When The Unusual Becomes Usual
El Paso, TX, experienced an earthquake the week before Thanksgiving. During a lecture on Thanksgiving Eve, I was asked "Should we start doing earthquake exercises?"
Why wouldn't you?
"Because we don't get earthquakes."
You just did.
Earthquakes have been caused by natural shifts in plates. People are generally aware of where active fault lines are (hi, California) but there are rumblings along lesser known/active fault lines across the US, to include New York City. But when you look at a state like Texas, which is not known for earthquakes, you see they have had an increase in activity. In 2017 there were 26 earthquakes of a 3.0 or higher. In 2022 that number jumped to 220. Of note, there are no numbers prior to 2017 because it wasn't deemed important to track (yet). Seismology isn't to blame; fracking is.
Why does fracking cause earthquakes? Wastewater disposal processes. Some of the wastewater is reused. Most is injected forcefully back into the ground. The pressure causes enough space to open to cause slipping, which causes earthquakes.
Of course there is a risk and a cost benefit analysis with your business continuity planning. Where do you focus on? What do you plan on next? How big of a concern is it? Fracking has caused earthquakes to enter the chat.
Fracking is an already dangerous vocation with a newly added bonus of earthquake prep. Industries have to change with what is in front of them. They either need to change completely or adapt. Changing completely usually costs more money and adaptation takes root until they can't out-adapt conditions any more. Oklahoma also does fracking but they changed wastewater practices there by cutting back on the amount of water injected back into the ground. That reduced the amount of earthquakes they experienced.
This isn't just for the industry, but also for the community. Underground pipes are at risk in a way they haven't been before. So are buildings that are not earthquake proof. Or even the citizens who don't know what to do because it was never something they had to know before...which is why there was the question of "should we start doing earthquake exercises?"
Guess what? On Thanksgiving day, a day after the lecture and just over a week after the first earthquake, there were 2 more earthquakes felt in El Paso.
No time like the present (which always presents itself) to prepare for new obstacles.