I grew up in the Midwest and therefore far away from any earthquake fault lines. Now that I’m spending some time in Thailand, I experienced my first earthquake a few weeks ago. Fortunately it wasn’t nearly as devastating as the quakes that have rocked Japan over the past few months but it was jarring enough to learn some lessons so I will be more prepared in the future to help stay safe and connected.
Lesson 1. There is a ton of information available on the Internet about earthquakes.
Yup, big shocker. But considering I’ve never been through an earthquake, it’s new to me. The first site I would recommend is the USGS global earthquake site. Here, you can get up to the minute view on worldwide earthquakes. Any earthquake in the world (magnitude 2.5 or higher in the US or 4.5 or higher worldwide) is marked on the map just minutes after they occur.
A second site with useful earthquake preparation information is FEMA’s website. Here you can learn what to do during an earthquake based on different scenarios including being indoors, outdoors, or in a vehicle. Check this site out because the advise they give might surprise you. I certainly surprised me!
Lesson 2. When everyone grabs their cell phone, launch Skype instead.
I learned this lesson very quickly. Soon after the earthquake hit, everyone began thinking of loved ones either to see if they were ok or to tell them that they were ok. The people I was with attempted to place calls with their cell phones. And apparently so did everyone else in the area. Cell towers are designed to be oversubscribed and in emergency situations, they cannot handle everyone trying to make a call at the same time. Fortunately, I had a DSL Internet connection that was still usable. I fired up Skype and was able have a video chat with my parents back in the States. So when everyone reaches for the phone, you reach for your mouse.
Lesson 3. On the road during an earthquake? There’s an app for that.
My first earthquake occurred around 8:30 PM in the evening and I happened to be at home. But I got to thinking about what I would do if I was in a location where I didn’t have access to a computer. The Internet proved to be a valuable resource for information and seemed to be a much faster mode of news compared to television reports. Fortunately, smartphone have social apps such as Twitter and Facebook to get the latest news as well as Earthquake specific apps such as Earthquake! for Android or iQuakes for the iPhone.
I hope my first earthquake is also my last but just in case I have to experience another one, I’ll feel much more prepared thanks to some pretty cool technology that keeps us both informed and connected during disasters of all types.