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Modified Mercalli Earthquake Intensity Scale

To determine the effect of a given earthquake, RedZone’s systems utilize the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale.

This scale, composed of increasing levels of intensity that range from imperceptible shaking to catastrophic destruction, is designated by Roman numerals.  It consists of a series of real-world thresholds such as people awakening, movement of furniture, damage to chimneys, total destruction, etc.

The Modified Mercalli Intensity value is seen as a more meaningful metric to the non-scientist than the traditional Seismic magnitude because it refers to the effects actually experienced at that place.

The following is an abbreviated description of the levels of Modified Mercalli intensity:

Intensity Shaking Description/Damage
I Not felt Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.
II Weak Felt only by a few persons at rest,especially on upper floors of buildings.
III Weak Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.
IV Light Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like eavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.
V Moderate Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.
VI Strong Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.
VII Very strong Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.
VIII Severe Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.
IX Violent Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
X Extreme Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.


Source: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mercalli.php

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