Although residents of Southern California and other fault-riddled regions may be accustomed to riding out temblors, the latest earth-quake swarm, which struck Imperial County, 100 miles east of San Diego, left residents on edge and caused many people outside of the more common quake ready zones to wonder whether they would be prepared if an earthquake struck their area. More than 300 quakes shook Imperial County in August 2012. Though most were minor, two registered magnitudes of 5.5 and 5.3 large enough to shatter windows, knock trailer homes off their foundations, cause sporadic power outages and gas leaks, and prompt hospital evacuations, reported Maria Peinado, a spokeswoman for the Imperial County Emergency Operations Center. And they impacted nerves.
“It felt like there was quake every 15 minutes, one after another,” said Mike Patel, who manages Townhouse Inn & Suites in Brawley. “My kids are small, and they’re scared and didn’t want to come
back inside.” Though earthquake swarms like this aren’t necessarily the harbinger of bigger jolts to come, it’s a good reminder for those living in quakeprone areas and even those who aren’t in hat
are typically described as “earthquake-heavy” regions to prepare themselves … just in case. Check out these seven simple tips offered by the Federal Emergency Management Association and the United States Geological Survey.
To reduce your risk of injury or death, conduct a “hazard hunt” through-out your home, neighborhood, workplace and school before a quake strikes, advises FEMA. Identify and fix hazards like unsecured televisions, computers, bookcases, furniture and unstrapped water heaters. Place breakable or heavier items on lower shelves, put latches on cabinet doors to prevent them from opening during shaking and keep flammable materials in latched cabinets or on lower shelves.
SECURE YOUR HOME’S INTEGRITY
Next, inspect your home’s structural stability. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, take a look at the building’s foundation, roof, chimney, unreinforced masonry, unbraced cripple walls, soft first stories and vulnerable pipes. Speak with a contractor or engineer (or talk with your landlord) to help you identify your building’s weaknesses and begin to fix them as soon as possible.
BECOME SHUT-OFF VALVE SAVVY
Learn where your electric, gas and water shut-off valves are located, and be sure you and your family members understand how to turn them off in case lines are damaged. Also make certain you have easy access to any tools you’ll need, like a wrench or pry bar, should the valve be stuck or blocked.
ASSEMBLE A DISASTER KIT
Put together disaster supply kits and store them in accessible locations at home, at work and in your vehicle. Having emergency supplies readily available can reduce the impact of an earthquake. Your disaster supply kits should include food, water, flashlights, portable radios, batteries, a first-aid kit (see sidebar for a list of must-have items), cash, extra medications, a whistle, fire extinguisher, tools and a blanket. Also make sure you have a list of emergency contact information in your kit, including numbers of doctors and relatives, and a spare gallon or more of gasoline somewhere nearby.
MAKE A PLAN
When an earthquake strikes, you and your family should already have a plan in place that includes where the safe hiding spots are in your house, exactly where and how each individual will evacuate, where everyone will reunite, where the emergency supplies and disaster kits will be stowed, and who will be responsible for specific tasks. By critically thinking through and formulating your plan of action, you will be ready for whatever emergency comes your way.
PRACTICE THE PLAN
Your vision of earthquake preparedness will do no good if it’s not rehearsed, so practice your entire plan just like you would if an earthquake hits from start to finish. Identify safe places in your home, such as under sturdy tables or desks, so you can go to them without thinking. Know where the danger spots are, like near mirrors, windows, fireplaces and tall furniture. Learn CPR and first aid from your local American Red Cross or other community organization. And don’t forget: drop, cover and hold on!
PREPARE TO HELP OTHERS
In addition to readying your home and family, also make note of individuals in your neighborhood who could require assistance, such as the elderly or those with special needs. You may even want to develop self-help networks between families and your neighborhood so that, if the need arises, you can pool your resources, tools, equipment and skills to assist one another.
JUST FOR KIDS WHAT TO DO BEFORE A QUAKE
Earthquakes can be very scary. Scientists understand why and how they happen, but they are still unable to predict when, which means everyone in the family—including young people—should be ready to respond at all times. Consider this list to know what your kids can do to prepare for an earthquake:
- CREATE AN EMERGENCY KIT
If you have a spare backpack or overnight bag, you can create your own emergency kit. It should contain things like a blanket, some toys and books, a flashlight, a bottle of water, a toothbrush and some toothpaste, and a change of clothes (including a jacket and shoes).
- PRACTICE EARTHQUAKE DRILLS
At home and at school, you should practice what to do in case of an earthquake, including where to take cover, how to get out of the house or classroom, and where to meet up afterward. Pay close attention to the person in charge—remember he or she is there to help!
- IDENTIFY DANGERS
Because you always want to be prepared for an earthquake wherever you are, learn how to identify both safe and dangerous places to hide. Make note of sturdy tables and desks that make great hiding places; stay away from mirrors, glass, tall furniture and other items that can fall and hurt you.
- LEARN THE “DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON” MOTTO
In the middle of an earthquake, you may feel frightened, which could make it difficult to remember what to do. So be sure to memorize the earthquake preparedness motto “drop, cover and hold on” and know what it means—drop to the ground, find a safe place to hide and hold on while the earth shakes.
WHAT ABOUT THE PETS?
If you’re like two-thirds of the households in the United States, you likely own a pet of some kind. What will you do to prepare Bailey the Burmese cat or Max the Greyhound for an earth-quake? Here’s a quick checklist to help.
- IDENTIFICATION, PLEASE
Make sure your animals are microchipped (a rice-sized electronic device that’s injected under their skin) and always wear ID tags with your contact information. This way, if your pet escapes, you’ll be more likely to be reunited.
- EMERGENCY KIT READY
Just as you prepare an emergency kit for yourself, prepare one for your pets, too. It should contain things like a collapsible food and water bowl, extra harness, a collar and a leash, pick-up bags, temporary identification tags, a pet first-aid kit, airtight containers filled with at least 72-hours worth of food, water and medications, an appropriate sized kennel and any other comfort items your pet will need.
- LIST YOUR EMERGENCY CONTACTS, RECORDS
A list of emergency contacts, like your animal hospital’s phone number, as well as complete veterinary records and proof of dog ownership are critical.
- ACCOMMODATIONS IN ADVANCE
In addition to gathering your emergency kit and veterinary records, you should also identify where you and your pet will stay in case of evacuation. Because the American Red Cross cannot accept pets in their evacuation facilities, you may need to find separate accommodations for your pet, like a boarding kennel, a pet-friendly hotel or a dog-loving friend or family member’s place.