Tuesday, March 16, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 2


You just ate a super bowl size of your favorite ice cream and you're feeling some kind of remorse.  You want to dance for a few minutes so the ice cream doesn't go to your waist.  You put on the CD and  the disco tune starts blasting in your living room.  You're "shaking your booty" and you imagine that you and your friends are having a whale of a time in a downtown funky disco. 

Something's moving. You're not sure if the movement is coming from your gyrating hips.  Three seconds later you ask if you're overdoing it because the living room seems to be spinning slowly.  You stop to catch your breath.  It's not you.

It's...it's...my goodness...it's an earthquake!  You look up the ceiling...you stare at the windows...you go down on your knees, keeping your head close to the ground.  The CD sounds funny.  You quickly turn it off and unplug the CD player.  The whole house is shaking.  You're getting dizzy.  Should you try to crawl outside or should you stay put?

You find yourself wishing that you had taken a few minutes to read that emergency preparedness report from the government.  It dished out guidelines on what you can do when an earthquake strikes.

I don't know if you've heard of Doug Copp who tried to debunk the theory of "drop, cover and hold on." It's bad advice, Copp says, because seeking cover under tables and other similar pieces of furniture entails the risk of getting crushed underneath.  He advanced the "triangle of life" concept.  He said that when a structure collapses due to an earthquake, the ceiling will fall on objects and furniture, crushing the person hiding under them.  His triangle of life theory is based on the idea that the height of the object that remains standing during an earthquake serves as a sort of protective covering over the space or void beside it which will bring about a sloping roof over it.  He believed in his theory because he had worked in disaster recue operations before and he noticed the triangle formations in the disaster zone.

While Copp's theory was interesting, it did not hold much water.  The US government insists that the best way to protect yourself is still the drop, cover and hold on technique.  Here are guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The FEMA  advises against:  running outside, standing beside a door or adopting the triangle of life as a survival strategy.

To minimize injury to yourself and to increase your chances of surviving an earthquake, take these steps (source:  FEMA:  http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/eq_during.shtm).  This is copied verbatim.

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • 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.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. 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.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Make copies of FEMA's advice and pass them on to your friends and loved ones. Better yet, direct them to the FEMA web site.

Here is your 2nd set of earthquake terms:



cercle de feu ring of fire (also called the Circum-Pacific Belt).  It refers to the earthquake zones surrounding the Pacific Ocean.
fosse océanique oceanic trench (a linear depression of the sea floor)
alluvion alluvium (loose gravel, sand or silt)
aséismique aseismic (a fault where no earthquakes have occurred)
substratum bedrock
directivité directivity (according to the USGS, directivity is an "effect of a fault rupturing whereby earthquake ground motion in the direction of rupture propagation is more severe than that in other directions from the earthquake source.")
mécanisme au foyer focal mechanism
géodésie geodesy (science of studying the size and shape of the earth)
grande cercle great circle
mouvement du sol ground motion
horst horst (A horst is found together with a graben in an extensional environment. The graben are the downdropped blocks and the horst are the upthrown blocks that lie next to the graben - definition provided by USGS)
interplaque inter-plate
glissement de terrain landslide
magnitude magnitude


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