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You are here: Home > Emergency Preparedness > Articles About Emergencies > Natural and Man-Made Disasters > Infrastructure Damage After An Earthquake

Infrastructure Damage After An Earthquake


Not surprisingly, most people are concerned with the immediate damage to their family and home during and after an earthquake.  Basic survival will be the first order of the day as you and your family try to escape harm.  However, even if no one is seriously hurt and your home is at least still habitable, you may find that many services and elements of the infrastructure are simply not available, and may not be for some time to come.  How quickly conditions will return to normal will depend on the severity of the quake and the extent of the damage.

Services May Not Be Available

The large and violent movements of the ground caused by an earthquake will generally disrupt many of the services we have come to rely upon for our comfort.  Electric light poles are always vulnerable to damage and in most cases, after a serious tremblor, electric service will be severed.  No electricity means no lights, heat (in most cases), and no water – assuinfrastructure damage after an earthquakeming that the water mains are still intact.  Those who use land-line phones will probably be without service, as may those with cell phones if the relay towers have been damaged or toppled.  Natural gas pipelines could be broken, as well, presenting a danger of fire or explosion.

Problems With Transportation

Nearly all of our stores, including grocery stores, rely on food and other supplies being brought in by truck.  When an earthquake has struck, and supply lines may be impacted, you will probably be startled at how quickly the shelves are stripped bare.  A major quake can also damage local airports and train facilities, making it impossible for supplies to be brought in until repairs have been made.  Bridges can also be destroyed or damaged to such an extent that they will be unusable. 

Other Potential Trouble Spots

Other sections of the infrastructure can also be negatively impacted by an earthquake, such as power plants, especially nuclear power plants where the possibility of harmful radiation being released is present.  Dams are another possible danger source, and if you live downstream of a dam while living in an earthquake zone, you might want to make sure that your plans for evacuation have been made.  Facilities that process either sewage or hazardous industrial waste are other spots that might cause problems should an earthquake occur.

What Can You Do?

The best thing you can do if you live in an earthquake zone is to make sure that you and your family are prepared for the worst at all times.  You should have an adequate supply of emergency water on hand, and the means to purify it if necessary.  Food for at least a week should be safely stored in your home, and an alternate means of heating it, even a small portable stove, should also be in your emergency supplies. 

Make sure you have a first aid kit and supplies on hand to treat injuries and illnesses as emergency medical personnel may be unable to reach you right away.  Alternate shelter, such as a tent, should be available as well as emergency lighting and heating.  Have several hundred dollars in small bills stashed somewhere convenient, too.  And, lastly, make sure your car is ready in case evacuation is needed.  Plan several escape routes out of your area, too, in case your first choice is damaged.

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