Duck and Cover

By Nathan Taylor in Life

The recent earthquake in Nepal gave people a glimpse of the power Earth has over its inhabitants. The severity of the quake makes it easy to believe that nothing capable of that much destruction can happen in Vancouver.

However, scientists agree that a major earthquake may soon strike the Northwest, and many believe we are not prepared.

A magnitude 9 earthquake may hit off the coast of Washington and Oregon in the next 50 years, according to geology instructor Charlene Montierth. The likelihood of the event is 30-35 percent. Montierth warned of a scenario where the ground could shake violently for three or four minutes and cause massive damage to the area. This shaking could bring down one or more of the bridges that connect Washington and Oregon.

Without access to the Portland area, emergency services could take weeks to reach parts of town. “Plan on being on your own for at least two weeks,” Montierth said. After the initial quake, Montierth warned for months of potentially large aftershocks.

Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Frank said the response would start with a status report. Teams would survey the damage and find out what is still standing and how many resources are available.

Montierth stressed the importance of putting together an emergency kit. The kit should have enough food and water for you and your pets to last a few weeks. After an earthquake hits, Montierth suggests filling a bath tub with water if your water mains remain intact.

Frank stressed the need for people to take survival into their own hands. The “drop, cover and hold” method is still the go-to defense against earthquakes, he said. The method requires someone to crawl under a heavy piece of furniture, such as a desk or table, and wait for the quake to end.

“Everyone should keep a pair of shoes by their bed in case they have to get out quickly,” Frank said. He encourages everyone to know where their water shut-off valves are. Frank suggested that people take a 20 hour survival course that the city offers to train community members to respond to crisis.

Montierth has her doubts about how many people take earthquakes in the Northwest seriously, especially because the “big one” could occur 50 years out.

Unlike Montierth, Emergency Manager of Risk Management Tom Buckley believes that Clark would be ready if disaster struck. Clark participates in ‘ShakeOut’, a nationally participated day where families, schools, and businesses sign up to go through an earthquake drill and learn how to prepare for a crisis. ShakeOut 2015 is on October 15, according to the ShakeOut website.

“The great american ShakeOut as well as our emergency plans have us prepared, not just for an earthquake, but for any incident,” Buckley said. Buckley is part of  the response team at Clark which would assess the damage done and report to the executive cabinet. The cabinet would then decide if the college is able to remain open.

While Buckley believes the college is prepared, he hopes that people will be able to think on their feet when the time comes. “All the planning is helpful but it does not allow for perfection.”

In California earthquakes are an everyday part of life, and as a result buildings are made to survive very strong quakes, Montierth said. In the Northwest, it is a different story. “Recognition that earthquakes can happen here in the Northwest didn’t really happen until the ‘90s,” Montierth said. “As a result buildings made before that are not up to code.”

Director of Facilities Tim Petta is responsible for making sure buildings will remain standing and rebuild them if they are not after a quake.

The strongest buildings on campus are the AA buildings and the PUB because of their steel frame structure, according to Petta. The new STEM building will also have a steel frame structure once completed.

For the buildings without steel frames, Petta would expect mostly cosmetic damage such as falling ceiling tiles, air conditioning and heating problems and broken glass. If a building were to suffer major structural damage, it would take six months to a year to fix it. After the emergency response, facilities would start removing unsafe objects and rebuilding damaged buildings. Workers may have to rebuild the same buildings more than once due to aftershocks, Petta said.

If an earthquake hit Clark, some classes may move to temporary buildings while the main buildings were restored, Petta said. However, these buildings would not be able to house the entire Clark population. “If six or seven buildings were heavily damaged, we’d have some serious planning to do.”

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