What is this “BIG one” anyway? Situated along the coast from northern California to British Columbia lies the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This fault line is believed to be able to produce a 9.1 magnitude earthquake here in Oregon as well as a tsunami and aftershocks. We also have historical evidence that this fault line has produced such devastating disasters in the past. What’s currently happening is that the Juan de Fuca Plate, which is the tectonic plate located off our shores as well as Washington and British Columbia, is being pushed underneath the North America Plate, which covers most of North America and then some. As the two plates collide, earthquakes can occur (and volcanoes can form!). With these two plates meeting just off our shores, while we might not really think of ourselves as being known for earthquakes, we actually do live in earthquake country!
In order to prepare, what can you do? For starters, build emergency supply kits for you and your family! Everyone should have at least 72 hours worth of supplies but for a disaster of this magnitude, it is recommended that everyone have an emergency supply kit to last them for two entire weeks! Build up your 72 hour kit for each person in your family and then begin to add to it as you can in order to build up to a two week kit.
In order to survive an earthquake, it’s a lot like those old earthquake drills we had to do in elementary school – “Earthquake! Earthquake! Duck! Cover! Hold!”
During an earthquake while indoors:
- Get down on your hands and knees, just like you do to get out of smoke during a house fire. This position is more stable than others so you are less likely to be knocked over by the shaking.
- Crawl to a sturdy shelter, such as a table, that is away from windows, heavy furniture, mirrors, and hanging objects. If there is nothing to shelter you, crawl to an inner wall and stay up against it. Doorways are not actually stronger than any other part of your house.
- Staying on your knees, close in on yourself to protect your internal organs. Cover your head and neck with at least one arm and hand. If you have shelter, use one hand to hold on to your shelter tightly – but be prepared to move with it as it moves. Stay in that position until the shaking stops.
- Do not use elevators in multi-story buildings – there could be aftershocks, power outages, or damage to the building or elevator system.
- Fire alarms and/or sprinklers might go off. This can be because of the shaking itself but do not assume that there is no fire.
- If you are in a store, move away from display shelves, get down, and cover yourself.
- If you are in a large gathering area, such as a stadium or theater, stay at your seat. If you cannot get under your seat entirely, place your head and as much of your upper body as possible under your seat. Stay low and crunched as if you were in any other building. After the shaking stops, slowly make your way out of the building, watching for hazards as you go.
During an earthquake while outdoors:
- Find a clear location if you can that is away from anything that might fall on you, such as trees, utility posts, or buildings. If you are on the sidewalk of an area with a lot of buildings, such as downtown Salem, duck into the doorway of one of the buildings to try to protect yourself from any potential falling debris, such as glass or other building materials.
- Drop down and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.
During an earthquake while driving:
- Stay inside your car with your seat belt fastened.
- Move out of the normal traffic pattern and stop if you are able. Set the parking brake.
- Try to find a clear location. Avoid bridges, overpasses, trees, utility posts, buildings, etc. that could potentially fall on you.
- If a power line falls on your vehicle, assume that it is live! Call 9-1-1 for help and wait in your car until help can arrive to safely remove the wire!
After an earthquake:
- Be prepared for aftershocks. If you happen to be at the coast, be prepared for a tsunami if the earthquake was particularly strong or last 20 seconds or longer. As soon as the shaking stops, get up and head inland or for high ground! Do not wait for an official warning! Tsunamis can take either minutes or hours to reach the shore. If you are in the mountains or other areas with potentially unstable slopes, be prepared for falling debris and landslides.
- Check yourself and those around you for injuries. Administer first aid for less serious injuries and call for help for serious injuries if you are able. Try not to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger.
- Check your location for various hazards, such as downed utility lines, structural damage, gas leaks, fires, and things that might have fallen during the shaking, like trees or furniture.
- Clean up spills that might be harmful, such as prescriptions or gasoline, if you can safely do so.