Olympia, WA -- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) geological and mitigation specialists urge Washington residents to plan ahead and take steps now to protect property from future earthquake damage.
Preparation for the next disaster should begin immediately because an earthquake of unknown magnitude could occur at any moment. Three types of quakes threaten the Puget Sound area. Each varies in severity and recurs at different time intervals:
- Subduction-zone events (mag 8.0-9.5) are expected roughly every 300-600 years and will probably affect coastal areas most strongly.
- Shallow crustal earthquakes are common, widespread, and mostly weak. However, Seattle Fault events can be very strong (mag about 7.5) and appear to happen about every 1,000 years. The next Seattle Fault event could cause catastrophic ground shaking in the Seattle area.
- Finally, deep slab events like the recent Nisqually earthquake occur roughly every 35-110 years and cause significant shaking over a broad area, resulting in relatively minor but widespread damage.
However, Washington residents should not assume they have 35 to 1,000 years before the next earthquake jolts the state. "Protecting yourself and your property against the threat of an earthquake is not something you want to procrastinate about," said Bill Lokey, federal coordinating officer. "The Puget Sound area is associated with an earthquake hazard similar to that of Chile, Alaska or Japan, where the world's largest earthquakes occur. This hazard-potential is justification for anchoring your home and for taking other careful steps to reduce your risk."
Getting ready involves securing not only the building but also its contents. Below is a list of measures people can easily take to help protect the inside of their homes and businesses:
- Secure water heaters and gas appliances;
- Anchor overhead lights, hanging plants, heavy artwork and mirrors;
- Anchor computers and televisions;
- Place heavy objects on lower shelves;
- Prepare a household, school and workplace emergency preparedness plan;
- Prepare disaster supply kits for your home, workplace and vehicles;
- Know how to turn off utilities (water, gas, electricity).
"These steps will reduce future earthquake damage," said Martin Best, deputy state coordinating mitigation officer. "We have learned that for every dollar spent on preparation, two are saved in recovery. Let's turn the Nisqually quake into a positive lesson and learn that doing something now can save us a lot of heartache later on."
Anyone who is interested in learning more about how to take protective measures may call FEMA Publications at 1-800-480-2520 to request the following free information:
- Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage (FEMA Publication # 74)
- Home Builder's Guide to Seismic Resistant Construction (FEMA Publication # 232)
Individuals and business owners who live in the disaster-declared counties and whose homes or properties were damaged by the Nisqually Earthquake, should call 1-800-462-9029
(TTY 1-800-462-7585) to register with FEMA. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The deadline to register for assistance is June 30.