Be preparded for natural disasters

Roland Along - Mitchell Roland

Mount Rainier looms over the region. Beers, baseball teams and high schools are named in honor of its majesty. On a clear day, its silhouette can be seen for miles and miles.

But many people may not realize the risk presented by Mount Rainier and other volcanoes in the region. This region is at a serious risk. It's susceptible to volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and a myriad of other dangers.

The Pacific Northwest is on the ring of fire. The Juan De Fuca plate is sliding underneath the North American plate, creating tension. As the wet oceanic crust is pulled down into the hot mantle, this creates ex- plosive volcanoes inland such as those found in the Cascades. And once the built-up tension in the plate is released, we get an earthquake.

Dr. Eric Baer is a geology professor on campus, and teaches a class titled "Geographic Catastrophes." Essentially, the course is on all the different risks people face in the region.

Dr. Baer said that most of his students do not know the true danger in the region. "Almost all students are unaware of the actual risk," he said.

Dr. Baer said that there are also students who over estimate their true risk. Both of these ideas are dangerous.

"They think that there is nothing that we can do," Dr. Baer said. If you think a volcanic eruption will kill you anyway, you are not very likely to prepare for one.

Dr. Baer said that another common misconception is the recurrence interval, which is the average amount of time between events.

So, if an event occurred 40 years ago and has a recurrence interval of 100 years, that doesn't mean it can't happen tomorrow.

Dr. Baer likened this to a die. "Just because I roll a six, doesn't mean I can't roll another six," he said.

With people so unaware and unprepared, you may start to think that a minor event would be enough to make them realize the risk. But Dr. Baer said events like this in the past have had the opposite effect.

Take the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually Earthquake in 2001 that caused between $1 and $4 billion in damage. Dr. Baer said this event hurt preparedness for

a major disaster by giving people a false sense of readiness.

"It made people feel they were prepared for an earthquake," he said.

This earthquake was small compared to the other catastrophes the region faces.

So, what is the true risk?

You may have heard that the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a major earthquake.

The last megathrust earthquake was a little more than 300 years ago and has a recurrence interval of 400-600 years. This could create a 9.0 magnitude or higher earthquake from Northern California to British Columbia.

Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, which is not linear. A 9.0 is more than 100 times stronger and produces more than 900 times more energy than a 6.8.

The region also frequently gets smaller earthquakes, too. A 6.0 earthquake can cause a tremendous amount of damage if it shallow and its epicenter is near a populated area.

Then there's the risk from volcanoes. There are five active volcanoes in Washington, and the combined odds of them erupting in the next 60 years is 58.71 percent.

Landslides, lahars and flooding can all be byproducts of a major volcanic eruption. Dr. Baer said that more people are killed from landslides than from the actual volcanic eruption or earthquake.

So even if you do not live near Mount Rainier, you will still feel the effects of an eruption.

But hazards are different in each area. Dr. Baer said that the hazards people face "depends on where exactly you live."

To prepare, know your risk.

Do some research to see if your house is in a lahar zone. If you're near the ocean, nd out where to get to higher ground in the event of an earthquake to get away from a potential tsunami. Find out if your house is susceptible to a landslide.

"Be aware of the impact," Dr. Baer said.

But a natural disaster does not have to destroy everything. Dr. Baer said that you can do things to prepare yourself.

"It's something you can do something about," he said.

Dr. Baer recommends having an earthquake kit. He said he keeps in an earthquake kit in his home, as well as smaller ones in his car and office.

Keep a two-week supply of food, water, and any other essentials you would need. If you cannot afford to buy it all at once, Dr. Baer recommends you "do

what you can."
Dr. Baer said you could buy

an extra can of food or a bottle of water every time you go to the store, and over time you will have enough.

But don't wait to make an earthquake kit until an event happens. "Don't wait until after," Dr. Baer said.

After a natural disaster, any store that is open will soon be swamped with people wanting to buy food and water. Dr. Baer said it's better to buy early than too late.

This region has natural beau- ty that is unmatched, but that beauty puts us at serious risk. By knowing the risk, you can be prepared and ready for the next geological catastrophe.

As Dr. Baer said, the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place, "if you're prepared."

Mitchell Roland is Edi- tor-in-Chief of the Thunderword.

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