Recovering from an earthquake and how to prepare

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Anchorage residents and those living in the surrounding areas, continue recovery efforts after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the Anchorage area last Friday, November 30.

Art Nash with the University of Alaska Fairbanks' 'School of Natural Resources and Extension' was in Anchorage when the earthquake hit. He was actually in the city for a ‘Healthy Home’ class to teach how to properly prepare your home for a natural disaster.

He recalls it took one hour to travel four miles through Anchorage as he met with participants of the class.

Since then, he and his colleagues have been studying the water situation in the southern valley.

Nash said many residents are concerned that brown water from sand and dirt particles - also known as sediment - was getting into the water system. There is also the potential for other chemicals to mix in with that sediment.

Nash added that homeowners - especially those with private wells - should have their water tested.

"They should have it tested for coliform bacteria, for nitrates and then for heavy metals, magnesium, arsenic and such. Even if you don't have a funky smell or funky taste and you're just not confident that the water is pure enough, it's a good idea to go ahead and take a test and probably drink and cook with drinking water until those tests come back,” he said.

Nash also gave tips on how to prepare your home for a natural disaster.

Responding after an earthquake:

To know when it’s safe to go back inside your home or work building, Nash said if you notice a sagging roof or rafters poking out, that is when a structural engineer is recommended to inspect the building.

He also said that sweeping along where the foundation meets the ground is a good way to check for cracks. Also check for broken windows or windows that have popped out before re-entering the building.

Nash added, that when attempting to re-enter the structure, if you cannot open the door with a great amount of force and the door jamb has been tilted, it is unsafe to enter the building and it should be checked out.

Cracks in the drywall especially in the ceiling, could be a sign of instability and the building could still fall, Nash said especially with aftershocks.

Wet spots are also something to look for, as a pipe could have burst. Wetness can also lead to mold.

Prepare before the earthquake hits:

Nash advises taking plumber’s tape and a metal ribbon with holes for screws to secure a hot water heater upright so that if there is a large tremor, it can reduce the risk of the tank falling over and flooding the area where it is stored.

Different types of strong ties can also hold the corners of the home to the foundation.

One of the biggest tips Nash gives is to secure any outdoor fuel tanks that are on a high stand. He recalls back on the Galena flood in 2013 that soils and water was contaminated by not only flood waters but by fuel tanks that flipped over.

For more information on this topic and other preparedness guides, visit: https://www.uaf.edu/ces/family/emergencyprep/