Earthquakes Near Me
Earthquakes are a real danger. Practice your family emergency plan and store important documents (birth certificates, passports, financial papers, insurance polities) in waterproof containers. Make sure everyone knows what to do during and after an earthquake and where to meet.
When shaking begins, drop to the ground and find cover under a table or other sturdy object. Stay there until the shaking stops.
What is an earthquake?
Earthquakes are sudden shaking of the ground that can cause other natural disasters such as tsunamis, landslides and fires. They happen when rock deep underground shifts suddenly and creates seismic waves that shake the surface of the Earth.
The Earth’s solid crust and top, stiff layer of the mantle make up an area called the lithosphere. This region is not one piece, but rather is made up of giant puzzle pieces called tectonic plates that move non-stop across the viscous or slowly flowing mantle layer beneath them. As these plates move, they can sometimes get stuck together at places called fault lines. When the friction between these plate boundaries becomes too great, sections of the lithosphere break or become displaced, releasing pent-up energy that causes earthquakes.
The point underground where this happens is called the focus of the earthquake, and the place on the surface directly above it is called the epicenter. Scientists cannot predict when an earthquake will occur, but they can pinpoint its starting location using a technique called triangulation. They do this by drawing a circle on a map around three different seismograph stations, and then finding the intersection of those circles to find the exact location of the earthquake.
How do earthquakes happen?
Earthquakes are caused by the sudden movement of rock deep underground. This creates stress, or energy, which is then released in the form of waves called seismic waves that shake the ground and anything on it.
Most earthquakes happen along boundaries between tectonic plates, and they often occur when one plate is being pushed down into the Earth’s mantle. As this happens, the pressure can build up until something snaps — that’s an earthquake!
These slippages send waves through the Earth, and those waves can cause damage to buildings and bridges. The seismic waves that travel through the rock first are known as P waves and S waves (the latter moves up and down). Surface waves, which move side to side, follow.
Scientists cannot predict when or where an earthquake will occur. But they have learned a lot about how they occur, and that knowledge helps them prepare for them. That’s why it’s important to have a disaster plan for your home and family.
Where are earthquakes most likely to occur?
Earthquakes occur in every corner of the world, but some countries are more prone to earthquakes than others. Over 90% of all earthquakes happen at plate boundaries – where different plates move, collide, or slip past each other. Most of the large earthquakes (magnitude 6 and higher) occur at subduction boundaries, where one plate is slipping under another.
Japan is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. It is located on the Ring of Fire and has a dense network of seismometers that can detect earthquakes. This system pings TVs and radios and even stops trains, giving people seconds to prepare for a disaster2.
The most earthquake-prone regions are near the boundaries of the continental plates, but quakes can also happen far away from the plate boundary. Some quakes have smaller foreshocks before the main shock, and aftershocks may continue for weeks, months, or years.
What can I do to prepare for an earthquake?
As an earthquake approaches, drop down to the ground and cover your head and neck with your arms. If possible, crawl to a safe place under furniture or against interior walls. If you are in a mobile vehicle, stop and stay in it. Stay away from overpasses, bridges, and high buildings. Watch for falling objects, including electrical wires and items that may fall from shelves or cabinets.
Earthquake Country Alliance recommends the following safety steps:
Prepare your home by securing bookcases, televisions and other items that hang on walls, and storing breakable and heavy items on low shelves. Organize disaster supplies and make a family emergency communication plan with an out-of-state contact.
Practice your home evacuation plan periodically by conducting earthquake drills. Get information and advice from your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and listen to local radio stations for earthquake and tsunami alerts. Consider a family emergency insurance policy and structural improvements to your building.