Monday, October 2, 2017

Episode 388 (10-2-17): The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:57).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, an image, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-29-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 2, 2017.

This week, we feature a potentially very destructive mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds and see if you can guess what natural event is causing this rumbling and rattling.

SOUND – ~ 16 sec

If you guessed an earthquake, you’re right!  You heard part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency public service video on earthquake preparedness.  Whether centered under continents or oceans, earthquakes can have obvious impacts on lands and buildings, and their water impacts can include damage to water infrastructure, effects on groundwater, changes to streamflows, and tsunamis.

As of September 28, 2017, 333 earthquakes had been recorded in Virginia and surrounding states since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.   Seven Virginia events had been recorded in 2017, most recently on September 13 near Pearisburg in Giles County.  The most powerful recent Virginia quake was the 5.8 magnitude event centered in Mineral, in Louisa County, on August 23, 2011.  Beyond the Commonwealth, the September 19, 2017, quake centered near Mexico City, of magnitude 7.1, had devastating impacts, including over 300 fatalities.

With all of this in mind, thousands of citizens—in schools, businesses, local governments, and many other organizations—are participating in the Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill on October 19, 2017.  The Southeast ShakeOut covers Virginia and seven other states from Delaware to Florida, plus the District of Columbia.  It’s part of the international Great ShakeOut, which as of September 29 had over 21 million participants registered.  Here’s a 60-second announcement on the drill from the Great ShakeOut Web site.

VOICE and SOUNDS - ~57 sec

As noted in the announcement, emergency preparedness experts recommend that the best response to an earthquake is drop, cover, and hold on; that is, drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy table or other object, and hold onto the object until the shaking stops.   If no sturdy object is available, crouch away from windows beside an interior wall, and cover your head and neck with your arms.   Don’t try to run to another room or outdoors.   If you’re already outdoors, move away from buildings, street lights, and utility poles and lines, and once in the open, drop and cover.

The Great ShakeOut on October 19 is your chance to practice these techniques and to learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.  You can find information online at


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode updates and replaces Episode 132, 10-15-12.

The shaking/rumbling sounds were taken from a Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public service announcement video online via You Tube at

The earthquake safety audio was made available for public use at the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills Web site, online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.   More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at

Location of earthquakes in Virginia and nearby states from 1900 to September 28, 2017. Map from the U.S. Geological Survey, “Earthquake Hazard Program—Information by Region: Virginia,” online at, accessed on 9/28/17, 4:15 p.m. EDT.


The following information is quoted from the Federal Emergency Mangement Agency (FEMA), “Earthquakes,” online at

Before An Earthquake

Before an earthquake occurs, secure items that could fall or move and cause injuries or damage (e.g., bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures, televisions, computers, hot water heaters.  Move beds away from windows and secure any hanging items over beds, couches, cribs or other places people sit or lie.

Practice how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On!  Plan and practice how to drop to the ground; cover your head and neck with your arms; ...if a safer place is nearby that you can get to without exposing yourself to flying debris, crawl to it; and hold on to maintain cover.

To react quickly you must practice often.  You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.

Store critical supplies (e.g., water, medication) and documents.

Plan how you will communicate with family members, including multiple methods by making a family emergency communication plan.

Consult a structural engineer to evaluate your home and ask about updates to strengthen areas that would be weak during an earthquake.  When choosing your home or business to rent or buy, check if the building is earthquake resistant per local building codes.

During An Earthquake

If you are inside a building:

Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)

Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.

If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.

If no sturdy shelter is nearby, crawl away from windows, next to an interior wall. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.

Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops.

Stay where you are until the shaking stops.  Do not run outside.  Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.

If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible:

If getting safely to the floor will be difficult, actions before an earthquake to secure or remove items that can fall or become projectiles should be a priority to create spaces.

The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor.  People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels, bend over, and remain seated until the shaking stops.  Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

If you are in bed when you feel the shaking:

Stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow.  At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

If you are outside when you feel the shaking:
Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.  Once in the open, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”  Stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking:

It is difficult to control a vehicle during the shaking.  If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle.  Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.  Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.

After an Earthquake

When the shaking stops, look around.  If the building is damaged and there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.

If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.

If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.

Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.

Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.

Check for injuries and provide assistance if you have training.  Assist with rescues if you can do so safely.

If you are near the coast, learn about tsunamis in your area.  If you are in an area that may have tsunamis, when the shaking stops, walk inland and to higher ground immediately.  Monitor official reports for more information on the area’s tsunami evacuation plans.

Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris.  Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself.  Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.

Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks.


Reven Blau, Rescuers continue searching for survivors of devastating earthquake in Mexico as death toll reaches 320, New York Daily News, 9/25/17.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “Earthquakes,” online at

Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, online at  Recommended steps to take during an earthquake are online at

Great Southeast ShakeOut, online at  This Web site lists the drills registered in the District of Columbia and eight Middle Atlantic/southeastern states--Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia--at

International Tsunami Information Center, “How do earthquakes generate tsunamis,” online at

David R. Montgomery and Michael Manga, “Streamflow and Water Well Responses to Earthquakes,” Science, Vol. 300/Issue 5628, June 27, 2003, pages 2047-2049.

Jessica Robertson, “One Year Anniversary: Magnitude 5.8 Virginia Earthquake,” U.S. Geological Survey report on the August 23, 2011, earthquake centered in Mineral, Virginia, available online at

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “Determining the Depth of an Earthquake,” online at

USGS, “Earthquake Hazards Program,” online at; and “Information by Region—Virginia,” online at

USGS, “Earthquake Topics,” online at

USGS, “Groundwater Effects from Earthquakes” online at

USGS, “Magnitude 7.1 Earthquake in Mexico; The USGS has up-to-date details on the September 19, 2017 event,” online at

USGS, “The Science of Earthquakes,” online at

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, “Earthquakes,” online at; and “Major Earthquake 2011--August 23, 2011 1:51pm; 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake, Louisa County, Virginia,” online at

Chi-yuen Wang and Michael Manga, “Earthquakes and Water,” Encyclopedia of Complexity and Systems Science, Springer Science and Business Media, New York, 2014; available online (as a PDF) at

Derek Watkins and Jeremy White, “Mexico City Was Built on an Ancient Lake Bed; That Makes Earthquakes Much Worse,” New York Times, 9/22/17.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (   See particularly the “Science” and “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject categories.

Following are links to other episodes on related to earthquakes.
Episode 133, 10/22/12 – Earthquake research on Virginia rivers.
Episode 203, 3/3/14 – The rock cycle (including a sound representation of seismic activity from the Virginia Tech Museum of Geological Sciences).


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
5.6 – characteristics of the ocean environment (ecological, geological, and physical).
5.7 – constant change of Earth’s surface (including weathering and erosion, and plate tectonics).

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decision, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Life Science Course
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.

Earth Science Course

ES.7 – geologic processes, including plate tectonics.
ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

Physics Course
PH.4 – applications of physics to the real word, including roles of science and technology.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs:

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (on various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 249 (1-19-15) - on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 250 (1-26-15) - on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255 (3-2-15) - on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282 (9-21-15) - on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309 (3-28-16) - on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.