Earthquake Insurance, is it worth it?

Here’s an interesting article out of Alaska discussing whether earthquake insurance is actually worth it.

I wasn’t certain how the underwriting worked and it appears that most deductibles are a percentage of the value of your home and they only pay out for large scale disasters instead of minor earthquake
damage.

This information really makes you appreciate FEMA cascadia earthquakeand their role in getting communities back on their feet after a natural disaster.

As always, consult with your insurance agent for more information.

Earthquake Insurance Article

Article Describing the Native American Stories About the Earthquake of 1700

Here’s a great article from Slate describing the Native American stories of the great earthquake and tsunami that impacted the Pacific Northwest in 1700. These stories describe the shaking and ocean water that encroached upon their homes. Many Pacific Northwest tribes knew of the seismic threat generations before geologists & scientists caught up with this narrative. Interesting story!

“The Great Quake and the Great Drowning”

*Great find Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Concerns About Recent Cascadia Earthquake Blog Posts

cascadia subuction zoneI recently stumbled upon a dooms day blog post that addresses the imminent risk of a large-scale earthquake & tsunami within the Cascadia subduction zone region. In fact, this post recently received some coverage on Portland’s KGW.

I absolutely agree there is an imminent risk of a significant earthquake & tsunami – but that’s about all I agree with in the blog post.

Part of the post indicates that this blogger is predicting a wall of water that will annihilate everything west of I-5 attributing this statement to a FEMA representative printed in a recent magazine article.

The original FEMA quote printed in The New Yorker, July 20, 2015 by Kathryn Schulz: “Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” The New Yorker, July 20, 2015 (http://bit.ly/1Sj4Noz)

Aside from their claims, in my opinion they are taking a quote from a FEMA representative out of context and failing to include Kathryn Schulz’s (the author of the original The New Yorker article) follow-up clarifying what the FEMA person quoted in her original article really meant by his statement.

Here’s Kathryn Schulz follow-up in a response printed in The New Yorker two weeks later: “…“toast” is not what you would call a precise description, so let me be more specific. What Murphy did not mean is that everyone west of I-5 will be injured or killed; FEMA’s casualty figures, while horrifying, amount to under one-half of one per cent of the population of the region.” The New Yorker, July 28, 2015 (http://bit.ly/1GZjwhU)

I agree that west of I-5 will be severely affected; however, it’s unfair and inaccurate to say everything west of I-5 will be gone. But this blog won’t stop beating its drum with that hyperbolic quote that was obviously taken out of context.

The news station continued to look into the blogger’s recent allegations about a buoy showing signs of distress alleging it’s a predictor of severe seismic activity and the station refuted their data points with experts in the field countering the blogger’s claims. (KGW: http://www.kgw.com/news/local/geologist-debunks-nw-earthquake-article/18328115)

The end. Or so we thought.

I got half way through another Cascadia earthquake blog post before I had to stop reading. It made me mad. I feel that what they are doing is essentially running into a crowded theater and screaming “FIRE!!!!”  They repeated several times that they are not trying to incite fear… but in my opinion… I think they are.

Yes, we are overdue for a possible 9.0. Rather than being Chicken Little posting about a buoy dropping up and down (which who knows if it’s even a relevant data point and or a predictor… I will leave that to actual experts) let’s talk about how to prepare for the catastrophic event instead. Such as getting one gallon of water per person per day for up two weeks and for some areas along the coastline even longer, plus don’t forget about food & water for your pets. Or, knowing how to shut off your natural gas connected to your home. Or, speak with your schools so you know how they are preparing for an earthquake….Instead of carrying on about an alleged 50 foot wall of water that will reach I-5!

tidal wave.jpg

 

This fear-mongering wall of water that scales past the Cascade Range really doesn’t compute. I am wondering how often he or she has driven Highways 42, 38, and 126 (I know I have driven those roads hundreds if not a thousand or more times in my lifetime traveling back and forth from I-5 to the coast) – the topography of the hills protecting I-5 is impressive more so than anything close to a shoreline that would be vulnerable to severe waves.

I also want to know if this blogger watched the videos of the tsunami hitting Japan or the deadly tsunami that devastated many countries throughout the Indian Ocean. Many waves were large and powerful beyond measure and it cost many lives… but it wasn’t in biblical proportions scaling mountains and large hills – the waves still had to contend with the topography in its path. Even Chile had a 9.0 earthquake… still no colossal wall of water encroaching on their even grander mountain range.

Quote from CREW Cascadia Subduction Scenario 2013: “The height of the wave and how far inland it travels will vary with location: In places along Cascadia’s coast, the tsunami may be as high as 30–40 feet (9–12 m). Much depends on the local topographythe lay of the land—both underwater and along the shore. In general, the inundation will be greater where the land is low or the topography focuses the waves, such as at bays and river mouths. Other key factors are subsidence and tides: When the fault ruptures, the land in many coastal areas will drop in elevation, increasing the run-up of the subsequent tsunami; and if the quake occurs during high tide, the tsunami will travel farther inland than it would at low tide.”
http://crew.org/sites/default/files/cascadia_subduction_scenario_2013.pdf

My personal opinion, this blogger has watched Deep Impact too many times with Tea Leoni and Morgan Freeman and didn’t pick up the reports AFTER The New Yorker came out to understand how statements were clarified about FEMA (in all likelihood, this will cue the conspiracy theorists).

All I can say is plan and prepare for an earthquake. But please do not panic after reading unsubstantiated dooms day scenarios.

Instead read reports from FEMA, CREW, geologists (Oregon State University has produced some nice content) and other government agencies who hire experts in this field.

Please note: I often use Coos Bay in my examples since I am from there and my family has lived there for several generations (and still does). I know the land and I care about the area and its people.

Tsunami Videos:

A compelling video from the tsunami that hit Thailand. The video shows the calm before the waves approach (go to 56 seconds in to see early signs of the tsunami). Warning the video is graphic as you see people being swept away by the waves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW39qbfamFY

A video from the 2011 Japanese Tsunami with footage taken from a helicopter recording the devastation sweeping across the land.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xKMFzKOIfQ

Another video from the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Around 5:50 minutes you can see a large wave sadly take down a two story building that was close to the shoreline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAa8BmuPqh8

A video taken from a roof top as tsunami waves head at them from the shore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2taJExhV6g

 

 

Before Kathryn Schulz there was Dr. Doom

I have been obsessed with the Cascadia subduction zone for close to a decade now.

I have read countless articles and reports so I can understand the impact this potential devastation may have on my family here in Portland and also my family residing in Coos Bay.

During my research I was always fascinated with Dr. Robert Yeats, professor emeritus of geology at Oregon State University. I recall hearing of his earthquake “nonsense” in the 1990’s. My parents dismissed “Dr. Doom” as rubbish; however, my late grandmother swore that Coos Bay had an earthquake when she was growing up. She spent a lifetime within a two block radius in Coos Bay and she showed me the sidewalk crack (that’s still there BTW) that allegedly appeared after a tremor during her upbringing. It was a bit of lore in my family, however, in 1991 I was in Albany with my grandparents and while on the phone with my mother I hear “The house is swaying!  We are having an earthquake!”  And they did. It was a magnitude 6.6 on July 12, 1991 off the coast of Coos Bay. Everyone (but Dr. Doom) was stunned.

Perhaps Grandma was right.

Deep down, I knew Dr. Doom was on to something.

Fast forward, a few decades and along comes writer Kathryn Schulz. Bravo, Ms. Schulz. You have the attention of the Pacific Northwest and I am hopeful your article will save lives in the long-run.

Dr. Doom never had the audience and now the message is being heard loud and clear.

Thank you – many members of my family are finally listening… I can’t thank you enough.

I am hopeful your message will save many lives throughout the northwest.

Cascadia Earthquake: The Northwest Is Abuzz

The northwest has been abuzz since the New Yorker recently published a cautionary tale about the “Big One” looming off the shores of Oregon and Washington. The amazing 6,000 word article was terrifying and an affirmation of what I have learned about this fault line googling late at night over the last seven years.

I have been fascinated by the response in news groups throughout the northwest.   I am pleased with some of the response from coastal communities who were initially living in denial when I began talking about this in 2008 – now most have taken steps to prepare for an earthquake. I love that, especially since most of my family is near the inundation zone on the southern Oregon coast.

Many of the “PNW Newbies,” those who have relocated to the Northwest just learned about our “dirty little secret” and some are paralyzed with fear. I feel bad for most of these northwest residents, many of whom are parents, and don’t know where to begin.

I am happy to see the New Yorker published a follow-up that clarifies some of the hyperbole originating from a FEMA director and it also adds tips for preparing for a 9.0 earthquake.

If you are looking for ways to prepare and where to start… baby steps. Don’t be overwhelmed by this – you need to start somewhere. Divide & conquer.

I will begin putting together lists and featuring what’s in our homemade “Grab & Go” kits.

Just start right now. Make lists. You can do this.

Go.

New Yorker follow up article:
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-to-stay-safe-when-the-big-one-comes?mbid=social_facebook

Albany, OR Elementary School Receives Seismic Upgrade Grant

This is a great story where this elementary school received a grant from the State of Oregon. I would love to see more schools receiving these grants so we can keep our kids safe.

Heiwa elementary school %u5E73%u548C%u5C0F%u5B...

Heiwa elementary school %u5E73%u548C%u5C0F%u5B66%u6821 _18 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source:

http://www.albanytribune.com/22042013-albany-school-celebrates-earthquake-awareness-and-state-funded-seismic-upgrades%E2%80%8F/

An Interesting History of the Richter Scale

Here is an interesting history on the Earthquake Early Warning system and the history of the Richter Scale.

Earthquake Richter Scale

Earthquake Richter Scale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source:

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/history-of-the-san-francisco-e/10658668

A Cost Effective Way to Retrofit Schools

hans chr. hansen, architect: hanssted skole / ...

hans chr. hansen, architect: hanssted skole / school, copenhagen 1954-1959 (Photo credit: seier+seier)

Here ‘s an interesting look at how to upgrade schools that might not be able to sustain a significant earthquake. This creates a “cage” so students can assemble in a reinforced area of the school in the event the building crumbles under the stress. This may be a cost effective way of retrofitting schools while facing current budget challenges.

Source:

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2012/11/earthquakes_and_portland-area.html

Water Heaters: When the Earth Shakes it’s a 600 lb Missile Sitting in Your Garage

Water heater sm

Water heater sm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may sound dramatic which I am at times (just ask my husband about my infamous hyperbole over the years) but we are all sitting on a potential 600 pound “Missile” in our homes. A full size water heater can be extremely dangerous if it’s not anchored when a megathrust earthquake hits.

In fact, according to the State of Oregon Building Codes Division: “The water heater seismic strapping requirements and applicableseismic zones have changed with the adoption of the new codes. Now all water heaters under the 2005 Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code statewide must be strapped. Water heaters installed in buildings within the scope of the 2005 Oregon Residential Specialty Code are required to be strapped in all counties in the state except the following: Wasco, Jefferson, Deschutes, Crook, Sherman, Wheeler, Gilliam, Marrow, Grant, Harney, Umatilla, Union, Baker, Malheur and Wallowa.”

Sample Product (this is not an endorsement, I just pulled the top ranking site that popped up on Google):

http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/100067210/10-3-in-w-x-13-2-in-d-x-2-in-h-galvanized-steel-water-heater-earthquake-restraining-straps-reviews/reviews.htm

I urge everyone to anchor their water heaters before the big one hits, however, I have to add this story that I happen to find very interesting, ironic, sad, whatever… you decide.  We had our water heater replaced and I was informed by the plumber that I need to anchor it down. Not a problem. I went to… now I dislike using store names but I am going to do it this once since I know this large company (like the company I work for) has a listening tool and Google Alerts set to notify their Marketing team back at their headquarters when their brand is referenced online and I want them to see their “logic” at work. OK, so I went to Lowes in Tigard and I asked for an earthquake restraining strap. The clerk on the West side of Portland told me that they don’t have any in this particular store. I was puzzled. She then proceeded to tell me that earthquake straps are available on the East side of the Willamettte River. Huh? I countered that the subduction zone is off the Oregon coast and last time I checked the Pacific is to the west of the Willamette. In fact, the west side of Portland is probably a bit more vulnerable due to the additional proximity to the fault. The clerk nodded and agreed but then she said “try explaining this to our distribution center in North Carolina. In their mind the only thing threatening our area in Mt. Saint Helens.” Really?!? That’s just so…. 1980. So Lowes Companies, Inc. (I am really trying to hit their alerts now) will you please advise your distribution center that seismic straps need to be distributed to ALL of your Portland stores?!?

And, since Home Depot being another large corporation has alerts set up for their competitors (I know this because our company does this) as well, Hi Home Depot, can you please check to ensure that all of your Oregon & Washington stores carry this strap vs. only having it in one store for a silly reason like Lowes… Thanks.

Reference Link:

Click to access Int100.pdf