Alaska experiences the greatest number of earthquakes, and most are located in uninhabited areas while California experiences the most frequent damaging earthquakes.
Earthquakes are sudden and strike without warning and are due to the breaking and shifting of rock far beneath the earth's surface.
Tectonic plates, the plates that form the earth's surface, move slowly over, under and past each other. Sometimes the plates can become locked together causing energy to build while not allowing for a release of it.
When the energy grows strong enough, the plates break free causing the ground to shake.
Most earthquakes occur at the boundaries where the plates meet but they can also occur in the middle of the plates.
Earthquakes can trigger landslides and tsunamis, flashfloods, fires and avalanches.
Buildings may collapse as well as bridges; disruptions may occur with gas lines, electric and phone service.
Trailers and homes not tied to a foundation are at risk as they can be shaken of there mountings during an earthquake.
Buildings or homes whose foundations are built on unconsolidated landfill or other unstable soil are at risk as well.
What can you do in the event of an earthquake?
Drop, cover and hold on. Earthquakes strike suddenly and violently with no warning, so it is imperative that you act quickly to protect yourself and loved ones from injury.
If you experience an earthquake while indoors do not run outside.
Take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a kitchen table.
Cover your head with one hand and with the other hold on to the leg of the table. If there is no where to drop underneath, find an inside wall that does not have items that can fall and cause injury and drop.
Do not drop against an outside wall as these are more prone to collapse and have windows that could break and cause significant injury.
If an earthquake strikes and you are asleep in bed, stay in bed with a pillow over your head. Do not get out of bed as there could be broken glass or other material on the floor which could cause injury.
Remember, the earth is shaking and trying to move more than a couple feet from where you are can be dangerous.
If you are outdoors at the time of an earthquake try to reach a clearing away from building, trees, power lines and other objects that could fall on top of you. Drop to the ground and cover your head until the shaking has stopped.
After a major earthquake, aftershocks of varying degrees may occur minutes, hours, days and even months later.
With each shaking of the earth remember to drop, cover and hold on.
To ensure that emergency responders can receive notification of serious injury, fire and other disasters please only use your land line or cell phones in the case of an emergency.
Check yourself for any injuries and then check others. Check for any downed power lines, fuel leaks or gas main breaks.
Activate your emergency plan. Remember, in a wide-scale disaster, help may take awhile to reach you and your family, so it is important to have your disaster kit ready and a plan in place before an emergency.
Following these simple guidelines will help you and your family be prepared for the unexpected, and they may even save a life.
For more information on earthquake safety and preparedness contact the American Red Cross of Alaska at 463-5713 or visit our web site at www.alaska.redcross.org our staff is also available to come to your workplace, school or community center to present on this topic and more.
Governed by volunteers and supported by community donations, the American Red Cross of Alaska is dedicated to saving lives and helping Alaskans prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Led by over 1,500 volunteers and 27 employees, last year the American Red Cross of Alaska mobilized relief to over 1,050 Alaskans affected by disaster, trained over 32,000 people in lifesaving skills, taught over 78,500 Alaskans how to be better prepared for disasters, and exchanged more than 4,100 emergency messages for U.S. military service personnel and their families.