Having experienced everything from little tremors to violent shaking, I know what it is like to live in an earthquake zone. Hiding below a large table or under the sturdy doorframe, and at times with the entire building swaying back and forth—it can be quite frightening and confusing at the same time. Your thoughts are flying at 200 miles an hour, flitting from one to the next, concerned about your and your family’s safety.
However, knowing what happened and why it happened can reduce the fear and help you understand what to expect next.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS)’s Earthquake Hazards program hosts an Earthquakes website, loaded with valuable information. You can view this site using your iPhone (Safari for iOS) or Android (use Chrome or Firefox browser for Android).
The website is simple, intuitive and easy-to-use. As the site loads you will see four icons at the top right. These help with the navigation and toggle the content, as shown below, into- and out-of your view.
Clicking the list icon will load the earthquake list. The list, by default, shows the most recent earthquakes. You will find items in the list bolded if the earthquakes are of magnitude 4.5 or greater and will appear with a catchy red background if they are significant based on a combination of magnitude, PAGER alert level and the number of “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) responses.
Clicking the map icon will load a map with earthquakes plotted as circles and non-earthquakes plotted as diamonds. Selecting an earthquake marker on the map will highlight the marker on the map and in the list. It will also open a pop-up with basic information for that event. A button will appear for DYFI, ShakeMap, Pager, and a Tsunami Message if these products are available. You are able to zoom in, pan, select a marker for more information and also have the ability to switch between various map layers like street view, satellite map, U.S. faults and terrain.
Want to contribute to the research and analysis of earthquakes? Just click on the DYFI (Did You Feel It?) button and post your response if you felt the earthquake.
So How Good Are We at Predicting an Earthquake?
It’s a very reasonable question, if you ask me. But the answer is not so simple. Although scientists know and understand a lot about earthquakes, it looks like we can’t match the quake-predicting prowess of a common toad. Most earthquake predictions are vague at best.
According to an International Business Times article, the USGS says scientists are unlikely to be able to ever predict earthquakes with any amount of certainty—they can, at the utmost, say a quake will hit a place sometime in the future, but not when it will happen.
We may not know when a big one is coming, but we can be prepared.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a variety of earthquake-related information resources to help us with our preparedness and inform us of what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
You can download this and other government apps through the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory. Do you have a federal app that is not listed on the Directory? Take part in the Great Federal Mobile Product Hunt.