power lines supply the electric, but if they snap off, can lead to igniting your house on fire, electrifying that gas meter or in some cases fuel tank on the side of your house which would be disastrous. You can call your power company and ask them if there are breaker lines (which can be added at a minimal cost) to your house if the lines snap. They can be also added to the poles that hold the lines, and have been in areas that have quite a few trees. I recommend cutting down branches near power lines ad they can be the reason the lines snap. Your Power Company may do this free of charge if you call them and ask about tree management vs. power lines. It makes life easy for them down the road as well.

Water lines, Wells, Sewer and Septic are a huge problem. If you have water and well lines, they can snap or in a wells case, it may move the pump. Not good. If you are in a urban area and the lines snap and start flooding your house. You may not be able to do anything unless you know where the shut off valve is near the street, in your house etc. Wells that have their pumps moved may not be able to get water. Always know where the shut off is for your water. It may save you and your house. Urban sewer lines are the same. There is a shut off valve; you will have to call your Water and Waste company for where the valve is. As for septic and if your main pipe busts, you are going to be in a world of hurt. You may have to go dig it up and repair it yourself. Most septic systems are plastic now, but if you do not know the size of your piping, you may not be able to fix it. Also in the winter, trying to fix a broken plastic pipe may not be a good idea depending on the temperature. The pipe glue may not stick if it is a low temperature.

Now that I have told you what to look for, here is what you may need just in case you can not stay at your house.

I would recommend a large-ish type back pack. An older Army ruck sack works and generally are inexpensive. Packing it with such items as:

1. a small first aid kit.
2. some type of food that you and your family may like.
3. small water purifying system with water bottle.
4. all medications you will need for at least 2 weeks.
5. warm clothes, socks and a pair of slippers. You will need to air out your shoes/boots when hunkering down for a night so not to have problems with your feet later.
6. a tent (light weight) or tarp in which to get out of the elements. (I recommend throwing in a couple of those thermal cellophane blankets, as you don’t have to just use them for a blanket but as a small tarp on the ground)
7. a light weight sleeping bag or blanket, depending on time of year.
8. waterproof matches AND a lighter all in plastic bags. You can have soggy water proof matches, so sticking them in a plastic bag will assure that you will HAVE a fire.
9. a small magazine or paper in a plastic bag. This will help with lighting a fire if the elements are a soggy or undesirable.
10. a bottle or two of HEAT. Heat for your car is an excellent way to get a fire going quick as it is mainly alcohol. Make sure to make a fire pit and only used it sparingly as it is EXTREMELY combustible.
11. Toilet paper in a plastic bag.
12. a light weight shovel.
13. A small radio. There are the hand cranked types but do not do so well in the cold. Please be aware.
14. a small-ish aluminum pot in which to boil water for food or just to drink in case you do not have a purifier.
15. a eye dropper size bottle of bleach.
16. a small bottle of body wash and a wash cloth. Do not use wipes as it dries out your skin.
17. small bottle of lotion, just in case you do need it
18. toothbrush and toothpaste
19. chapstick or something similar
20. Sunglasses and any eye wear (an old pair of glasses in a case).

21. A firearm with at least one box of ammo or shells. (.22, and 12 gauge) NO MATTER WHAT!

These items are quick to grab and go in any situation. You will be the one who needs to figure out what other items will be needed. If you have children make sure to put a light weight stuffed animal and a coloring books with a small pack of crayons in their or your pack. It will help later with their emotions as it is their way to get their emotions out.

Winter brings more problems. You can use exactly what I recommended in heavier duty clothing, tent and sleeping bags. You can also use a child’s sled to help with the items you bring, just make sure you have a sturdy rope so you can drag the bundles as well as the sled have higher sides. If you are in Tsunami areas, grab your bag and get to the highest elevation you can.  The higher you can get, the more it will save your life!

These are recommendations. Always layer clothing! Make sure that you have a plan. Whether going to a friends cabin, or yours, or hunkering it out. Be safe… for you and your family. Only you can protect you and your family!


Lil said...

Earthquakes are one of the two natural disasters I'm confident in coping with (the other being volcanoes, as I've lived on the "ring of fire" my whole life -- and was evacuated from Girl Scout camp the day Mt St Helen's blew). Thank you for the great list, there were a few items I hadn't thought of!

Rev. Paul said...

A hand-cranked flashlight is also a good idea. You never know how long the power may be off.

upinak said...

Lil, yep been there done that with Volcano's. So I know your pain... and gross water.

Rev. Nice to see you! Yep, I should have put in there a combo radio/flashlight crack. But I am not sure if you noticed they don't work well... in 10 degrees and lower. You have to constantly crack it.

Rev. Paul said...

In cold weather, you'll want to keep the hand-cranked radio and/or flashlight in inner pockets. As long as the battery temp can be kept above freezing, they'll last longer.

And you're right - when they get too cold, they might as well be paperweights.

Advanced Restoration, Inc. said...

Great idea about having a stuffed animal and activities for the children. In addition, it is important to note that after the earthquake, if your home has suffered damage by way of flooding or sewer damage, please contact a certified Restoration and Remediation company for an inspection. Mold will begin to grow within 48 hours of water damage being left untreated. Be safe and protect your family.

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