Disaster experts say it’s not a question of “if,” but “when” another big earthquake like the one of Good Friday 1964 will shake Alaska. That quake, the second largest ever recorded with a 9.2 magnitude, and the seismic sea waves that followed killed 131 people. It reshaped the landscape of several coastal communities in Alaska, including Homer.
Most area residents are so used to smaller quakes that occur on a fairly frequent basis that we barely notice them. But we forget, the next one might be a lot bigger. Are you ready?
The second Great Alaska ShakeOut is set for 10:17 a.m. today. It’s a statewide earthquake drill designed to prepare Alaskans for, as a press release says, “the big one.”
If you’re an adult who thinks things like fire drills and earthquake drills are only for school kids, you might want to reconsider. Today’s drill is a good opportunity to evaluate how prepared we are as individuals and families, as well as at our workplaces.
The drill can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. On the simple side, it’s a matter of practicing the earthquake safety drill, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” It goes like this:
• Drop to the ground;
• Take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table;
• Hold on to it until the shaking stops.
What about if you’re outdoors? Find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines — and then drop, cover and hold on.
If driving, you should pull over to a clear location, stop and stay in your vehicle with the seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops.
But what about after the shaking? If your family is separated, do you have a safe place selected to reunite? The experts recommend picking two places: right outside your home and outside the neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Do you have an out-of-state contact and do all family members have that person’s number?
Do you know how to turn off the gas supply to your home? As much as possible, have you quake-proofed your home by doing such things as securing tall furniture and bookcases to the wall? Is your water heater fastened to wall studs?
Do you have your emergency supplies ready? The experts recommend keeping enough supplies to meet your needs for seven days. In addition to food and water, those supplies should include a flashlight with spare batteries; a hand-crank or battery-operated radio with spare batteries; a first aid kit and first aid knowledge; a fire extinguisher; warm clothes and blankets; special items such as a week’s supply of medications; the proper tools for turning off gas and water mains.
You get the idea. It won’t be possible to prepare after a big quake happens; we need to do it now. That preparation has several benefits. For one, the better prepared you are, the better you’ll weather the emergency without help from others. That preparation also likely will reduce the damage and expense caused by a quake.
If you haven’t done so already, go register for today’s Great Alaska Shakeout at www.shakeout.org/alaska. The site contains plenty of information and resources for those who want to participate in the shakeout drill and be better prepared for when a disaster happens.