While we continually stress the fact we live in earthquake country, the last couple of weeks have certainly lent credence to that statement. Seismic activity in the California area to include Los Angeles, La Habra and Fortuna, Calif., over the past several weeks is a stark reminder of our vulnerability to the potential destructive power of such events and a testament to the ever present need to stay alert and ready. As reports streamed in citing damage and incidents, it became very apparent that preparation is sorely lacking for earthquake incidents. How does that happen? The simple answer is complacency. We go about our busy lives, and, until an occurrence, ignore the necessity of planning for a disaster we cannot predict and, to date, has not affected us. However, the speculation about the “big one” has resurfaced as well as discussion on patterns and all the anomalies that accompany earthquake episodes. Now is a good time to revisit the basic preparation we should implement if we are to successfully survive this catastrophic occurrence. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss some key concerns regarding personal and household preparation.
First and foremost, you need to ask yourself, do you have a plan? Taking into account your family situation, have you looked at how you will cope with this event? What will you do if you are work and everyone else is at home? What happens if children are in school? If you spouse works, where does he or she go? Do you have a plan to evacuate? How will you communicate? Do you understand that cell phones, regular phones may not be working? Have you met with neighbors to develop an action plan to look out for each other? If you require medical attention, have you discussed a plan with the caregiver? If you are using a babysitter, have you discussed arrangements with them? If you have pets, where will they go? What will your family do if you are out of town during the major event? Do you have a list of contacts from outside the area that you may be able to reach to pass on important information? These are all critical questions that need to be resolved now before the disaster strikes.
Maintaining emergency supplies will be critical for family survival. What types of supplies do you have on hand? And do those supplies include at least a week supply of food and water? Have you considered medications, food for your pets? Keep in mind that whatever type of kit you assemble, it will require upkeep to ensure it is useable when needed. Information and suggestions abound on FEMA, Ready.Gov and similar websites for emergency kits. Do you have some cash set aside as debit cards may not work? Depending on the severity of the quake, electronic activity may be extremely limited.
There were numerous reports of flying objects during the last earthquake; so let’s examine those items that require attention in the household. It makes good sense to secure those items in the home that may become potential weapons during such an event.
Little things can make a huge difference. Installing latches on cupboards will prevent dishes and glassware from falling out and creating a mass of broken pieces on the floor. Earthquake “putty” will allow those precious heirlooms, mantle pieces, trophies, clocks, pictures, etc. from being tossed about and/or destroyed. Anchor heavier furniture such as big mirrors, oversized frames, stereo speakers, cabinets and anything that could fall over as they could not only be destroyed but also could cause major injury. Identify safe places in the home that will allow you to duck, cover and hold on safely. Knowing how to shut off the gas valve outside and having the proper wrench readily available for that purpose should be on your list of things to do. Educate family members on the process to acquire water from the water heater. Remember, water will be a resource in short supply if water mains are affected, and the water heater provides a minimum 40 gallon source in most cases. If unsure, check with the gas company for information on the specifics.
As you scrutinize the above information, you can readily see the actions to be taken are fairly simple, straightforward and inexpensive. As is always the case, it is taking the time to sit, plan it out and follow through. But the time taken will pay huge dividends should the catastrophe strike. Scientists attempt to explain these occurrences as the recent shaking has frazzled the public and shocked people into realizing how susceptible we are to a major temblor. However, the reality is we cannot predict where and when the major one will hit. We learn things from each event, but the ability to track and forecast an earthquake is not yet in our sphere of influence. What we do know and should pay attention to as Californians living in earthquake country is that it is not a matter of if but when it will happen. Are you prepared?