In February of 2010 an 8.8 magnitude earthquake - and resultant tsunami (generally less than 2.5 meters) - struck offshore of Chile, leaving roughly 500 people dead and several hundred thousand homes damaged.Less noticed globally have been the thousands of smaller earthquakes and volcanic eruptions along this Pacific 'Ring of Fire' over the past year.
In September of 2010, a 7.1 quake struck the Christchurch, New Zealand region causing serious damage, but little loss of life. Nearly 6 months later, a shallow 6.3 magnitude aftershock struck even closer to Christchurch, causing far more damage, and claiming a significant loss of life.
And most recently, a 9.0 earthquake and massive Tsunami struck off the coast of Honshu, Japan likely claiming thousands of lives (still uncounted) and doing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage.
Great quakes (8.0+) are rare events, happening on average only once a year. Very damaging quakes of between 7.0-7.9 happen somewhere in the world, on average, more than once a month.
All of which means that more seismic activity along the Ring of Fire is 100% guaranteed. We simply don't know where, or when, the next big quake or volcanic eruption will occur.
Seismologists do expect another 7.0+ aftershock sometime in the coming days near the site of the Honshu earthquake,and heavy aftershocks are still possible in New Zealand and Chile as well.
While our attentions are glued to the heartbreaking coverage of Japan's disaster recovery efforts, we should also be mindful of the need to be preparing to deal with the next disaster.
Tens of millions of people live in high risk zones, and yet, many are unprepared for these all-too-common disasters. No matter where you live, the images coming out of Japan should serve as a wake-up call to become better prepared.
From the USGS Great Southern California Shakeout website, we've this 4 and 1/2 minute video called Preparedness Now that "depicts the realistic outcome of a hypothetical, but plausible, magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas fault in Southern California."
We live on a violent planet. One wracked by storms, fires, floods, drought, volcanoes, earthquakes and myriad other natural disasters.
At a bare minimum, every household should have a disaster plan, a good first aid kit (and the knowledge to use it), and emergency supplies to last a minimum of 72 hours during a disaster.