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Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Comments on the Illinois Earthquake


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I've seen some comments in blogs from Alaska and California asking why an Illinois or Midwest earthquake should be such a big deal if its only a 5.2.

My main response is this.

Unlike their regions, where earthquakes are commonplace and expected, earthquakes here are rare, and are outside the experience of most people. More, most people in the Midwest until now have been completely unaware of even the possibility of an earthquake here.

This means that most homes in major cities that could be affected by a very large earthquake, such as a 7.0 - 8.0, including St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Gary and Chicago have not been built to the kind of building codes used in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anchorage, etc., where earthquakes are known to occur.

There are exceptions that I know about. Sears Tower for example, even though it was built to be the World's tallest building in the 1970's was deliberately built to be earthquake resistant through its basic design. It sways in heavy winds and in a major earthquake would rock heavily, but it would take the ground splitting underneath it, which as far as we know, due to the large distance between Chicago and the fault line, is extremely unlikely, to knock it down.

Many other major structures might not fare so well here. Which ones? How much damage they might take? Who knows?

The fact that it has not happened here and that people are very upset makes it newsworthy.

The fact that we are less prepared than you makes it newsworthy.

The fact that the press was surprised probably gave it an extra bump in the news.

But really, anyone who complains that our earthquakes are getting more attention than their earthquakes is really being petty. Very petty. Or are maybe being what are known in the newsgroups as "trolls" people deliberately stirring up trouble, just to do so. For their own sake.

In the matter of earthquakes, this is not funny. I am a comedy writer, so I did a piece today on earthquakes which I hope is funny. That's a good thing, it relieves stress about something that really worries people.

But what we really should be doing about it is thinking, O.K., this is something that really could happen here, what should we as individuals and family members or neighbors be ready to do about it. What's our PLAN?

"I survived Hurricane Frederick - 1979" were the pins that my College gave out after the storm. I've been through a natural disaster, not as bad as some hurricanes go, but bad enough to be without lights, running water for days and to have very significant storm damage to deal with for months. The college (Spring Hill College) was very prepared. It had a great disaster plan.

We were safe during the storm, or as safe as we could be, in highly reinforced buildings, there were ample emergency supplies, electricity was back up through emergency generators in a few critical areas quickly, and emergency volunteer clean-up efforts were safely organized so that in hours any dangerous overhanging tree-fall was gone in walking paths, and in a day or two all roads and pathways on the campus were clear enough for traffic. Psychological damage and stress relief programs were in place right away too.

So, what's your plan. Does your family know where to meet, how to get together if the cells go out and your cell phones don't work because all the towers are down or unpowered. Expect that this will happen in a major earthquake and a significant amount of stress will be relieved if you have a plan for it. 

Fire is a major problem in earthquakes.

Where is it safest to be in an earthquake?

That might be a critical issues during one and might vary by building downtown in Chicago. If I was in Sears Tower I wouldn't leave it and if I was just outside I would try to duck inside immediately before the sheets of glass began to fall from 103 stories up. Or they might not. It would have to be a mammoth quake to do that.

But you have to think about the worst sometimes and plan for it so that you can think clearly if it does happen. Then, forget about it except to keep your emergency supplies like fresh water up to date.

I'll try to update this post with some disaster prep links or info in this post.


For more blogger's comments on the earthquake go to:

Peter, Chief Editor and Spelling Wrecker
The Peter Files Blog of Comedy, Jokes, Satire, Commentary and Videos

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