Sara recently purchased earthquake insurance for her home in south Norman but says she is concerned that people are more worried about property damage when they also should consider their safety.
“It feels like we aren’t taking earthquakes seriously yet,” she says. “Perhaps because we haven’t had a large enough one to do widespread and serious damage. It feels as though most people aren’t thinking about the potential for harm beyond property damage. I personally don’t feel very safe or protected in the event of a large earthquake, and I don’t think Oklahoma is safe at all. Our buildings are not built to withstand earthquakes, and people do not know what to do when they happen.”[pullquote]“Unlike tornadoes and severe thunder storms, earthquakes strike without any warning, and so preparedness is the key to surviving them,”[/pullquote]
She is emphatic that science supports the relationship between earthquakes and wastewater disposal.
“It seems pretty clear to me that the increase in seismic activity here is caused by injection wells,” she says. “I wish we were already exploring options on how to keep earthquakes from happening. I mean, if there was even the slightest possibility that we had control over this problem, wouldn’t you think it would be worth trying?”
Kristy, a resident of Moore, also believes that oil and gas industry practices are behind the increase in earthquakes and says that the dramatic emergence of frequent earthquakes has left her “really scared,” despite also purchasing earthquake insurance for her home.
“I do not feel prepared for a large earthquake situation,” she says, “and Oklahomans have not been adequately prepared for such an emergency. However, we are Oklahoma strong and have survived multiple F5 tornadoes, blizzards, flooding and even the Dust Bowl back in the day. I feel if Oklahomans had the proper instructions regarding what to do to prepare for the next earthquake, we would be all right.”
The Sky Is not Falling
As Oklahomans wait for a plan in response to the increase in earthquakes, they look for ways to protect themselves. What action should residents take when earthquakes occur?
“Unlike tornadoes and severe thunder storms, earthquakes strike without any warning, and so preparedness is the key to surviving them,” says Dr. William Ellsworth, senior research geophysicist at the Earthquake Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif.
“Like tornadoes, you need to know what to do when one strikes, and equally important, what you should not do. Drop, cover and hold on when an earthquake starts and do not attempt to leave a building during the shaking.”
Actions to take include:
• Hide under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a table or a desk, and holding on. Remember: drop, cover, hold.
• Avoid exterior walls, windows and pieces of furniture that may fall, such as light fixtures and bookshelves.
• Do not stand in a doorway; swinging doors can be dangerous.
• Under no circumstances should you go outside during an earthquake. Falling structures, windows and power lines are very dangerous. If you exit the building after an earthquake, immediately move into an area that is clear from potentially falling buildings. Be aware of the potential for downed power lines, fires or gas leaks.
On Oct. 16, millions of Americans will participate in the Great Central U.S. Shakeout drill. To register for the drill and to find more information on earthquake preparedness, visit www.shakeout.org/centralus.
“This is a great way to learn about earthquakes and be prepared to survive and recover quickly should a damaging earthquake occur,” Ellsworth says.
Other resources include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site, www.ready.gov/earthquakes, as well as the Earthquake Country Alliance’s website (www.earthquakecountry.info/roots/), which includes information specific to dealing with earthquakes as a resident of the central United States.