Tomorrow? or 2012?

jill's picture

A new disaster movie is about to be released. “2012” is another in a series of fantastical apocalyptic stories, this time based on the Mayan "Long Count" calendar, which marks the end of a 5,126-year era on December 21, 2012. The movie has amazing visual effects that depict earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, fires, meteor showers, and all manner of nightmarish events unleashed on Earth – all at the same time – on this future date. Some (including this blogger) have noticed a familiar resemblance to widespread, and unwarranted, fear expressed on the eve of the new millennium, popularly known as Y2K.  This is a teachable moment, if there ever was one!

Whether mystic nonsense from a society that basically fell apart 1200 years ago (essentially making them poor predictors if they relied on this as a prophecy of doom), or unbelievable reality, your response should be the same as it should be today: be ready for the damaging event that is most likely to happen to you, wherever you live.

Let’s set aside for a minute this new movie’s premise that there’s going to be a cataclysmic end of the world in 2012. Every time a damaging event happens, or even if it’s a make-believe scenario depicted on the silver screen, it's a golden opportunity for all of us to learn something (this is my so-called “teachable moment.”) For scientists and engineers who study earthquakes and all the hazards associated with them, a damaging event is a chance to learn more about cause and effect -- why and how the earth beneath our feet moves, what happens when it does, and the resulting (and usually bad) effect on buildings, bridges, dams, and other large structures we love to build in our mega cities.

These days, we citizens of Earth have a heightened awareness of our collective effect on the natural environment, and it’s not at all pleasant.  A cataclysmic event such as a large, damaging earthquake and follow-on hazards like fire, flood, liquefaction, and in coastal areas, tsunami, is a nightmarish probability in most of the world's countries. In fact, there are roughly 500,000 detectable earthquakes in the world each year. Humans can feel about 100,000 of those, and 100 cause significant damage. So on average, there's a damaging earthquake somewhere in the world at least two or three times a week.

So instead of worrying about what’s going to happen in 2012, maybe you should instead use Open Hazard’s free calculator to find out what damaging event could occur in your own backyard next week – and certainly before 2012! And while you’re at it, think about how you can best prepare for it in order to protect yourself. Keep reading this blog, and visiting this site in order to find out how.

Risk Alert