It hasn't happened yet. But, as the March earthquake in Japan reminds us, it might. As scary and unpredictable as they are, earthquakes are a lot more manageable if you are prepared. Yes, the ground shakes, but it eventually stops. Most quakes don’t last more than a minute. I tell my girls to take cover and count. I bet them they can’t count past 60. Here are some ideas about how to prepare.
Keep a print out of important numbers - don’t rely on electronics in an emergency. Probably the most important number will be your out-of-state contact that you share ahead of time with all of your in-town family and closest friends. This ONE person becomes the hub. If phone lines are tied up you may only be able to make one call. This one person can update you on everyone else.
Prepare your house. Secure bookcases and other large furniture to the walls with furniture latches - Quake Hold is a good one and can be found at OSH. Secure your television as well as anything else that is heavy and can fall to floor. Install baby latches to high cupboards to prevent things from coming out of them. Put smaller items in larger bins with lids. Put Museum Putty on keepsakes and other breakables that are on shelves. Secure picture frames and be sure there are no glass frames or bookshelves above or near anyone’s bed.
Make sure you know how to shut off gas water and electricity. If tools are needed to turn off gas or water, store them near the valve.
Get in touch with your neighbors. Know who is on your block. Exchange numbers and out-of-state contacts as well.
Talk to your family members. If you have small children, talk to them. Grade schoolers will know more about this than you do, but the little ones will need to have it explained. Go through your house and discuss where the safest place is in each room. Do practice drills with them. Make it fun.
When the shaking starts, try hard to STAY CALM. If you are in bed, stay in bed. If you are inside, stay inside. Stay away from cabinets and cupboards and glass material such as picture frames, windows and glass doors. And stay out of doorways! Doorframes may be a strong part of your house but doors tend to swing strongly during a quake and can knock you out or smash your fingers. If not in bed, get under a strong table and into a safety tuck: face down on the floor with your knees tucked making your body as small as possible. Clasp your hands around your neck and wait. If you are outside, get into any open wide space away from anything that can fall on you.
When the shaking stops, take stock of your surrounds again. Be sure to look around before stepping. Be prepared for aftershocks. They can be as bad as the initial one. If you smell gas, immediately turn off your gas. Check for injuries you may have sustained. Treat any bleeding immediately with pressure. Check for other injured people, make sure your family and your neighbors are safe.
The most important thing is to remain calm. Sounds easier than it will probably be. But keep in mind "this too shall pass" and chances are we will all be OK.
I have complied a list of supplies you should have on hand in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. You can find the list on The Oaks web site, the link is on left side of the home page at www.oakshome.org.
I have enough supplies to sustain my family, including my pets for one week comfortably (3 meals a day plus snacks). I chose this amount so that it could be spread out to last for a longer period or shared, as necessary. All supplies are in addition to what we have on hand on a daily basis. These emergency supplies are stored away from our regular kitchen food. However, many items are the same stuff we eat regularly.
If you are limited on space, emergency style food is available at camping and army surplus stores. That stuff has “magic” ingredients which can sustain you for long period of time and be stored for years. But it’s disgusting. I think when, and if, the time comes to use the stuff death may almost look like a better alternative. Also, at least for my kids sake, it’s going to be scary as it is. So we might as well not make eating scary too. So . . . I opt for keeping “normal, non-magical” stuff on hand and switching out my supplies every 6 months. I mark it on my calendar and put the emergency supplies in my regular pantry and buy fresh emergency supplies.
Supplies at the house
- Bottled water and water tablets. (The rule of thumb is 3 16 oz bottles per person, per day plus extra for your animals.) The tablets can turn most water, including toilet tank and heater tank water, potable.
- Canned food and a manual can-opener. I opt for two kinds of canned goods. One that is high in protein like beans, peanut butter and nuts. (however, watch out for canned meats which may be high in sodium and make you thirsty). The other kind are foods that are higher in sugar, like peaches. The protein can sustain you longer while the sugar can give you a burst of energy. I also keep granola, cereal, lollipops and instant tea for the water. Stressful times sometimes call for comfort foods.
- Extra Batteries
- Radio - I got a crank style which also is able to charge anything with a USB attachment. The Eton FR160R Microlink is a good choice as is the Ambient Weather WR-088.
- First aid kit including a BOOK - not everyone who may need to provide first aid has taken classes. Should at least include, bandages, antiseptic, gloves, scissors, clippers, tweezers, tape. Best to get a complete first aid kit.
- Dust masks
- Needle and thread
- Extra glasses/contact lens
- Prescriptions (3 day supply in sealed container properly labeled - don’t forget extra for your pets, if necessary)
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby Wipes (even if you don’t have kids, these are great things to have on hand)
- Tools (especially Wrench or pliers for turning off valves)
- Crow Bar for under your bed. (In the Northridge quake a lot of people were not able to leave their bedrooms because the foundation had shifted causing a misalignment in the door frame. I would rather die than hear my children screaming and not be able to get to them.)
- Pet food
- Utensils (We don’t want to live like animals after all and can be used as tools.)
- Important Documents Keep your most important docs, including telephone numbers, in a waterproof pouch or an extra large freezer bag. Important documents are things like insurance info, passports, bank account info, although they most certainly can include love letters and diaries.
In the car
- Food and Water
- Walkie talkies
- Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, baby powder, lotion, feminine supplies)
- Garbage bags
- Porta Potty
- Toilet paper
- Change of clothes (including socks and sturdy shoes)
- Cash (small bills)
- Fire extinguisher
- Paper and pen
- Small cuddly animals (or other comfort toys for kids)
- Puzzles, games, books for the kids (not likely able to keep them busy with video games, movies or other electronics)
- Solar blankets
- If you’ve got the room, sleeping bags and pop tents are also great to have on hand.