Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Earthquake Safety in the Last Frontier

Here in the 49th state, we are observing the 49th anniversary of the largest earthquake to ever hit the North American continent.  We’re speaking of the Great Alaskan Quake, which struck at 5:36 p.m. on  March 27th, 1964.  With an epicenter located below the Prince William Sound, it measured 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted over four minutes.   At the time, it was the second largest earthquake in recorded history, as measured by seismograph.
Like many, many other great places to travel, our beautiful Alaska is earthquake country. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored.   Small earthquakes occur here every day and usually go un-noticed.  Could a big 1964 style earthquake happen again?  It’s not likely, but yes, it could.   In the event that a larger quake (as in, one  that gets your attention) does occur, it is wise to know the general safety rules to help keep you as safe as possible, during and after.  We thought we’d share them with you.  Because knowledge is power and being prepared is good.

So here you go.  Widely known general guidelines (culled from various credible emergency preparedness websites sich as the AEIC and the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program) include:
During the earthquake:
  1. Do not panic, keep calm.
  2. Douse all fires.
  3. If the earthquake catches you indoors, stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it’s safe to exit.  Quickly move to a safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room. Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.  Stay away from things that can fall on you, as well as loose hanging objects.
  4. If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.
  5. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
  6. If you are outside, move away from buildings, trees, steep slopes and utility wires.  Find a clear spot or open area, where falling objects are less likely to strike you.  .  Drop to the ground. 
  7. If you are in a crowded place, do not rush for cover or to doorways.
  8. If you are in a moving vehicle, slow down and drive to a clear place.  If that’s not possible, stop as quickly as safety permits.  Stay in the vehicle until the shaking stops.
  9. If you are in an elevator or lift, get out of the elevator / lift as quickly as possible.
  10. If you are in a tunnel, move out of the tunnel to the open as quickly as safety permits.
 After the earthquake:
  1. Check for casualties/injuries, attend to injuries, and seek assistance if needed. Help ensure the safety of people around you.
  2. Check for damage. If the building you are in is badly damaged, leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
  3. If you suspect, smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open the windows and doors.  If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter, and shut off the main valve. Report the gas leaks to the gas company and fire department. Do not light a fire or use the telephone at the site. Do not use any electrical appliances- even a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
  4. If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation, turn off electricity at the main fuse box or breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity, call a professional to turn it off for you.
  5. Turn off the main water valve if water supply is damaged.
  6. Do not use the telephone or cell phone except to report an emergency or to obtain assistance.
  7. Stay out of severely damaged buildings as aftershocks may cause them to collapse. Report any building damage to the authorities.
  8. As a precaution against tsunamis, stay away from shores, beaches and low-lying coastal areas.  If you are there, move inland or to higher grounds.  The upper floors of high, multi-story, reinforced concrete building can provide safe refuge if there is no time to quickly move inland or to higher grounds.
We sincerely doubt the situation occurs where these guidelines get put to use. But if it does, you’ll be glad you know them.  Knowledge is power.  And it helps the adventurous traveler be the safest traveler.  Travel without fear, but travel smart. 
Marilyn, innkeeper at 11th Avenue B&B is one of the Innkeeper Members of the   Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association


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