Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Proper Earthquake Procedures

A number of folks from around Columbia County have been recently receiving a forwarded e-mail regarding "new" procedures for earthquakes, such as curling up in a fetal position or evacuating buildings during earthquakes. The original information in the e-mail claims to come from a person who has worked in earthquake recoveries.

However, the information goes against proven earthquake response protocols, according to local emergency preparedness officials.

“The information in this e-mail does not align with what the vast majority of scientists and emergency planners have seen work,” says Derek White, interim director of Columbia County Emergency Management. “It is important that people have the right information when it comes to protecting themselves and loved ones during an earthquake.

Earthquakes are a very real threat to Columbia County. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is an earthquake fault that sits off the Oregon coast and ruptures every 300-500 years, with the last quake occurring in 1700. Subduction zone earthquakes are major seismic events, causing earthquakes and tsunamis seen in Anchorage in 1964 and Indonesia in 2004. “While this is the most likely cause of a future earthquake for us, there are some other faults nearby, so we need to be prepared,” White adds.

The procedure that has proven to work is drop, cover and hold on. This means dropping to the floor where you are at, getting under a sturdy desk or table, and staying there until the earthquake ends. Some other helpful tips from Columbia County Emergency Management include:

* Do not evacuate during the earthquake. You are very likely to be hit with debris, such as pieces of ceiling and glass. “It is highly unlikely with a Cascadia subduction zone quake that you will be able to walk at all in any regard,” White says.

* If you cannot get under something, drop beside a desk or something else that is relatively stable (low-to-ground file cabinets, interior walls, etc.), cover your head and stay there.

* Try to stay away from windows and the outside walls.

* Do not stand in door thresholds or frames as you are likely to be hit with debris.

* If you are outside, go to an open space away from buildings and power lines. Stay away from the bottoms of hills or underneath cliffs, as there could be landslides or rock falls.

* Once the earthquake ends, try to evacuate before tremors start. If you are stuck, try to save your breath by tapping on debris around you so that emergency responders can locate you more easily. Try to turn off electricity at breaker panels and gas lines as you leave.

For more information regarding the facts about earthquake safety, go to . For further information on local emergency preparedness, contact Emergency Management at 503-366-3931 or .