There are few things in life more frightening than a natural disaster.
For those living along the Ring of Fire, the threat of potential seismic or volcanic activity is always in the back of our minds.
Many of us were reminded of that when the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction tweeted out a warning on January 23rd.
In the past 30 days, there have been 15 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater. Of those quakes, 11 occurred along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The message had us wondering: what does it mean for the Pacific Ring of Fire to be active, and what can we do about it?
What does Active Mean for the Ring of Fire?
Within the span of a week, a series of seismic events occurred in Japan, the Philippines, and off the coast of Alaska.
One man was killed and 11 other potentially injured when an avalanche was triggered by a volcanic activity in Japan. In the Philippines, thousands of families were evacuated after a volcanic eruption. There was also the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska, and 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia.
All this activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire is what prompted the organization to issue the warning.
An active status means that multiple tectonic and seismic events occur together.
Due the alarmed tone of the tweet, many residents along the Pacific coast were reasonably concerned they were in imminent danger.
However, geologists say not to worry. This type of activity is within the normal scope for the Ring of Fire.
What is the Ring of Fire?
The Ring of Fire is a 25,000-mile-long zone located along the boundary of the Pacific Plate. This zone traces along the meeting points of many tectonic plates, which is why so much seismic activity occurs there.
The Ring of Fire got its name because roughly 90% of all earthquakes and 75% of all active volcanoes occur along its path. It is the most volcanically and tectonically active area in the world.
Both the strongest earthquake and the largest volcanic eruption ever recorded took place along the Ring of Fire.
Volcanoes such as Mt. St. Helens in Washington state and Mt. Fuji in Japan lie along its path. Most major earthquakes, including those along the US west coast and in Christchurch New Zealand, have occurred in the Ring of Fire.
There has been constant activity in this area for hundreds and thousands of years.
When to Worry
In addition to the January earthquakes and eruptions, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan on February 7th. At least 14 were killed and hundreds more are injured or missing.
These events, separate but occurring so close together, are alarming to an outside viewer.
For those of us living along the Ring of Fire, they are downright terrifying. Roughly 50 million people live along the US west coast, including children and the elderly.
But every scientist holds the same opinion: this behavior is normal for the Ring of Fire.
They stress that this isn’t a time to worry. Our satellite and social media technology have created a larger web of information. Now, more than ever before, we are aware of all the activity in the Ring of Fire.
But because this seismic activity is so common along the Ring of Fire, it isn’t data that can help scientists predict future quakes.
The earthquake in Alaska did not cause the eruption in the Philippines. But, this unrelated activity serves as a reminder that life on the Pacific Rim can be unpredictable and deadly.
This vast region has been experiencing constant activity for thousands of years. That fact further proves that the next earthquake is always around the corner.
Tips for Living in the Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire encompasses many major cities along the US West Coast. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles are all along that coast.
Fortunately, these cities have a solid infrastructure and have experience with earthquakes and eruptions.
If you or a loved one lives near the West Coast, you can also prepare for any emergencies at home!
The best place to start is with an earthquake bag in your home and your car. These supplies can help you stay safe after an earthquake, or to evacuate in the event of an eruption.
With any earthquake or emergency kit, you’ll need a few essentials to start. Water, food, shelter, and a heat source are essential for survival. If you live near a major city, where you could find yourself stuck for days at a time, you may also require shelter, a backup power source, and a first aid kit.
You can build your own bag, or you can purchase one of our ready-to-go bag here.
You’ll also want to have a plan in the event of a disaster near you. Check out our blog post on 5 steps you can take today to be more prepared. Make sure you have a safe meeting place for your family, a reliable way to communicate, and a plan for any pets in your care.
Talk to your community, particularly schools and workplaces, to ensure that they have a natural disaster safety plan in place for any catastrophes. If they don’t, form a safety committee and create your own plan!
The Bottom Line
The recent activity along the Ring of Fire has been normal for the region, but that doesn’t make the results less devastating.
Don’t become a statistic.
Stay prepared, stay safe.