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The Real Deal for Earthquake Preparedness

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

House about to fall into a crack of earth

Take steps to make sure you are prepared in case of an earthquake or other disaster.

It’s easy to talk about disaster preparedness. At Allied Universal, Inc., we like to walk the talk. One example of the way we practice what we preach is our participation in the 2010 Great California ShakeOut, which was recognized by Cal EMA and the Earthquake Country Alliance. We were in good company, as some 7.9 million people actively participated in the 2010 event.

The 2011 ShakeOut will be held on October 20th, 2011 at 10:20 in the morning! So, why are we talking about an event that is six months away? Because earthquakes can happen at any time and often without advance warning. So, to limit loss of life and property, planning ahead is paramount to safety. We would also like to give you plenty of notice so you can make plans to participate in the next ShakeOut.

Unfortunately, much of the latest information about best practices to deal with earthquakes comes from past incidents. Despite the tragedy in terms of lives lost, it is important to take a broader review of disasters (such as the recent Japan quake), to prepare for the inevitability of future earthquake-related disasters:

  • Information sharing is critical. Some Japanese agencies received criticism for the slow spread of information relative to the depth of damage to infrastructure, particularly concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Tsunami and earthquake damage are under review by teams from several countries. The sheer scale of the disaster makes it an obvious example of a worst-case scenario, where individuals on top of four-story buildings were not even afforded safety. Groups from the United States are examining the types of buildings that did or did not escape the tsunami unscathed. The research could lead to drastic changes in building codes and provide opportunities for better safety in the future.
  • Scientists use data from the Japan quake to examine similarities in other geographic regions. Researchers are closely reviewing the Pacific Northwest of the United States which is in a similar subduction zone to Japan. Further review will allow better future placement of tsunami offshore beacons and will likely lead to changes in building strategies as well as warning systems.
  • In California, greater emphasis is placed on events like the ShakeOut because the desire to mine earthquake preparedness tips is so dire. Major California cities have avoided a massive earthquake for more than a century. And renewed vigilance is important to recognize the threat posed by a quake.

In the disaster planning field, unfortunately, actual disasters are often the most useful for emergency training. For example, large-scale tragedies can lead to analyzing and revamping building codes and emergency procedures to greatly reduce future destruction. So, when educational opportunities such as the ShakeOut arise, make sure you avail yourself of safe opportunities to learn.

Proper planning and learning the “Do’s” are the keys to managing the situation when disasters strike.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

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The Tsunami Threat

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Tsunami Warning Sign that says "Tsunami Hazard Zone."

Tsunamis are rare but, nonetheless, quite dangerous.

Tsunamis: The Threat is Real

Although rare, tsunamis pose extreme danger in coastal areas due to their sheer size and difficult predictability. In the United States, tsunamis are a threat that could one day cause a major disaster. According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, 80 tsunamis have been recorded over the past 150 years in California. In 1964, the Great Alaskan Earthquake produced numerous tsunamis, including some that killed twelve people in California and four in Oregon.

Although they are often referred to as “tidal waves,” tsunamis are not generated or affected by tidal forces. In fact, tsunamis can do considerable damage even if they occur during low tides.

How Tsunamis are Formed:

  • In basic terms, tsunamis result from the displacement of a large volume of water.
  • Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides can lead to tsunamis.
  • When an earthquake occurs in the ocean, two plates are slipping, which causes a release of energy. In the water, this movement of plates is transferred into wave- energy.
  • Although the waves generated at first have a very small height, they are very long (and are referred to as wavelengths). In  the open ocean, tsunamis often pass by ships unnoticed.
  • Reaching speeds of up to 500 mph, the waves slow and increase in height as they reach shore.
  • “Mega-Tsunamis,” with waves hundreds of feet high, can be caused by massive landslides

Detection Systems :

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the Bush Administration enacted more tsunami planning and early warning systems for the United States. Part of this effort included an increase in the number of Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) program buoys. Each of these buoys are anchored to the sea floor and relay valuable information including pressure and temperature data which are used to calculate wave height. GPS-based information is relayed back to a satellite and picked up by the receiving station.

Tsunami about to wash over a city.

Implications for Building Owners and Property Managers:

  • Review tsunami inundation zone maps that are offered by Federal agencies. These maps are similar to flood plain maps and provide a clear picture of potential threats. In California, the State Office of Emergency Services produces these maps, which are increasingly used by municipalities for evacuation planning.
  • Read the California’s Seismic Safety Commission’s tips on earthquakes and the related tsunami threat.
  • Be aware of warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In June of 2005, a watch was quickly issued for the Washington and California coasts.
  • Consider your building’s structure to determine if it can sustain tsunami forces, which differ greatly from that of earthquakes.

We believe that knowledge and preparedness saves lives. Although tsunamis that cause extreme damage are rare, they are potentially devastating and occur with minimal warning. For coastal properties, implementing tsunami-specific information into disaster planning helps building owners and facility managers cover all the bases” and remain prepared for any threat.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.