Boise, ID -- Recent earthquakes have shattered whole villages in El Salvador and disrupted Mexico City, and the New Year isn't a month old. Earlier this month, Alaska felt the strongest temblor recorded in the U.S. in over a year, registering 6.8 - rocking Kodiak Island, and felt across the upper Kenai Peninsula and down to Anchorage. This last quarter, Idaho has measured a dozen smallish quakes ranging from magnitude 2.5 to 4 from Challis to Sun Valley.
According to Bureau of Disaster Services Director John Cline, it's not just earthquakes. "Most people associate tsunami risk with the ocean coast," said Cline. "But any sizeable body of water can generate a seiche under the right circumstances. The smaller the body of water, the shorter the warning --and then there's attendant land and mudslide hazards."
FEMA Acting Regional Director Tammy Doherty agrees. "Earthquakes happen all the time and predictions are at best imprecise," said Doherty. "Seismic faults run up and down the west coast, and extend to Idaho and eastern Oregon. An emergency manager's toughest job is educating the public about emergency preparedness and pre-disaster mitigation, striking an appropriate middle point between panic and complacency." Last year FEMA paid out billions of dollars in disaster relief for floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. Insurers lost billions more. People lost homes, belongings and keepsakes that can never be replaced.
"We need to ask ourselves what we would do if a major disaster struck while our kids were at school, or in the middle of a commute or when we're away from home, and plan for the worst case scenario," said Doherty. "The key is to mitigate our vulnerabilities before disaster strikes."
Listen to Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services Director John Cline talk about Earthquake Preparedness (wav ~5MB)