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How Can You Prepare for Earthquakes?

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No matter where you live, it is important to be aware of and prepared for earthquakes. Join us as we talk to Mike Blanpied, who is the Associate Coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, as he gives us safety tips to ensure you and your family are prepared before, during, and after an earthquake.




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How Can You Prepare for Earthquakes?


Jessica Robertson: Hello and welcome to USGS Corecast. I am your host Jessica Robertson. Today we are talking about earthquake preparedness and safety. The recent earthquake that occurred in Virginia really shows the importance of earthquake preparedness no matter where you are. We are joined today by Associate Coordinator of the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program Michael Blanpied.

Thank you for joining us today Mike.

Mike Blanpied: Nice to be with you.

Jessica Robertson: So what should one do during and after an earthquake? Are there any specific actions one should or should not take?

Mike Blanpied: During an earthquake, you really need to protect yourself from falling objects. If you are inside, get down under heavy piece of furniture and hold on, drop, cover, and hold on. If you happen to be outside then get away from the building that might have something fall off bricks or parapet or whatever. What you should not do is be inside the building and then run outside because one of the most dangerous places to be is just outside the building when things are falling.



Jessica Robertson: What kinds of things can one do to be prepared for an earthquake?

Mike Blanpied: There are several things to do when you have the time to take preparations. One is just to know your level of risk is. The USGS has seismic hazard maps on its website that will show you the relative amount of shaking that might be expected in your area. And you can use that to get a judgment of how much preparations is necessary.

The next thing to do is to take a look at your home and look at the safety of the structure. Make sure that the home is nicely bolted to its foundation that is well constructed and so forth. If you have questions, a structural engineer can help you make those determinations and determine how to make the home safer if necessary.

The next thing to do were just simple steps of looking at the contents of the home. Are there things that could fall and hurt you? Do you have a water heater that might tip over and cause a flood, the sort of thing. And then, what is your plan with you and your family or you and your work mates on how to respond to the earthquake? You will going to be much better off if you have both the plan and a kit.


A plan would be whose going to go where, who will pick up the kids from school? Where are you going to meet? Who are you going to contact and so forth. And then the kit would include some food, water, medicines, gloves, sneakers, and so forth. Things that you are going to need if there does happen to be some damaged in your area or if you are cut off from food, transportation, electricity, and so forth.

You want to have the things on hand so that you and your family are safe, comfortable, and well-prepared to just live comfortably for a couple of days if necessary.

Jessica Robertson: What about earthquake preparedness for aftershocks?

Mike Blanpied: After any large earthquakes there will be aftershocks as we have had in Virginia. The aftershocks will generally be smaller but some of them may be large enough to cause damage and to be scary. The aftershocks generally taper off over time but, there can be aftershocks in the hours, days, or weeks, or even months after the main shock. It pays to just be aware that they may happen at anytime and if they do happen again, just drop, cover, and hold and make sure that you are safe during the shaking.



Jessica Robertson: So, Mike what about earthquake predictions? Can earthquakes be predicted?

Mike Blanpied: No, we really do not have a means to predict the time, place, and magnitude of the future earthquake. We have certainly done a lot of work over the decades trying to develop that ability and in this point it does not look like we were anywhere close to doing that and we may never be able to. But, we can say is that earthquakes will occur with sort of a general frequency and we know that frequency is far higher in the Western US than in the Central and Eastern US where the earthquakes are much more infrequent. The one exceptions is aftershocks. After the recent earthquakes, again, we know that there will be aftershocks coming so in that sense they are predictable. But again we cannot say where, when, or how large those will be so it is best just to be prepared and aware that they may happen.



Jessica Robertson: A lot of us re also wandering, are there more earthquakes now than normal?

Mike Blanpied: There is certainly been a lot of earthquakes in the news over the last couple of years. We have had earthquakes in Haiti and in Indonesia, and New Zealand, and Chile, and so forth. However, it does not appear that the rate of earthquakes has undergone a big increase. The rate just sort of fluctuates naturally and fluctuates in place and time and it happens to be we have had a lot of news worthy earthquakes lately. But the overall rate is not unusually high.

Jessica Robertson: Mike, is there anything else you want to share with our listeners regarding earthquake preparedness?

Mike Blanpied: Well the earthquake we experienced in Virginia was not just a Virginia earthquake. It cause shaking that was felt all the way from Florida to Maine and to Missouri, very large area. And, this is typical of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern US.



The seismic waves travel far through through the old, cold rocks of the central continent and can cause shaking over the very large area. This was also seen in 1811 and 1812 when there were large earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone near Missouri and Tennessee and Mississippi. Those seismic waves travel all the way to the East Coast and even caused strong shaking in Washington. Earthquakes in the Eastern US are not just a problem if they are in your backyard, they can be a problem even if they are in another state's backyard. So it pays to be prepared in any case no matter where those earthquakes will happen to be.

Jessica Robertson: Thank you for joining us today Mike. If you would like to learn more bout earthquake safety and preparedness, you can visit the USGS earthquake hazards program website at



Corecast is a product of the US Geological Survey Department of the Interior.


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