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Last big Cascadia earthquake struck 316 years ago today

Next one could happen at any time, experts say, so residents need to take steps now to be prepared


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk leads a debriefing session at the end of a recent disaster simulation, which is part of the city's Community Emergency Response Team training. More than 1,500 community members have gone through CERT training in Lake Oswego.On Jan. 26, 1700, the last big Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hit the Pacific Northwest hard and was felt as far away as Japan.

The earthquake, which has been estimated to have had a moment magnitude of 8.7-9.2, is classified as a "megathrust earthquake" — the planet's most powerful caliber of quake.

Are you prepared for the next one?

Geological evidence indicates that similar great earthquakes have occurred at least seven times in the past 3,500 years, reoccurring on average every 300 to 600 years along a plate that stretches from Vancouver Island, B.C., all the way to California.

The next major Cascadia earthquake could strike the Pacific Northwest at any time, experts say, and that means residents need to learn about seismic hazards and increase their earthquake readiness before the next "Big One."

"Oregonians are more prepared today than they have been in the past," says Scott Burns, a geologist and Red Cross Cascades Region board member. "But we are far from ready for the effects of shaking, landslides, liquefaction and tsunamis that are sure to occur in the event the Cascadia subduction zone shifts."

All this week, federal and state emergency managers will join universities and government science agencies to host a social media campaign about the 316th anniversary of the 1700 earthquake and tsunami, using the hashtag #CascadiaEQ.

Among the agencies participating: Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup, Emergency Management British Columbia, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region X, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, Southern California Earthquake Center, U.S. Geological Survey and Washington Military Department's Emergency Management Division.

During the anniversary week, the agencies will use Facebook and Twitter to share information on Cascadia Region earthquakes and how to prepare for the next “Big One.” The messages are intended to point audiences towards local, state and federal resources that will help them understand and prepare for future earthquakes.

"While we can't predict the precise time and date of the region's next large earthquake, we can take some important precautionary steps to prepare for an emergency,” Burns said. “It could be another 600 years, or an earthquake could strike tomorrow."

The Red Cross recommends that people take the following steps to prepare for an earthquake: • Practice "drop, cover and hold on" in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.

• Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person's bed in case the earthquake strikes in the middle of the night.

• Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances, bookcases, china cabinets and tall furniture to wall studs.

• Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.

• Keep and maintain an emergency supply kit in an easy-to-access location.

In addition, a free Red Cross Emergency App provides a host of information about what to do before, during and after a disaster. The app also provides alerts and notifications regarding natural disasters, information on how to prepare your family and home, and how to find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out.

The app can be downloaded directly from iTunes or Google Play app stores.

The Red Cross Cascades Region also offers free emergency preparedness presentations that can be scheduled for any type of organization, including schools, faith-based organizations, businesses, government entities, neighborhood associations and nonprofits.

During the presentations, preparedness experts walk participants through the risks of various disasters. The presentation also provides a first-hand look on how to put together a disaster kit and make a plan.

To request a presentation, visit www.redcross.org/local/or/preparedness. For more information on disaster preparedness, visit rdcrss.org/1Pi6rZI.