It has been a little more than two months since the devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, killing 8,000 people and injuring about 17,000 others.  The earthquakes triggered landslides and multiple aftershocks, leading many to believe the death toll will rise as rescuers reach the more secluded mountainous regions northeast of Kathmandu where the quakes hit hardest.

Southern Appalachian Seismic Zone | Image via

Alabama is certainly not known as a dangerous seismic hotspot, but earthquakes are not unheard of in our backyards.  Alabama sits on the tail end of the Southern Appalachian Seismic Zone, which runs from Central Alabama up through Eastern Tennessee and into West Virginia.  The most intense earthquake recorded in Alabama struck Irondale in 1916 (geologists estimate it to have been a 5.1 magnitude event).  Some people may remember the 4.9 magnitude quake in DeKalb County in April 2003; that earthquake was large enough to be felt in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Georgia.  Harley Benz of the National Earthquake Information Center comments “[i]t was reported that [the 2003 quake] rang church bells in Charleston, South Carolina.”  The earthquake caused landslides, sinkholes, and a muddied water supply for the town of Valley Head, forcing its water pumps to shut down.

A little knowledge and preparation can go a long way in keeping your family safe during a typical Alabama earthquake:

Immediately, when shaking begins…

  • crouch down and take cover under a desk or something sturdy;
  • stay away from windows and bookshelves that could fall on you;
  • if you’re in a car, slow down and pull over away from power lines and buildings.  Stay in your car until the shaking stops;
  • if you’re in bed, cover your head and protect it with a pillow;
  • if you’re outside, move to an open area away from trees and power lines.


Have an earthquake-readiness plan in general…

  • locate a place in your home where you can go in the event of an earthquake; it should be a room where nothing is likely to fall on you;
  • know how to turn off your gas and water mains;
  • be suspicious of your tap water until authorities confirm it is safe to drink in case any pipes burst in the quake (it’s a great idea to keep gallons of water on hand as well);
  • store heavy objects on lower shelves and avoid hanging heavy mirrors or fixtures above where people sleep;
  • store flammable liquids away from potential ignition sources like furnaces or water heaters.


After an earthquake…

  • inspect yourself and your family for any resulting injuries;
  • smell for any leaking gas or hot insulation from frayed wires;
  • attempt to safely turn off your gas and power (but call a professional if you need to step in any water to get to the circuit breaker!);
  • stay relatively close to a safe area in case of any aftershocks or a second quake.


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