Tommaney Emphasizes Earthquake Preparedness
Today’s ‘Great Shakeout’ Preps For Possible Quake
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 01:10
Today, Oct. 17, at 10:17 a.m., the Boston College community, along with 19.5 million others, will participate in “The Great Northeast Shakeout.” The program calls all participants to take time out of their days to practice earthquake safety procedures. “Earthquakes in Massachusetts can happen—we are overdue for a large-scale earthquake,” said John Tommaney, director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and coordinator of BC’s participation in the Shakeout. “We must prepare now for a possible quake so that we are ready to react when one may occur.”
The BC-operated Weston Observatory also plans to participate in the Shakeout. With its own seismograph system, the Weston Observatory is constantly monitoring plate movements and readings.
The “Great Shakeout” urges participants to “Drop, cover, and hold on” for one minute to practice what one would do once an earthquake strikes. One should drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, ensuring that the body and head are covered, and hold onto shelter until the quake stops. “All you need to do is take a few minutes out of your day to practice what you would do in an event of an earthquake,” Tommaney said. “It does not necessarily have to be right at 10:17, but can be anytime during your day. As long as you use this time given to you to prepare and practice what you would do in the event of a real emergency.”
Although BC is not usually affected by such catastrophic events, Tommaney urges students to participate so that they can be prepared in the rare case that an earthquake may occur. “Many people in New England don’t fear earthquakes because a large scale one has not happened in a long time,” Tommaney said. “[New Englanders] know exactly what to do in the event of a snowstorm because we experience them so frequently. Because we rarely experience earthquakes, we are far less prepared.”
Most of New England, including BC, falls upon a particularly destructive plate boundary. Because these plates are not as active, when an earthquake does occur, the damage would be far greater than damage that would occur in frequently earthquake-ridden states such as California. “Our infrastructure in New England also would suffer great damage, because of the age of our buildings,” Tommaney said. “Buildings in California are designed to withstand earthquakes.” It is due to these impeding consequences of earthquakes that Tommaney calls students to begin preparing. “Earthquakes are a low-probability, high-consequence event,” he said. “However, it is crucial that we prepare for them sooner rather than later.”
“Because earthquakes are less frequent in New England, it is important that we prepare,” Tommaney said. “The more we practice, the more second-nature it becomes to us, so that in the event of a real emergency, we will know exactly what to do.”
Alongside participating in “The Great Northeast Shakeout” at some point today, Tommaney encourages students to take precautions in their own dorm rooms. Students should secure objects in their rooms such as televisions or picture frames and prepare an “emergency bag” with essentials that one would need in case there is no access to supplies. “Emergency bags that we usually pass out on opening weekend are very useful to have when situations may arise,” Tommaney said. “You have everything you need in an emergency and you can grab it and go. It is just important that you remember to maintain the bag,” Tommaney said. He also encourages students to visit the OEM website to learn more about precautions one can take, and to take an online “quake quiz” on how to prepare when an earthquake strikes.
Tommaney emphasizes the importance of practicing so that students are fully prepared in any sort of natural disaster. “In situations like this, having a game plan and communicating is crucial,” he said. “We need to practice what we would do in the event of an earthquake now to ensure safety for all before it is too late.”