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It is Better to be Prepared
by Gabrielle LeDoux


September 14, 2005

In Alaska we have survived earthquakes and tsunamis and look in horror at what has happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We can learn from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

There would have been less loss of human life and property if structures had been built to withstand whatever type of natural disaster is common to an area.

As the Representative from District 36, which includes Kodiak and communities in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, I initiated a bill that has passed the House and is now in the Senate that would extend the life of the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission, include tsunamis in the scope of its work, and increase the membership of the commission from nine to eleven with the extra seats for members of local government.

We live in the most seismically active state in the Union. There have been seven earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or larger in or near Alaska in the last 100 years--nearly one every 14 years.

Alaska has made many improvements in disaster preparedness since the great 1964 earthquake. But there has been little corresponding improvement in measures to reduce the disaster potential of major earthquakes and tsunamis. Consequently, there has been little to reduce the dependence on disaster relief.

Since about 1900, Alaska has had 80 magnitude 7 or larger earthquakes. This includes the second-and third-largest worldwide that were larger than the earthquake in Indonesia last December. Alaska accounts for more than half of all the earthquakes that occur in the U.S. and about ten percent of all earthquakes worldwide. With more than 33,000 miles of shoreline, Alaska has been and can again be devastated by tsunamis.

One of the roles of the commission would be to provide a resource for state and local government officials and Alaskan communities that want assistance in acquiring information and guidance necessary to help mitigate earthquake and tsunami hazards. Alaska is growing and the state's infrastructure is developing and the commission can play a role in reducing earthquake and tsunami related losses.

People knew that if a hurricane the magnitude of Katrina hit that area that the levees were inadequate, New Orleans is below sea level, and some structures could never sustain that strong a storm. But there was not the proper preparedness for an event that could occur with a degree of likelihood.

The purpose of the commission, which has support from the insurance industry as well as the scientific community, is to recommend goals and priorities for seismic hazard mitigation to the public and private sectors. It is to recommend policies to the Governor and Legislature, including needed research, mapping, and monitoring programs. By making appointments to the Seismic Hazards Safety Commission, the Governor acknowledges the importance of this group and its services.

The Seismic Hazards Safety Commission meets in Anchorage on October 28th. It is their first meeting but it should not be their last. House Bill 83 extends the life of the commission and helps Alaska prepare for a natural disaster in our future. Let us learn from our past and the events in the Gulf Coast of the present that preparing for a disaster is far better than reacting to one.


Representative Gabrielle LeDoux is a member of the Alaska State Legislature representing District 36: Afognak, Akhiok, Cape Chiniak, Igiugig, Iliamna, Karluk, Kodiak, Kodiak Island Borough, Kokhanok, Kokhanok Bay, Larsen Bay, Levelock, Newhalen, Nondalton, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, Pedro Bay, Pleasant Harbor, Port Alsworth, Port Bailey, Port Lions, Raspberry Island, Seal Bay, Shuyak Island, Spruce Island.





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