Friday, January 29, 2010


We are hearing a lot about the damage, injuries and life lost in Haiti because of a major earthquake. I am sure many children have been made fearful by the news coverage. We need to give them information to take away their fear. I would advise parents to allow their children to participate in efforts to help the people of Haiti. When we are helping others we are less worried about our own well-being. Susan Berger has written a wonderful book about earthquakes so I asked her to share some of her knowledge with the rest of us.

SHARI: Susan, if I’m not mistaken you live in Southern California, a place known for some major earthquakes, have you ever been in an earthquake? Can tell us about it?

SUSAN: We are well known as Earthquake country. However the only quakes we need to worry about are the big quakes. That would be an earthquake measuring over 6.2 on the Richter scale. The lesser quakes are scary, but rarely do significant damage. A 5.5 to 6.1 is considered “Very Strong” according to the USGS chart. Any quake over 5.5 can cause your electricity to snap off and may cause damage to a building. .

Oddly enough I do not think Sacramento gets earthquakes. But the coastal cities certainly do. Northern California had a 6.5 two weeks ago. The last major quake in Los Angeles was in 1994. We are overdue for another one.

SHARI: I use to live in Southern California myself, but I was fortunate to be away when big quakes struck. I did experience some less intense quakes. I think the largest was a 3.6 in the San Fernando Valley in 1963. I recall waves in the swimming pool and light fixtures swinging back and forth, but I don’t think there was any damage. Earthquakes are not exclusive to California and Haiti. Where else do they occur?

SUSAN: Here is a map from FEMA showing earthquake probability in the United States. As you can see, activity is fairly wide spread. There are only four states which have not had an earthquake. However most of them are too small to be noticed. Humans rarely feel an earthquake lower than a 3.0

This is a map from FEMA showing Earthquake probabilities.

Here is a global map for Earthquake probability. As you can see, China, Japan and a great part of Europe are Marked in red as is the entire North and South American coast

SHARI: Are some places better equipped to deal with earthquakes than others? Why?

SUSAN: Yes. California, Alaska, Oregon and Japan know they will have earthquakes. They spent a lot of time and money preparing for earthquakes. The seismic building code is frequently updated.

Some parts of the world such as Haiti, and Italy, Czechoslovakia and Mexico rarely see devastating quakes. Many of the building structures are very old and no one thought of upgrading the structure to make them safe for earthquakes. In our own country there was an earthquake in New Madrid Missouri which was probably an 8. something in 1811. (Of course we were not measuring them at that time) This series of quakes caused the ground to shake for eight days and caused the Mississippi to run backward. There is a strong possibility that Missouri might have another large quake. I am not sure that buildings in that area have been retrofitted to withstand a large quake.

SHARI: Are there ways to prepare for earthquakes, even if you don’t know when they are coming?

SUSAN: Yes. There is a wonderful emergency list in my book. I took the lists you can find on and and added to them. When I was in a major quake, I realized none of us wanted to eat canned beans. We wanted comfort food. We wanted chocolate.

When you are preparing, do not forget to stock your car. I know how hard it is to be prepared day in and day out for something that may occur every 20 years, but it is a good idea. There are lots of kinds of emergencies. Your car should have a flashlight, extra unopened batteries, a cell phone charger, water, a map, jackets and food bars and/or canned nuts and drinking water. Solar blankets are small and also a good idea. I mean you could get caught in a blizzard, or a heavy rain and these things would come in handy, so why not do yourself a favor and keep your car supplied?

SHARI: That is a wonderful idea. What should we do if the earth starts to shake? Where should we go?

SUSAN: In a strong quake, you are not going anywhere. It is too hard to stand. Where you should go depends on where you are. Here is the link to the FEMA list of what to do in an earthquake:

SHARI: How can we prepare our children for what to do during or after an earthquake? How can we empower our children so that they don’t live in fear?

SUSAN: That is why I wrote the book. I am hoping it will be a resource to empower children

SHARI: I’m not a psychologist, but I would think children who practice for what to do during an earthquake would be less fearful. Do you think home earthquake drills would be a good idea?

SUSAN: Absolutely. Well prepared equals less scared.

SHARI: Having reviewed your book “EARTHQUAKE!” I know it is full of useful information about earthquakes and how to prepare for them. I highly recommend it to parents, teachers, and librarians. Children who are fascinated with science will love it too.

EARTHQUAKE! By Susan J. Berger won honorable mention in the Wild Card Category at the 2009 GREEN BOOK FESTIVAL.
It is available as an E Book or Print Book from
The Print Book is also available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. The E book is also available at Fictionwise.

SHARI: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your book or what you are up to right now?

SUSAN: I wrote the book to empower children. I would love to get it into the schools. I am working on a website to accompany the book. It will include:

Danger Will Robinson! Identifying Hazards in the class room)

Earthquake Hide and Go seek. (Find the pictures of things that should be in your emergency kit.)

Earthquake legends. The stories made up to explain earthquakes in the olden days (This includes make up your own story)

Make your own disaster plan.

Earthquake word search

How big is it? (Understanding. earthquake numbers A tactile measuring exercise)

I also posted the emergency supply list and plan on a tab on my website. .

My next book is called “Growing Up Dreams. It is a rhyming book which I hope kids will find amusing – adults too.

SHARI: The website sounds wonderful, both fun and informative. Thank you for giving us the tools to cope with this natural occurrence. We will look forward to your new book.


Janet Ann Collins said...

Susan's book is very helpful. Getting kids to understand how to deal with earthquakes can help adults, too. When the Loma Prieta earthquake happened my preschool students had all gone home earlier than usual for various reasons. The next day some parents told me the kids had shown them how to duck, cover, and hold and the adults wouldn't have known to do that otherwise.

Susan J. Berger said...

Thank you Shari, Thank you Janet.
I appreciate you taking time to read and review the book. And Shari, thank you for the opportunity to share this information