Feb. 16, 2011 editorial: Earthquake IQ

Feb. 16, 2011

The easiest rumor to track down this week was the earthquake.

Folks felt movement of the ground, or the buildings they were in, on Monday.

It's nothing to get shook up over at this point; there was no damage, no great rumbling.

But a 4.3 earthquake does give one pause, given that it was less than 100 miles away, in the neighborhood of that notoriously cranky sister peak, Mount St. Helens.

(United States Geological Service confirmed another temblor was felt near Mount St. Helens, this one on Feb. 15 at 5:09 a.m. At 2.2 on the Richter scale it was smaller and deeper than the one on Feb. 14.)

So while the Valentine's Day quake and its milder cousin created no particular problems, it's an opportunity to think ahead to what we can all do in case of a serious seismic event.

The following USGS tips on earthquake - EQ - preparedness can apply to getting ready for just about any natural disaster:

• Make sure each member of your family knows what to do no matter where they are when EQs occur;

• Establish a meeting place where you can all reunite afterward;

• Find out about EQ plans developed by children's school or day care;

• Remember transportation may be disrupted; keep some emergency supplies - food, liquids and comfortable shoes, for example - at work;

• Know where your gas, electric and water main shutoffs are and how to turn them off if there is a leak or electrical short. Make sure older members of the family can shut off utilities;

• Locate your nearest fire and police stations and emergency medical facility;

• Talk to your neighbors - how could they help you, or you them after an EQ;

• Take Red Cross First Aid and CPR Training Course.

The USGS also suggests that in areas such as ours to watch out for falling rock, landslides, trees and other debris that could be loosened by quakes.

Inside the home, install door latches, braces and fasteners to fix potential hazards such as cupboard doors, bookshelves, TVs and other appliances, and artwork or large plants.

There's plenty more to learn at:

earthquake.usgs.gov/learn

This week's reminders, however small, that we live in an earthquake zone create an opportunity to learn - including about certain earthquake myths.

Given the proximity of this week's quakes to an active volcano, it's good to point out that while there are "earth processes responsible for volcanoes," earthquakes and volcanoes do not cause each other to happen, according to USGS.

Also, neither the USGS nor university scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. According to the USGS website:

"The USGS focuses their efforts on the long-term mitigation of earthquake hazards by helping to improve the safety of structures, rather than by trying to accomplish short-term predictions."

That's a realistic mission, one that the average citizen can participate in, by learning more about earthquakes and how to respond and be self-reliant in case of disaster.

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