This morning, schools and businesses across the Golden State participated in a massive statewide earthquake drill called “The Great Shakeout.” At one of our school sites, the assistant principal went on the school’s PA system and methodically went through the steps of the drill- drop, cover, hold, check your surroundings, and evacuate to our meeting place- and why we were participating. It is good to, as we say in Scouts, be prepared. With that, the Great Shakeout is a good reminder to us here in California and other seismically active areas to take stock of how prepared we really are in the event of a major earthquake or other natural disaster.
Here are some tips to help prepare for the Big One, or any other major disruption. Below I have listed source information, as well as links to helpful websites.
- Create an emergency plan with your family. This should include your agreed upon meeting place in case you’re all separated as well as alternate contact information, preferably a friend or family member living out-of-state, or at least outside your immediate area. If you have school-age children, make sure that contact information at your kids’ schools is up to date, and have a coordinated plan for who will pick up at which site. Schools cannot release to anyone not listed on their emergency cards following a disaster.
- Create and maintain disaster supply kits for the home as well as your car. The home kit should have enough water, nonperishable food, pet food, and medications to last at least one week or even ten days. We keep a decent store of nonperishable items inside our house, and have a shelf in our garage dedicated to food items. I keep an array of canned goods, as well as a few packets of backpacking meals. Mountain House has a good selection of long-lasting meals, as well as a list on their homepage to help organize your emergency prep. Legacy Food Storage is another good source. Their site reads a bit “prepper” to me, but they offer good prices on their emergency kits. If you have a dog or other fluffy friend, be sure to have supplies for them as well. We have two camping stoves, a pocket rocket stove, and a propane grill to use to heat water and prepare food in the event we cannot access natural gas. Other items to keep in your kits include: a battery-powered or hand crank radio, flashlight with extra batteries, whistle and a mirror to use as a signal, mobile phone chargers, baby wipes to clean anything, garbage bags, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bleach tabs to purify water if necessary, change of clothes, copies of insurance policies and identifying documents, and a small amount of cash. Be sure to check your kits at least once a year and make sure that all family members know where they’re stored.
- Make sure that you’re up to date on insurance coverage. There’s no worse time to have a policy lapse or find out that you don’t have adequate insurance coverage than following a disaster.
- Secure bookcases, hutches, televisions, dressers, and other large and heavy objects that could easily tip over in the event of the earth shaking. For breakable items on shelves, I recommend Quake Hold Museum Putty. I use this for our pretty things, and so far has worked well through several temblors. While we have bolted down the television and anchored our heavier artwork, I still have to anchor down a hutch and a bookcase, so this is a good reminder for myself as well.
- Perform an inspection of your home inside and out, and identify possible hazards. Secure these areas if possible. Know where the natural gas and water mains are, and know how to shut these off in the event of a leak.
- Take a first aid and CPR class, and even participate in a Community Emergency Response Team. My in-laws took a class in our hometown prior to their move and were recognized by the city. The CERT training is on our family ‘get prepared’ list, and we hope to take it when it’s offered again here.
These are just a few tips for how to start to prepare for the next natural disaster. Since I’ve lived in California, there have been many earthquakes, but never the ‘Big One.’ Scientists say it’s only a matter of time. And while the movies would like for us to believe that a gargantuan earthquake along the San Andreas will topple California from San Francisco to San Diego and sink it into the Pacific Ocean, the greater possibility is that an earthquake along one of the many smaller faults crisscrossing the Greater Los Angeles area can be ferocious enough in a densely populated area to cause major casualties. The Northridge earthquake in 1994 occurred along a previously unknown fault running under the San Fernando Valley. The shaking was intense where I slept about 30 miles away; I can only imagine how truly terrifying it was closer to the epicenter. An estimated 72 people perished, and it was the second costliest U.S. natural disaster at the time with an estimated $45.2 billion in losses. While the ‘Big One’ is unlikely to strike in my lifetime, the possibility still exists, as does the greater probability of a quake with enough force to cause damage. Some preparedness can go a long way toward our survival and ability to recover after an earthquake or other major disaster. I hope you’ll take some time to get prepared. I know we will. Be prepared, and happy trails.
For more information on coming up with an emergency plan for earthquakes and other disasters, including the upcoming zombie apocalypse, visit Ready.gov. Another helpful guide is an emergency survival manual put out by Los Angeles County. The downloadable PDF is offered in 16 different languages and has an audio version as well. I found it very helpful in revising our emergency plans.