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When we moved here 20 years ago, it was almost laughable when my husband suggested having an earthquake rider put on our homeowner’s policy. In fact I think I DID laugh because it seemed so bizarre. Here we had just moved from “earthquake country,” Southern California, where Kansas folks think we had earthquakes on a daily basis (and Californians thought Kansans had tornados weekly)! Who would have thought that 20 years later a good deal of people would be tacking the same rider on their policies and NOT laughing about it!
So while the cause of the earthquakes is a continuing debate, what can we be doing to educate and prepare ourselves in case these continue in frequency and (hopefully not) intensity? First of all, you’ve probably heard of the Richter scale. This is something we just grew up with in California and we would know how bad things REALLY were when you heard the numbers. For those of you unacquainted with it, we have a chart for you to look over below:
As you can see, what we’ve had so far, has been considered “light” by Richter scale standards.
We always had an “earthquake monitor” growing up: The hanging lamp over the dining room table. If you weren’t sure you had just had an earthquake, we would check the lamp! If it was swinging, Yep! We’d had one! Later on after I was married and we went through the Whittier Narrows quake in 1997 (5.9) it was my husband’s rickety dresser – it would almost shimmy back and forth, creaking and groaning!
The worst one I’ve lived through was in 1971, the Sylmar earthquake. It measured 6.6 on the scale and lasted 12 seconds – the longest 12 seconds of my short life at the time! While Sylmar was 55-60 miles away, we felt it Big Time! I remember looking out the bedroom window and seeing the pavement of our street waving, like the ocean was underneath it! And the light pole was whipping back and forth like a tree in a strong Kansas wind! My mother came running down the hallway, struggling to stay on her feet to scream at us: “It’s an earthquake, get in the doorway!” Which brings us to the question…
There used to be an old joke with late night comedians in LA: Who are the safest people in an earthquake? Answer: Mailmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re always in your doorway!
And doorways were always considered the safest part of your building if you couldn’t get outside. However, note what the USGS page has to say about that:
During an earthquake you should head for the doorway.
FICTION: That’s outdated advice. In past earthquakes in unreinforced masonry structures and adobe homes, the door frame may have been the only thing left standing in the aftermath of an earthquake. Hence, it was thought that safety could be found by standing in doorways. In modern homes doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the house and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you. YOU ARE SAFER PRACTICING THE “DROP, COVER, AND HOLD” maneuver under a sturdy piece of furniture like a strong desk or table. If indoors, stay there. Drop to the floor, make yourself small and get under a desk or table or stand in a corner. If outdoors, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls and power lines. If in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and outside walls, stay out of elevators, and get under a table. If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside your car until the shaking is over. If in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doors. Crouch and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. You should practice the “DROP, COVER AND HOLD” method at work and at home at least twice a year.
After a quake, there’s always a chance of aftershocks. Being an aftershock does not always mean it will be weaker, so remember that. Below are some interesting things to remember…
Aftershocks tend to be less powerful than earthquakes, but have the ability to destroy bridges, buildings, and roads.A frequently used formula to attempt to predict aftershocks is Omori’s Law, which states that the likelihood of an aftershock decreases by the reciprocal of the number of days after an earthquake. For example, the odds of an aftershock two days after an earthquake would be one in two, and by day 10 the probability would decrease to a one in 10 chance.
It would be wise to consider a rider on your homeowner’s policy. Checking with local agents shows it can run anywhere from $20-$40. The deductible can be anywhere from 5%-10% and are charged per house and per contents. Check with your agent for definite pricing, but consider it a small price to pay in case the unthinkable would happen and cause major damage!