Reducing the Damage Caused by Earthquakes

The GCSE syllabus requires that you study the causes, effects, immediate and long-term responses and the need to predict, protect and prepare for earthquakes. You need to be able to compare and contrast the ways in which wealthy and poor countries can minimise the social, economic and environmental damage caused by earthquakes.

Earthquakes happen as the Earth's tectonic plates move around. They can move apart, slide past each other or towards each other. The plates are constantly moving but the movements at plate boundaries are definitely not smooth. Where plates meet, the rocks on either side of the boundary stick because of friction. As the rest of the plate moves, the forces build up to the point where the 'stuck' rocks break, releasing huge amounts of energy.

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This sudden release of energy is felt throughout the world as an earthquake. The further you are from the point at which an earthquake occurs, the weaker the effects.

Managing and reducing the damage caused by earthquakes is expensive. There are short and long term social, economic and environmental impacts to deal with. The effects of earthquakes can be categorised as being primary or secondary. Primary effects are those that occur due to the shaking of the ground e.g. buildings collapsing and underground pipes and cables snapping. Secondary effects are as a result of the primary effects e.g. tsunamis, fires, lack of clean drinking water and sanitation.

In MEDCs, there is sufficient money to spend on the people and technology required for earthquake monitoring and for building earthquake resistant buildings. In LEDCs, construction standards are often poor, so buildings suffer greater damage and can collapse completely. Communications in MEDCs are generally well developed so rescue teams can be in place very soon after the earthquake. They have the resources to help people and manage the secondary effects. LEDCs often rely on international aid for disaster relief which takes longer to put in place. Cleaning up and rebuilding afterwards is more difficult in LEDCs due to limited funds and resources.

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  1. Many factors affect the impact of an earthquake. Which of the following is the most likely to be less of a problem in a MEDC when compared with a LEDC?
    Communications in a MEDC are generally better developed and more robust than in a LEDC
  2. Which of the following is a primary effect of an earthquake?
    Fire, flooding and the escape of sewage are not caused directly by the earthquake. It can sometimes be quite difficult to understand the difference between primary and secondary effects
  3. MEDCs can afford to monitor earthquakes more closely than LEDCs but which of the following is an instrument that they would use?
    Seismometers are so sensitive, they can detect earthquakes that occur on the opposite side of the world
  4. Which of the following is a long-term impact of a large earthquake.
    The other impacts happen during or within hours of the earthquake occuring, disease takes a lot longer to arise but could be more deadly than the earthquake itself, particularly in a LEDC
  5. Which of the following is a secondary economic effect of an earthquake?
    Option two is a social impact, option three is a primary environmental impact and the fourth option is regarded as a social impact since the lack of a water supply affects people. Looting is stealing and therefore damages the economic side of the business
  6. The intensity of an earthquake is measured using which scale?
    The Mercalli scale is based on observations of the effects of an earthquake whilst the Richter scale measures the energy by looking at the seismic waves. The Mercalli scale is not considered to be scientific as it relies on the observations of witnesses
  7. One way in which the damage caused by an earthquake is through monitoring, this is carried out by:
    Words starting with seism- indicate that they are something to do with earthquakes
  8. In MEDCs, educating people what to do during an earthquake saves a lot of lives. Why is this less successful in LEDCs?
    The successful reduction of the impact of any natural hazard comes down to money
  9. Which of the following is NOT a method that is used in the construction of earthquake proof buildings.
    Anchoring using cables is only done to small buildings in windy places to stop them being blown over
  10. The focus and epicentre of an earthquake are:
    Make sure that you revise the meaning of all of the words related to earthquakes

Author: Kev Woodward

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