SEATTLE, Wash. -- Friday?s 5.5 magnitude earthquake rattled the Puget Sound area, and made itself felt north into British Columbia, and south to Seaside, Oregon. With no known fatalities, few injuries and limited property damage, the temblor was a survivable, if sobering wake-up call for our scenic, but quake-prone region.
According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regional director David L. de Courcy, this earthquake, the strongest to hit the Pacific Northwest in twenty years, may wind up saving lives.
"One of FEMA?s toughest jobs is educating the public about emergency preparedness and pre-disaster mitigation," said de Courcy. "We want to keep people from becoming disaster victims. We want to cut the financial losses from all forms of natural disasters, reduce suffering and speed recovery. This last quake was felt up and down the I-5 corridor...pretty much the same area expected for the ?Big One? ", continued de Courcy.
Last year, FEMA provided billions of dollars in disaster relief for hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters nation-wide. Insurers lost billions more. People lost homes, belongings and keepsakes that can never be replaced. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time, and advance planning, can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life.
Bare minimum mitigation measures include: strapping hot-water heaters to the wall to minimize gas leaks and protecting potential sources of drinking water; securing shelves to walls (with heavier items on the lower shelves): and storing breakable items behind latchable doors. Build an emergency kit with food, water, medical supplies, flashlights, battery-operated radios, and batteries. Be prepared to spend up to 72 hours without utilities or conventional communications, and teach all responsible family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water. Teach all children which radio station to select for emergency information.
In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day, when adults are at work), disaster planning should include options for reuniting after the disaster. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact" (after a disaster, long distance lines may be more accessible than local calls). Make sure that everyone in the family knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.
Libraries, local emergency management offices and local chapters of the American Red Cross offer a wealth of information including booklets, pamphlets and brochures on emergency survival techniques, check lists and first aid. To access the FEMA fax-on-demand service call: (202) 646-FEMA.