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New England Earthquake Safety Tips

An earthquake is the movement of the “solid” earth.  The actual movement of the earth is seldom the direct cause of death or injury.  Most casualties occur from falling objects and debris because the shocks can shake, damage, or demolish buildings.  Earthquakes may also trigger landslides, cause fires, and generate huge ocean waves called tsunamis. 

Connecticut has the oldest record of earthquakes in the United States.  The earliest settlers learned of seismic activity in this area, dating back to 1568 in Moodus, from the native Indians.  Earthquakes measuring more than 4.3 on the Richter scale have shaken our largest cities.   

Connecticut is considered to be a in a moderate seismic risk zone as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  “Moderate” relates to the fact that earthquakes in the state have a relatively long recurrence interval and not to the relative strength of the potential earthquake.  The hard base rock in Connecticut can transmit seismic waves over an area 4 to 40 times more efficiently than a similar earthquake in California.  People in our region can be at greater risk since many buildings are not built with reinforced materials nor seismically designed.   The chance of a damaging earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater is 1 in 20 each year.  The odds of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Connecticut are about 1 in 300 annually.

 Terms to Know: 

MAGNITUDE – The relative strength of an earthquake.  The Richter magnitude is the most common expression of this measurement.  It is logarithmic which means each whole number increase in the scale represents a ten-fold increase in the strength of the earthquake.  

INTENSITY – The measure of the effects of an earthquake at a particular place.

 Earthquake Injuries

 Commonly caused by:

-         Building collapse or damage.

-         Flying glass from broken windows.

-         Overturned bookcases, wall units and other furniture.

-         Fires from broken chimneys and utilities.

-         Fallen power lines.

-         Drastic actions resulting from fear. 

During an Earthquake 

-         Stay Calm. Think before you take drastic action.

-         If you are inside, stay inside.  If you are outside stay outside.  During earthquakes most injuries occur as people are entering or leaving buildings.

-         If indoors, take cover under a heavy desk or table or along an outside wall.  Stay away from glass.  Don’t use candles, matches or other open flames in case of gas leaks.

-         If outdoors, move away from buildings and utility wires.  The greatest danger is from falling glass.  Stay in an open area until the shaking stops.

-         If in a moving car, stop as quickly as safety permits.  A car may jiggle on the springs, but is a good place to remain until the shaking stops.  Try to park away from power lines. 

After an Earthquake 

-         Be prepared for additional earthquake shocks called “after shocks”.

-         Check for injuries.  Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.

-         Turn your radio or TV on to get the latest information.

-         Check your utilities.  Be aware of broken piping; particularly gas lines.  Be careful moving near exposed or downed power lines.

-         Check the entire length of your chimney before restoring furnaces or wood stoves.  Cracks could cause fires.  Approach the chimney with caution.

-         Stay away from damaged areas.  Your presence could hamper emergency crews and you could be putting yourself in additional danger.  Do not proceed into damaged areas unless local emergency officials have requested your assistance.

This information was compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Connecticut Office of Emergency Management Natural Hazards Program. 


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Last modified: 02/28/12