Being prepared for an Earthquake (or any other natural disaster)

By now, we’ve all heard about the terrible earthquake that struck Haiti this week. Living in Southern California I’m no stranger to earthquakes, but until now I’ve been very lucky to not have experienced a big one. This latest disaster has served to remind me that a similar sized quake could happen here….and I simply don’t feel like I’ve adequately prepared for the possibility.

Scientists predict that California is due for a ‘big one’ along the San Andreas Fault system.

But the 100-mile (160-kilometer) southern section of the fault, which runs south from San Bernardino to the east of Los Angeles and San Diego, has remained eerily quiet for nearly three centuries. Now, scientists believe, the fault is ready to rumble.

“It is fully charged for the next big event,” said Yuri Fialko, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. When the event will occur, we cannot tell,” he continued. “It could be tomorrow or 20 years from now, but it appears unlikely the fault can take another few hundred years of slow strain accumulation.”

~ Major Earthquake Due to Hit Southern California, Study Says, National Geographic News

Being Prepared for Natural Disaster

The real key to surviving an earthquake and reducing risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what we will do if it happens. While Earthquake is the most likely natural disaster I might experience in this location, the following suggestions can easily be adapted to preparing for Bushfires/Wildfires, Hurricanes/Cyclones, Floods, Tornadoes etc.

Practice Drills

By planning and practicing what to do if an earthquake strikes, we can learn to react automatically when the shaking begins. During an earthquake most deaths and injuries are caused by collapsing building materials and heavy falling objects. I need to learn the safe spots in each room of my home and office.  

Last year our office undertook an earthquake drill. We all thought it was a bit of fun diving under the desk at the appointed time, but I guess it’s important to automatically know what to do if the real thing happens.

Here’s what to practice during an earthquake drill:

  • Get under a sturdy table or desk and hold on to it.
  • If not near a table or desk, cover your face and head with your arms; and
    • stand or crouch in a strongly supported doorway OR . . .
    • brace yourself in an inside corner of the house or building.
  • Stay clear of windows or glass that could shatter or objects that could fall on you.
  • If inside, stay inside. Many people are injured at entrances of buildings by falling debris.

Evacuation Plans

If an earthquake occurs, we might need to evacuate the area afterwards.  We need to come up with a plan for what we would do for evacuation so we’ll be better prepared to respond quickly to signs of danger or to directions by civil authorities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a few minutes to discuss a home evacuation plan. Walk through each room and discuss evacuation details.
  • Plan a second way to exit each room or area, if possible. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
  • Know where your emergency food, water, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers are located.
  • Know where the utility switches or valves are located so that they can be turned off, if possible.
  • Determine the location of your family’s emergency outdoor meeting place.  

Establish Priorities

Before an earthquake strikes, write an emergency priority list, including:

  • important items to be hand-carried out
  • items to be removed by car if available
  • things to do if time permits, such as locking doors and windows, turning off the utilities, etc.

Write Down Important Information

Make a list of important information and put it in a secure location. Include on your list:

  • important telephone numbers, such as police, fire, paramedics, and medical centers
  • the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your insurance agents, including policy types and numbers
  • the telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies
  • the names and telephone numbers of neighbours
  • the name and telephone number of your landlord or property manager
  • important medical information, such as allergies, regular medications, etc.
  • the vehicle identification number, year, model, and license number of your automobile, boat, RV, etc.
  • your bank’s or credit union’s telephone number, account types, and numbers
  • radio and television broadcast stations to tune to for emergency broadcast information

Gather and Store Important Documents in a Fire-Proof Safe

  •  Birth certificates
  •  Ownership certificates (automobiles, boats, etc.)
  •  Social Security cards
  •  Insurance policies
  •  Wills
  •  Household inventory

Emergency Supplies for Earthquake Preparedness

Stock up now on emergency supplies that can be used after an earthquake. These supplies should include a first aid kit, survival kits for the home, automobile, and workplace, and emergency water and food. Store enough supplies to last at least three days. I’ll write another post soon with some things to consider putting in each of the kits.

Photo by: Telstar Logistics

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One comment

  1. Being prepared for disasters is something I want to focus on a little more this year…so thank you for this very helpful post. i know i’ll be returning to it many times.

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