Earthquake

Did you know that there was a 5.3 magnitude earthquake in Trinidad in 2011?

All 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes.  Most people are surprised to learn that earthquakes occur right here in Colorado.  Even though Colorado is considered a region of minor earthquake activity, many uncertainties exist because of the very short time period for which historical data is available.

Some earthquakes in Colorado occur naturally; some are caused by human actions.  Natural earthquakes occur when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another. Humans can also trigger earthquakes through activities including oil and gas extraction, reservoir impoundment, fluid injection, or mining. 

Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and they can occur at any time of the year, day or night.  Earthquakes can be felt over large areas, although they usually last less than one minute.  During an earthquake, remember to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. Drop to the floor and get under something for cover, then hold on until the shaking stops.

Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do to stay safe in the event of an earthquake!

Cover and banner photos courtesy of FEMA/Adam Dubrowa

Within text photos courtesy of the Colorado Geological Survey

Before

  • Secure heavy furniture, shelves and pictures that could fall during an earthquake.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods and glass in low, closed cabinets with latches.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products in low, closed cabinets with latches
  • Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
  • Check gas line connections to furnaces, stoves and other appliances to ensure they have flexible connectors and replace as needed.
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members: DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.
  • Build a family communication plan. Although an earthquake can disrupt communications, it is possible some services will not be impacted or will be impacted less severely.
  • Designate a family meeting location and alternate location. You may not be home when an earthquake occurs, so make sure each family member knows where to meet.
  • Have an emergency kit for each family member, including food, a three-day supply of water, toiletries and any special care items each person needs.
  • Have family conversations to discuss your emergency plans and how each member can work together to keep everyone safe. Practice your plan several times each year.

During

  • Drop to your hands and knees to keep the earthquake from knocking you over.
  • Get under a sturdy table or desk and at a minimum, cover your head and neck (your whole body if possible).
  • Hold on to your shelter (or your head and neck) until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Do not use a doorway unless you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Do not use the elevators.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

After

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move, then exit the building.
  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main earthquake, but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks or even months afterwards.
  • Help injured or trapped individuals. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly and people with access and functional needs. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
  • Only use the telephone for emergency calls.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire or relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. If you must, be careful when driving in the aftermath, and anticipate traffic light outages.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that could fall off shelves.
  • Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.

More Information:

References, Resources and More Information:

  • Ready.gov – Earthquakes
  • Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness
  • Colorado Geological Survey – Earthquakes in Colorado
  • United States Geological Survey – Earthquakes
  • Earthquake Country Alliance
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency – Earthquake
  • National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

It Happened Here

On August 22, 2011, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck approximately nine miles southwest of Trinidad, Colorado. Significant damage to buildings occurred in the towns of Segundo and Valdez, 15 miles west of Trinidad. Forty-six structures were damaged and two residences were condemned.

Fast Facts:

  • The first pendulum seismoscope, which measures shaking ground, was made in 1751.
  • There is no earthquake season; they can happen at any time of the year.
  • The largest earthquake to hit CO was in November 1882 and registered as a 6.6 magnitude.
  • Most earthquakes occur at depths of less than 50 miles from the Earth’s surface.
  • Smaller earthquakes often follow the main shock.