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Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Not Earth-shattering, Just Earth-shaking

If you’ve spent hours soldered to your computer while monitoring the Twitterverse for breaking news like me, then you’ve scrolled past dozens of headlines about things you would not think impact you. I know I have.

Only so many hours in the day, right? Staying informed can be a full-time job in itself. And when it comes to poring over a Web page, my attention gravitates to flashy and fun, not serious.

Then I tripped across a page by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management: QuakeQuizSF. It’s the online equivalent of Life cereal—fun to play and good for you, too! The graphic representations of San Fran folk show you what to do if you feel the earth move under your feet at home, on your way to work, while dining out, and other places. (Check out the sewer rat in the subway.)

This isn’t wasted time. I live in Phoenix (#phx) and I haven’t visited the Bay area since my Navy days long ago, but Arizona is hardly immune to earthquakes. According to the Arizona Earthquake Information Center Web site at Northern Arizona University, high-intensity quakes have occurred as recently as the early 1990s, and the whole state has hosted some level of earth-shaking activity.

(When I attended NAU years ago, I would occasionally kill time between classes in the geography building staring at a working seismograph on display there. A paper-bound cylinder recorded seismic activity from a site somewhere in northern Arizona and the occasional chem student jumping up and down in front of the display case.)

I took all the quizzes on the San Francisco site and was a little surprised to not ace the test. I won’t spoil it for you, but the question I missed truly surprised me. It made me wonder if I would survive a 6-plus Richter Scale event, much less get out unscathed, like the one that hit my hometown less than 20 years ago.

Staying informed can indeed be a full-time job in itself.

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