Earthquake Safety in the Last Frontier

Here in the 49th state, we are observing the 49th
anniversary of the largest earthquake to ever hit the North American
continent.  We’re speaking of the Great Alaskan Quake, which struck at
5:36 p.m. on  March 27th, 1964.  With an epicenter located
below the Prince William Sound, it measured 9.2 on the Richter scale and
lasted over four minutes.   At the time, it was the second largest
earthquake in recorded history, as measured by seismograph.
Like many, many other great places to travel, our beautiful Alaska
is earthquake country. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored.   Small
earthquakes occur here every day and usually go un-noticed.  Could a big
1964 style earthquake happen again?  It’s not likely, but yes, it
could.   In the event that a larger quake (as in, one  that gets your
attention) does occur, it is wise to know the general safety rules to
help keep you as safe as possible, during and after.  We thought we’d
share them with you.  Because knowledge is power and being prepared is
So here you go.  Widely known general guidelines (culled from various credible emergency preparedness websites sich as the AEIC and the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program) include:
During the earthquake:

  1. Do not panic, keep calm.
  2. Douse all fires.
  3. If the earthquake catches you indoors, stay indoors until the
    shaking stops and you are sure it’s safe to exit.  Quickly move to a
    safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table,
    or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling
    objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room.
    Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy
    furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.  Stay away from things that
    can fall on you, as well as loose hanging objects.
  4. If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.
  5. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
  6. If you are outside, move away from buildings, trees, steep
    slopes and utility wires.  Find a clear spot or open area, where falling
    objects are less likely to strike you.  .  Drop to the ground. 
  7. If you are in a crowded place, do not rush for cover or to doorways.
  8. If you are in a moving vehicle, slow down and drive to a clear
    place.  If that’s not possible, stop as quickly as safety permits.  Stay
    in the vehicle until the shaking stops.
  9. If you are in an elevator or lift, get out of the elevator / lift as quickly as possible.
  10. If you are in a tunnel, move out of the tunnel to the open as quickly as safety permits.

 After the earthquake:

  1. Check for casualties/injuries, attend to injuries, and seek assistance if needed. Help ensure the safety of people around you.
  2. Check for damage. If the building you are in is badly damaged, leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.
  3. If
    you suspect, smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open
    the windows and doors.  If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the
    meter, and shut off the main valve. Report the gas leaks to the gas
    company and fire department. Do not light a fire or use the telephone at
    the site. Do not use any electrical appliances- even a tiny spark could
    ignite the gas.
  4. If
    the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage
    when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or
    smell hot insulation, turn off electricity at the main fuse box or
    breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity,
    call a professional to turn it off for you.
  5. Turn off the main water valve if water supply is damaged.
  6. Do not use the telephone or cell phone except to report an emergency or to obtain assistance.
  7. Stay out of severely damaged buildings as aftershocks may cause them to collapse. Report any building damage to the authorities.
  8. As
    a precaution against tsunamis, stay away from shores, beaches and
    low-lying coastal areas.  If you are there, move inland or to higher
    grounds.  The upper floors of high, multi-story, reinforced concrete
    building can provide safe refuge if there is no time to quickly move
    inland or to higher grounds.

We sincerely doubt the situation occurs where these guidelines get
put to use. But if it does, you’ll be glad you know them.  Knowledge is
power.  And it helps the adventurous traveler be the safest traveler.
 Travel without fear, but travel smart. 

Marilyn, innkeeper at 11th Avenue B&B is one of the Innkeeper Members of the   Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

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