Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas such as along plate boundaries. For example, the Ring of Fire where the Pacific Plate interacts with many surrounding plates, is known as one of the most seismically and volcanically active zones in the world.
Earthquakes and People:
- Many population centers are located near active fault zones and/or active plate boundaries, such as the San Andreas Fault. Millions of people in these population centers have suffered personal and economic losses due to volcanic and earthquake activity.
- There is evidence to support the idea that tectonic activity contributed to the demise of ancient civilizations. Based on the locations of current population centers, scientists have developed models that show that populations today may be just as vulnerable to the aftereffects of powerful earthquakes.
- When exposed to sudden lateral forces produced by seismic waves buildings and bridges can fail completely and collapse, crushing the people in and around them.
- Modern population centers tend to be more densely packed with large numbers of tall buildings. The complex infra-structure of modern cities also poses a danger in case of a major earthquake.
- Over the past few decades, architects and engineers have developed a number of innovative technologies to ensure houses, multi-dwelling units, and skyscrapers bend instead of break. Making these building more pliable, less brittle, and better able to move with the earthquake waves has made it possible for inhabitants to survive extremely destructive earthquakes.
- Most of the world's active above-sea volcanoes are located near convergent plate boundaries, an area of subduction. Subduction zone volcanoes typically erupt with an extremely explosive force. There are many large population centers that are within areas that may be affected by explosive volcanic eruptions. These powerful eruptions can affect people in many different ways:
- Local effects - personal property damage, personal injuries or possible death, destruction of urban and suburban areas, distribution of local water supplies, contamination of food sources, landslides, and lack of breathable air.
- Global effects - changes in weather and climate, aviation safety hazards, tsunamis if volcanic activity is under or near oceans, seismic activity in accompaniment with volcanic activity, and production of acid rain.
- The pathway of an eruption is difficult to predict so most of the minimization efforts are focused on monitoring volcanoes for increased activity. This provides enough warning for people in the potentially affected areas to be evacuated.
- Scientists suggest the following for structures where volcanic activity may occur:
- houses should be constructed in a manner that will allow for all vents to be closed
- windows and doors should be properly insulated.