Picture the scene.

You live in Japan at the very beginning of a brand new and exciting century. 1700. You’re a fisherman who lives in a  traditional small house by the sea. You came back to your wife at the end of the day. You talk casually about your projects for the future as you both enjoy a simple dinner make of fresh fish, some steamed rice and finely chopped vegetables. Your wife, who is facing the window, lets out a scream of horror.

It’s January 26, 1700. A tsunami hits the coast and engulfs your village without warnings. For a land such as Japan that as a long history of earthquakes and tsunamis, the natural connection between both disasters has been well known for centuries. In fact, even in 1700, you can find stone markers near coastal cities warning about those.

“If an earthquake happens, beware of tsunamis.”

Consequently, on this day, you and the other inhabitants in your village are not only surprised but confused. There has been no earthquake in Japan that could explain the waves that came and left a path of destruction.

While this might sound like the opening lines of a sci-fi novel, it’s the romanticized story of a real fact which scientists refer to as the Orphan Tsunami, the tsunami that came without a preceding earthquake. Centuries later, scientists have finally resolved the mystery. The earthquake that started the tsunami wasn’t felt in Japan because it happened in North America. With an estimated magnitude of 9, it was powerful enough to send the waves across the Pacific Ocean and directly to your Japanese village.

This is one of the unfortunate consequences of living in an area prone to earthquakes. You can experience devastating tsunamis when the earthquake happens near a body of water. But, it would be unfair to claim that every earthquake in North America affects Japan. More to the point, every shock affects your home, your health, your finances, and your immediate future. However, even though many regions across the globe are notorious for earth-shaking seisms, they remain inhabited. How do homeowners deal with the challenges of an earthquake?

Living in An Area Prone To Earthquakes 1

Sichuan earthquake

Stay informed at all times

If you happen to live in a coastal region in an area that experiences frequent quakes, you are familiar with the earthquake and tsunami correlation that has long been identified by our ancestors. Indeed, the primary reason why the Orphan Tsunami devastated Japan in the 18th century is that the population has no way of staying informed about distant earthquakes. Large earthquakes can generate destructive tsunamis that can travel several hundreds of miles before reaching their target. Thankfully, nowadays, the news travels a lot quicker, meaning that an earthquake in a remote area doesn’t go unnoticed. Scientists are in charge of not only measuring the intensity of the seisms but also forecasting its consequences. Therefore, the recent earthquake that hit the Aleutian Islands near Alaska has already been estimated and monitored, so that the states that are likely to be hit by a tsunami were informed rapidly by the U.S. Tsunami Warning System of the risks. If you happen to live in a risk region, you know the official sources to follow – something that the Japanese fishermen’s village of the 1!th century was missing.

Additionally, people are developing more and more sophisticated solutions to keep track of sudden movements in the tectonic plates. You can even find apps on your smartphone to let you know when an earthquake is on the way. The ShakeAlertLA, an app that monitors waves and notifies users when an earthquake of a magnitude 5.0 or greater is approaching, proposes to act as a shield mechanism. Available since December 31, 2018, the app has yet to prove itself in a life situation. However, it could be the beginning of modern, intuitive and AI activated earthquake defense solutions.  

Don’t take any chances

Homeowners wouldn’t dream of moving in without the proper insurance coverage for their belongings and property. But in recent years, more and more new homeowners have discovered the dark side of insurance providing companies. On the one hand, of course, your home is covered against most damages. However, you’d better read the small lines before you sign — believe it or not but too many first-time buyers fall into the trap of assuming over researching. Your standard home insurance cover doesn’t include earthquake protection. In fact, if you want earthquake insurance, you need to take it separately. As most insurers don’t offer seism coverage; you need to research and buy it separately to cover your home in the event of an earthquake. Why so? Because your standard policy won’t pay for the damages and if there’s one thing you don’t want to discover when you’ve lost everything in a seism it’s that you have no way of getting a cent back. Experts recommend as well a replacement cost loss settlement policy for your primary residence so that you can replace the property.

Work with experts to solidify your home

If you’ve already looked into earthquake insurance, you’ve probably noticed that the coverage cost depends entirely on where you live and how your property is built. Ultimately, a recent home will have a low premium are it’s likely to be structurally sounder than an older property. Poorly constructed buildings and design flaws make your home more vulnerable to earthquake damage. Your insurer will carefully consider the type of construction, material, and design before setting a coverage price. For instance, contrary to the common belief, occupants of a building are more likely to survive a seism when the walls and roof are made of lightweight materials. Steel-framed buildings with less than 5 storeys also run on low premium costs are they are expected to survive the seismic waves. Additionally, the ground condition and the way it affects your foundation is also a point of consideration. However, homeowners who opt for structural transformations to add sturdiness to the buildings – such as with professional improvements by HelitechCCD.com for instance – can reduce both the premium fees and the risks. In short, if you’re in the process of buying a home, run an audit on the ground, the structure, and the foundation before you make an offer!

Know the right behavior

More often than not, in the Western World, it’s not the lack of structural solidity that kills people during an earthquake. It’s the lack of knowledge, strategy, and preparation. What the ShakeAlertLA app hopes to achieve is to give people just enough time to avoid the worst – currently, the app is unable to notify users more than a few seconds ahead. However, if you know how to act in the event of an earthquake, you’ll be grateful for the warning. The rules of safety could save your life when the situation arises. Dropping to the ground is a basic that helps to reduce the risk of injuring yourself. You should cover your head and neck with your hands if you’re outdoors. Indoors, you can crawl under a table or next to an interior wall. As most injuries occur when people try to escape from buildings, stay where you are and don’t run.

Living in An Area Prone To Earthquakes 2

Use an app to stay informed

Understand what lies behind an earthquake

Science has developed ways of warning about earthquakes. But we are still far from being able to stop them from happening. Is it a bad thing? Some might argue that the planet would be a safer place if scientists knew how to cancel natural disasters before it’s too late. However, it’s fair to remind yourself of one crucial fact: The Earth is a living and evolving planet that generates a lot of energy. This energy can be measured in terms of water currents, wind, heat, etc. And every now and then, the Earth releases some of its stored energy in the form of seismic waves. Stopping earthquakes means that the planet would lose its release mechanism at a cost that might be even more destructive for the human race.

Earthquakes are only one of the many natural threats to look for

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that is safe from natural disasters, you may not realize that earthquakes are only one of the many threats to homeowners. Indeed, Mother Nature can dramatically affect your home in more than one ways. California is a state that is renowned for its seisms. But if you consider northwestern states such as Washington and Oregon, heavy snowfall can lead to frozen pipes and high pressure on rooftops, which put your structure at risk. Tornadoes, flooding, and hurricanes can be equally damaging, leaving towns in ruins for miles in their wakes. Finally, wildfires affect dry regions and leave only a path of destruction behind them. The question is not whether earthquakes are the worst phenomenon. It’s about knowing the dangers of your location.

Ultimately, if you don’t live over an area where the tectonic plates touch each other, you might fail to understand why homeowners in earthquake-prone regions don’t move out. The truth is that destructive quakes are as frequent as wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes. With the right preparation and the adequate strategy, human beings can live anywhere safely.  

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