Alaska Earthquake Program
The Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Earthquake and Tsunami Program is continuously researching, learning, and developing new ways to improve the safety of Alaska’s residents and visitors before disaster strikes. Through planning and building codes, transportation, communications, and education, our staff works with our partners to prepare Alaska to decrease the loss of life, the environment, and property. If you live in an area that can be impacted by an earthquake, preparation is vital, as these events can strike suddenly, at any time, and anywhere.
Understanding Earthquake Magnitude, Power and Energy Release – “Perspective”:
Am I at Risk?
Alaska and California are generally the most seismically active regions in North America*. Do you know your risk for earthquake? All Alaskans live with earthquake hazards. The Alaska Earthquake Center detects an earthquake every fifteen minutes, on average. In 2014, they reported an all-time high of over 40,000 earthquakes in Alaska.
Knowing if you live, work, shop, vacation or drop your children off in an area that could be impacted by an earthquake fault is the first step you can take to reducing your risk of injury and decreasing property damage from an earthquake.
Once you determine your risk, you can begin to prepare your family, employees, students and others to lessen the impacts of an earthquake.
*In 2014, Oklahoma saw a 500% increase in seismic activity (quakes of magnitude 3 or greater), thereby surpassing California for the first time in recorded history.
What can I do today?
Preparedness refers to activities we do prior to an earthquake to be ready to respond to and recover from significant ground shaking. When it comes to earthquakes, there are simple things you can do to improve your chances of survival and recovery. Anything you do today will be like making a deposit in your survivability savings account for withdrawal in tough times.
At a minimum, you should be prepared to be isolated and on your own for at least seven days and nights. There will likely be the loss of utilities after a disaster. It is possible the power will be out, water may be scarce, gas lines may break, phones and cell towers could become inoperable, roads might be impassible, etc. Your only source of news may well be the car radio, assuming your local radio station has a working generator. There might not be medical assistance for days.
To begin preparing your home and family:
- Identify potential hazards in your home and begin to fix them.
- Create a disaster-preparedness plan.
- Create disaster kits.
- Identify your building's potential weaknesses and begin to fix them.
- Protect yourself during earthquake shaking.
- After the quake, check for injuries and damage.
- When safe, continue to follow your disaster-preparedness plan.
Prepare Your Workplace
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey, in 2013 the average work day for full time employed Americans (age 25-54 with children) was 8.7 hours. An earthquake could occur anytime in that 8.7 hours. Are you prepared? Preparing your workplace is just as important as preparing your home. There are many ways to improve your safety in the event of an earthquake. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Determine if your workplace is in an area at risk for earthquake.
- Be familiar with your company’s emergency plan.
- Know evacuation routes and locations deemed safe.
- Keep a pack of personal supplies (including walking shoes) that can be grabbed quickly and easily.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers handy
Earthquake Preparedness for Teachers and Schools
While earthquakes have occurred throughout history, our knowledge and understanding of preparing for them is much more recent. Through planning and education, we are now in a position to ensure the current and upcoming generations make earthquake preparedness a regular part of their routine. As actions from learning to drop, cover and hold on, to securing furniture in their homes becomes the norm, students can take this information and teach their families and friends how to be prepared.
As we learn more, our partners are applying that knowledge to assist teachers, parents and schools in the education of students of all ages and abilities by providing lesson plans, curriculum, activities, games, materials, publications and a multitude of other resources.
Earthquake Preparedness for Government Agencies and Tribes
The Earthquake and Tsunami Program is responsible for supporting all Alaska governmental agencies and tribes to ensure the protection and safety of the populace in the event of an earthquake. To this end, the Program staff is available to provide guidance and assistance to our partners in the preparation of plans to mitigate and plan for, respond to and recover from earthquakes impacting our State. In addition, many resources and guidance materials are available for review to walk developers through the planning process.
During the preparedness phase of emergency management, and as part of a comprehensive preparedness program, the emergency management community should develop plans and procedures to be implemented during an earthquake. Plans will need to be flexible and all-encompassing enough to recognize not only earthquakes, but all potential risks and exposures for the community, business, government agency, school, or hospital. Planning activities will vary by jurisdiction but should include the following: Communication, Shelters, Evacuation Plans, Resources and Inventory, Emergency Workers, Volunteers, Training, Access and Functional Needs population, Non-Government Organizations, Multi-Agency Coordination.
Earthquake Preparedness for Businesses and Organizations
Since earthquakes often strike without warning, it is important to be prepared. Developing an earthquake preparedness plan is one of the most strategic decisions you can make if you are responsible for a business or organization. A workplace should follow accepted earthquake safety guidelines, but have in place a personalized, well-rehearsed plan to help safeguard your organization during an earthquake. Developing, and putting into place, a Disaster Plan will not only protect employees, but will help minimize the financial impact of an earthquake, and help you recover more quickly. To prepare for an earthquake, all businesses should:
- Eliminate potential hazards
- Make a business emergency plan
- Train your employees
- Exercise your emergency plan
- Have medical supplies on hand
- Keep disaster provisions on site
Many organizations play a role in assisting business owners with their disaster planning.
- Pacific Disaster Center - The PDC provides easy access to hazard and risk information and analytical products for executive decision-makers, disaster managers, and community planners.
- Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission
- Earthquake Mitigation Project Handbook
- Seismic Retrofit Training Materials
- National Earthquake Information Center
- Alaska Earthquake Center
- Seismology Resources for Teachers
- Small Business Preparedness for Earthquakes
- FEMA Earthquake Resource Catalog
- Western States Seismic Policy Council
If you have questions about mitigation, e-mail Alaska's Hazard Mitigation Officer, Brent Nichols.