Natural and Unnatural Disasters

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yes, earthquake prediction and preparedness are most on this columnist's mind, but first some tips to prevent and cope with all too commonplace home fires. these are courtesy of a guest speaker, one of new york's bravest, who attended the january meeting of the east 79th street neighborhood association.

we all need reminding to replace smoke/carbon-monoxide detector batteries with the two annual "time changes," and to replace detectors every seven years. lighted candles need extreme caution; consider the battery kind. don't overload outlets. extension cords are for temporary use only. don't use water to put out a grease fire on the stove. remove lint from clothes dryers. yell "fire!" not "help!", and if trapped in an upper story, wave something large, like a sheet, out the window to draw attention. as for smoking-a leading cause of fires-get help to stop. need more incentive? you'll even look better. there's much more, and calling 718-281-3870 will supply it. then talk about it; we all need reminding.

and how government needs reminding of its first duty to protect public safety-from home fires, yes, and this column's longtime mission: traffic tragedies. but alarmingly, natural disaster protections for earthquake zone residents, and those who love them, are rarely noted. in the wake of the catastrophic haiti earthquake that now so shocks the world, if ever a change were needed, it's to make earthquake prediction, along with preparedness, at least as important as combating global warming.

two jan. 15 new york times op-ed pieces worry unduly about ensuing evacuation panic from a false alarm, say in large cities like los angeles and san francisco. how unlike a 1995 letter to the editor in the times, which has been saved in my "all-important articles" cabinet:

let's keep trying to predict quakes

re: your article about earthquake forecasting (science times, aug. 8): it's true that earthquake prediction can be complex and difficult, and true that building stronger structures will reduce deaths, but to abandon earthquake prediction research altogether is a grave mistake. there are extremely promising techniques for predicting earthquakes that require only a modest investment in research. radon gas levels in well water and detection of low frequency electromagnetic signals are two examples.

the july 7, 1995 journal science reported that radon in wells reached 10 times normal levels prior to the jan. 17 quake in kobe, japan. many experiments are under way to detect the type of seismo-

electrical signals discovered by stanford's a. fraser-smith prior to california's loma prieta quake in 1989.

i am editor of a newsletter dedicated to short-term earthquake predictions. i assure you many professional seismologists and amateur scientists worldwide have faith that someday we will be able to forecast such disasters. i foresee the day when earthquake prediction will be more accurate than weather forecasting.

congress is in a cost-cutting mood, and the ax is falling on the united states geological survey. i suspect many geologists will be scrambling to protect their turf, and i am afraid the life-saving science of earthquake prediction will suffer unjustly.

vince t. migliore

editor, geo-monitor

santa clara, calif, aug. 9, 1995

and so along with the desperately needed tangible help for the so utterly devastated island and people of haiti, let there now be worldwide, all-out support for turning migliore's 20/20 vision of earthquake prediction into a reality. again, it can be done if enough of us try.


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