Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Earthquake Channel: Who's in?

California has had two moderate earthquakes in the last week and many aftershocks from the most recent one that was centered near La Habra. Earthquakes in Southern California have been more frequent recently, which leads residents to consider whether the next earthquake will be the "Big One." Frankly, EVERY earthquake makes Californians worry about the Big One.

Earlier today, someone that I follow on Twitter suggested that earthquakes should be given names, like hurricanes. That got me thinking. The Weather Channel now names storms, not just hurricanes. If we're going to name earthquakes, why not create a cable channel for them: The Earthquake Channel? Spoilsports might suggest that there aren't enough earthquakes, and we still don't know how to predict them in advance. In fact, there are plenty of earthquakes; the USGS reported 42 worldwide in the last 24 hours with a magnitude 2.5 or greater, of which 26 were located in North and Central America. As for not being able to forecast them, that just adds to the excitement.

One of the problems with reporting earthquakes is that it would be nice to have someone like Jim Cantore standing in a vulnerable location (next to an unreinforced masonry wall, for example) when the earthquake hits, to give live shots of the earthquake's impact. Unfortunately, since we can't predict earthquakes with any reasonable level of accuracy, we would have to have people standing all over the country, 24 hours a day. While it would be an interesting exercise, it would be both expensive and extremely boring. So, the next best thing would be a national network of cameras hooked up to seismometers; seismic activity above a certain threshold would start the camera recording, and would also capture the data from the seismometer. In some locations, the camera could be pointed at an animatronic dummy positioned in a vulnerable location (with a robotic voice saying "THIS...IS...JIM...CANTORE...AND...I'M...AARGH!"); in less important locations, the cameras could be pointed at chandeliers or glasses of water.

Some party poopers may raise another objection: How can an earthquake channel have enough content to run 24 hours a day? If you've watched any cable news channel ever, you know that's not a problem. CNN has gotten several weeks of content from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with almost no solid information. When things got slow, CNN speculated about "supernatural causes" and black holes. Just imagine what we could do with earthquakes.

Earthquake coverage would cover the following stages:

  1. Fear-mongering: Here's the fault map for your local area. Any of these babies could break loose at any moment and trigger a devastating earthquake. Here's what you should do to prepare. Here's what you should do in the event of an earthquake. Here are the places that you shouldn't live. Is your earthquake insurance paid up? You DO know that your householder's insurance policy doesn't cover earthquakes, don't you? DON'T YOU?
  2. OMG, there's been an earthquake: Massive overcoverage of the earthquake. Interviews of people who felt the earthquake. Interviews of people who know people who were told things by people who felt the earthquake. Experts to discuss where the earthquake occurred, how long it lasted, which faults were involved, and how many aftershocks are likely. Throughout all of this, show every available video of the earthquake you can find. If there aren't any, show cheesy computer-generated simulations of what it might have looked like had there been a camera.
  3. How do they recover: Experts discuss how to repair the damage, and when the next earthquake might occur. Say how sorry we feel for the people hurt by the earthquake, while implying that they're idiots for not properly preparing.

Okay, all three stages involve fear-mongering...and that brings me to my last point: Who would advertise on The Earthquake Channel? There's a surprising number of potential advertisers:

  • Contractors to strengthen building against earthquakes and perform earthquake repairs
  • Hospitals and urgent care centers to provide emergency medical services
  • Moving services to help people relocate away from earthquake country
  • Cars for getting out of Dodge quickly when an earthquake hits
  • Bottled water for when water pipes are broken
  • Freeze-dried, powered, shrink-wrapped, bubble-packed survival foods
  • Small arms, rifles and ammunition for when society breaks down and anarchy reigns supreme
  • Insurance--lots and lots of insurance
So there you have it: The Earthquake Channel. Any takers?
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