Don’t Stand In The Doorway And Other Earthquake Myths

This seismologist’s favorite safety tips will help you hold on tight.

Image of the San Andreas fault via Flicker user Doc Searls (cc)

There’s nothing like a scary prediction that the next “big one” to make residents of the state quake in their boots. So when Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, told a roomful of seismologists and reporters that the infamous San Andreas fault is “locked, loaded, and ready to roll” at the National Earthquake Conference last year, ripples of anxiety quickly spread from California to the rest of the world.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]The first thing you can do to be prepared for an earthquake is to believe it will happen.[/quote]

San Andreas, California’s most famous fault line, cuts the state in half as it travels from Cape Mendocino to the Mexican border. (You may remember the blockbuster disaster movie it spawned—the one based on questionable science). Scientists know that the fault’s precarious existence has been around for awhile. Maiclaire Bolton, a seismologist at Core Logic, an earthquake risk solutions company, was in the room when Jordan gave his headline-making sound byte. He’s right, she says, but “the risk has been very high for a considerable amount of time.”

That’s largely because even the biggest earthquakes of the past 40 years have done little to relieve pressure between tectonic plates, says Bolton. Though the magnitude 6.9 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake led to over $6 billion in damage, collapsing a portion of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, and the 6.7 1994 Northridge earthquake generated $20 billion in damage to the San Fernando Valley, both were “little” quakes, geologically speaking.

“I’m a seismologist and it terrifies me that it’s been [so] long since we’ve had a major earthquake,” says Bolton. “Lots of little earthquakes do not relieve the stress [on the plates].” It’s likely to require a temblor on the scale of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (7.8) for the earth to get a gasp of serious relief. Seismologists now believe that magnitude 7s and even 8s are more probable.”

And though the San Andreas has been on the brink of a major quake for quite some time, a recent report that appeared last month in the journal Nature Geoscience distilled the threat in a terrifyingly concrete way: Several southern California basins, from Bakersfield to the Los Angeles area, are sinking 2 to 3 millimeters every year (while San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are rising at similar rates). Basically, the fault line is actively on the move.

Up and down: Red areas are rising while blue areas are sinking. Visualization via Nature Geoscience.

Bolton says that whenever alarming new earthquake data like this comes out, the media is pretty eager to spread earthquake anxiety. Trouble is, this anxiety rarely results in a better prepared general public. Complacency is common, she feels, because California’s earthquakes are relatively infrequent, compared to the way other parts of the country know how to prepare for disasters like tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. “The first thing you can do to be prepared for an earthquake is to believe it will happen,” she says.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]I’m a seismologist and it terrifies me that it’s been [so] long since we’ve had a major earthquake.[/quote]

A key barrier to disaster preparedness is what social scientists call “threat denial,” in which a person consciously holds an irrational or overly optimistic belief that disaster will not befall them, to “keep their mental images safe and refute anything that contradicts them,” according to a 2016 study published in the journalDisaster Prevention and Management.

The antidote to this kind of thinking, says Bolton, is education. Greater awareness of the risks of a threat can be correlated with a higher rate of disaster preparedness.That’s why Bolton is so enthusiastic about a global initiative started in California called The Great Shakeout, which teaches earthquake preparedness through drills. Last year, more than 42 million people worldwide participated.

A few tips for those trying to get prepared at home: You have less to fear from buildings or bridges collapsing on or beneath you, and a lot more to worry about when it comes to items flying off shelves, or furniture falling over. Your best bet isn’t to stand in a doorway; rather, it’s to, “drop, cover, and hold on,” says Bolton. Get underneath a sturdy table, or butt right up against the edge of a bed on the floor.

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]If you have camping equipment, you already are ahead of the game.[/quote]

Putting together an earthquake kit is also not as big a feat as it may seem. “If you have camping equipment, you already are ahead of the game.” Food, water, and emergency supplies can generally be compiled from items already in your home such as canned goods and a first aid kit. Bolton implores people to prepare for as many as five days without support. “We have seen from other events around the world that after three days, there is not going to be some magical fairy that comes in and drops food and water and shelter. So be prepared to be self-sufficient.”

If you own your own house, or have an amenable landlord, consider earthquake retrofitting your home to its foundation and brick chimneys to the roof, says Bolton. Another important, and often overlooked component, is to acquire earthquake insurance, which is not usually included in typical homeowner’s insurance. Equally as important as keeping one’s body and property safe is having an escape plan in place. If you can’t stay in your home, it’s important to know where to go. If you know that there’s bound to be a lot of traffic on certain roads, plan some alternate routes. Be sure to establish a meeting place with your loved ones in case you’re separated from each other. Designate an out-of-town point person you can all call and check in with to let them know you’re okay.

A sample ShakeAlert message. Image via USGS

Your level of loss in and after an earthquake will be directly linked to your level of preparedness. Fortunately, in the near future, Californians should soon have access to an early warning earthquake detection system that could buy them precious seconds (and up to a minute and a half) to protect themselves. Following a similar model’s success in Japan, the United States Geological System (USGS) is testing its own program, Shake Alert. Though still in the experimental phase, ShakeAlert is being beta tested among select users as part of a White House plan for earthquake resilience, and things are looking promising so far.

Even though a functional warning system isn’t here yet, Bolton says it’s simple enough to stay safe as long as you’ve made a plan. Sure, the big one is coming soon enough, but she quotes her colleague Lucy Jones, a recently retired USGS seismologist, saying that, “The earthquake is inevitable, but the disaster isn’t.”

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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