TWELVE STEPS TO EARTHQUAKE SURVIVAL
As we all know, California is earthquake country. Therefore, it is important to always be prepared for a damaging temblor and its aftermath. This article features easy monthly steps for those just getting started in preparing their earthquake survival plan. For those with plans already in place, reviewing these materials will provide you for a refresher course on the basics and an opportunity to inspect and replenish your supplies.
STEP I: FAMILY PLAN
Do members of your family know the safest and most dangerous places in your home during an earthquake? Do they know where to meet if they get separated after an earthquake? Do they know how to report their physical conditions and whereabouts?
Many government agencies, schools and businesses have plans for earthquakes and other emergencies. Your family should also have one. The safety and well being of your loved ones are important, so take time NOW to develop a family earthquake plan. If you have already developed a family earthquake plan, take time NOW to review and update it.
Safe Spots: Identify objects or places in each room that will provide protection from falling objects:
Danger Spots: Identify objects and places in each room that poses a danger during an earthquake:
Evacuation Routes: Locate exits and alternative ways to leave your home should the need arise.
Utility Shut-offs: Show everyone where the shut-offs for the following are located:
Plan for family members who have special needs, including:
Make provision for:
Be sure to store such items in a location thatís easy to access.
Itís important that family members know where and how to reunite after an earthquake. Knowing everyone is alive and well will help family members cope with the situation more easily.
Include the following in your family earthquake plan:
Designate someone to pick up your children if you are unable to do so after an earthquake. Be sure to check with your school for its policies in reuniting children with parents.
You and your family members will have to attend to many details after an earthquake. So will your neighbors. Get together and develop a plan that covers all potential problems. Assign specific responsibilities to each person based on their probable locations since it may be difficult to travel after an earthquake.
STEP 2: SUPPLY STORAGE
Flashlights, portable radios, first aid kits and other emergency supplies are essential after earthquakes and other disasters, but only if you can get to and use them. Store your emergency supplies in a location that you can access easily.
There are several options for storing your emergency supplies, including:
One of the most important considerations in storing your supplies is determining a location that youíll have access to after a major earthquake or another disaster. At least two different locations are recommended.
Identify the safe spots in your house as you did when you developed your family earthquake plan and conducted your home hazard hunt. Then, determine the locations in which you spend the most time and to which youíll have easy access.
Your options may include storing the supplies in the following locations:
Supplies donít have to be kept all in one location. For example, you may want to keep a flashlight, sturdy shoes, portable radio and eyeglasses under or next to your bed, keep an adjustable wrench at the gas meter and your food and water supplies in the pantry.
Remember that food and water require special considerations:
STEP 3: FIRST AID TRAINING AND SUPPLIES
In an earthquake, some people get hurt. Are YOU first aid ready? Many people are unaware that they might be on their own for 72 hours or more after a major earthquake. You might have to depend on yourself to treat injured family members, friends and coworkers since outside assistance, including 9-1-1 service, might not be available immediately. If you donít have a first aid kit, NOW is the time to buy or assemble one. If you donít know how to administer first aid, enroll in a first aid class TODAY.
Earthquakes can cause a number of injuries. The most common injuries and effects include:
First Aid Courses
After a major earthquake or another emergency, immediate medical assistance, including 9-1-1 service, might not be available. You might have to treat family members, friends and coworkers who suffer cuts, broken bones and other injuries. Take time NOW to learn first aid. Courses for adults and children are available through organizations such as local chapters of the American Red Cross, hospitals and community centers
First Aid Kits
Make sure you have everything you need to treat injuries that might occur during an earthquake or another emergency. Assemble and store an emergency first aid kit that includes:
Keep this kit with your other emergency supplies
STEP 4: DUCK, COVER AND HOLD
We know that major earthquakes such as the magnitude 7.3 Landers temblor in 1992 can strike at any time and cause numerous deaths and injuries.
Experience also shows us that even moderate earthquakes Ė in the magnitude 5 to 6.9 range Ė can cause a significant number of deaths and injuries. The magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994 caused 57 deaths, more than 10,000 injuries and an estimated $40 billion in property losses.
Learn what to do during an earthquake Ė whether youíre at home, work or school. Taking the proper actions can save lives and reduces your risk of death or injury.
How to Ride Out an Earthquake
If an earthquake strikes while youíre INDOORS, follow the steps below:
DUCK or drop down to the floor. Avoid windows, bookcases, file cabinets, heavy mirrors, hanging plants and other heavy objects that could fall. Watch out for falling plaster or ceiling tiles. (Protective window coating and materials for anchoring computers, televisions and other breakable items are now available.)
Take COVER under a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture until the shaking stops. If thatís not possible, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck by covering them with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors and tall furniture.
HOLD ON to the leg of a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture if you take cover under it. Be ready to move with it. HOLD the position until the ground stops shaking and it's safe to get up.
Earthquakes donít always occur when you and your family are at home, work or school. If you are in a public place, remain calm and do not rush for the exits. Take the time in any location to identify alternative exits. Here are some additional safety tips if youíre at specific locations when the shaking starts:
Be prepared for aftershocks. Plan where you will take cover when aftershocks occur.
STEP 5: CAR KIT AND OFFICE KIT
No one knows whether they will be at home, at work or on the road when a damaging earthquake strikes. Large earthquakes such as the 1992 Landers and the 1994 Northridge temblors could severely damage bridges, freeway overpasses, transition roads or other facets of the highway system.
As a result, you might have to use alternate driving routes, abandon your car and walk home or remain where you are. Store emergency supply kits at work and in your vehicle to help make your situation less stressful.
Be sure to keep gasoline in your tank. If an earthquake strikes while you are driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Try to avoid overpasses, power lines or other objects that could fall.
Car and Work Kit Supplies
Be sure to store a backpack, duffel bag or tote bag containing the following emergency supplies at work and in your car:
Be sure to also include the following items in your car kit:
STEP 6: EMERGENCY CASH AND IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
After a damaging earthquake, it wonít be "business as usual." Banks and ATMs might be closed for an indefinite period, so your money in the bank will stay there.
Include in your earthquake kit a sufficient amount of cash to get you through the emergency period. Youíll need cash to purchase food, gas and other emergency supplies. Small bills Ė ones, fives and tens Ė are best.
Be sure you also include plenty of change to call your out-of-state contact from a public phone. (Public phone lines are among the first to be restored after a disaster.) You can also use your calling card to make the call.
Youíll also need insurance policies, birth certificates and other vital records after a damaging earthquake or another disaster. Take steps NOW to assemble and protect them.
After a damaging earthquake, youíll need vital personal documents and information for insurance claims and other matters. Keep the following items and documents and/or copies of them in a safe deposit box, freezer or another safe place:
Several options for safely storing your valuables and important documents are available to you, including the following:
STEP 7: CAMPING OUT EARTHQUAKE STYLE
An earthquake larger than the magnitude 6.7 Northridge temblor in 1994 might severely damage utility systems, including gas lines, forcing you to live and cook outdoors for several days.
Prepare to do so NOW by including outdoor cooking and camping supplies as part of your emergency kit.
If an earthquake disrupts utility services and forces you to cook outdoors, you can use a camp stove or charcoal grill, but remember: use these items for cooking only if youíre outdoors.
If necessary, you also can use candle warmers and sternos to heat your food. You can heat canned food in the can, but you must remove the paper so it will not burn and remove the lid first to let steam escape. Chafing dishes and fondue pots can also be used as containers.
Another cooking option is the stove in your recreational vehicle, if you own one.
Be sure to store a least enough of the cooking supplies to last 72 hours. Choose the supplies for cooking that best suit your familyís needs. A list of options follows:
Be sure to have the following supplies available so you and your family are prepared to live outdoors if an earthquake severely damages your home or your utility service is interrupted:
STEP 8: FRESHEN UP YOUR WATER AND FOOD SUPPLIES
You canít exist very long without water. Itís essential to life. Food is also important. Many of us could survive without it for several days, but the energy, psychological comfort and nutrition it provides are essential after a damaging earthquake.
Thereís no assurance that food and water will be available after a large, regional earthquake. The Northridge earthquake severely damaged the water distribution system in the City of Los Angeles, leaving 100,000 homes and businesses without potable water. Water quality also was a problem due to quake-caused interruption of the chlorination process and possible contamination through more than 2,000 pipeline breaks.
People who fled their homes for nearby parks had to wait in long lines to receive food, water and other staples from the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other volunteer agencies. Empower your family and reduce the post earthquake stress by storing or freshening your emergency water and food supplies.
Alternative Water Sources
Food Selection and Storage
Eating and Cooking
Remember: These cooking methods are for outdoor use only. Cooking indoors with these items allows carbon monoxide and related gases to build up, which can quickly kill you.
STEP 9: FOCUS ON CHILDREN
Damaging earthquakes such as the 1994 Northridge temblor and their aftershocks can rattle nerves of adults and children. You canít do anything to prevent earthquakes and aftershocks, but you and your children can work together to prepare for the next earthquake. Here are some ideas about how to make your children more prepared for an earthquake:
Learn What Earthquakes Are and What Causes Them
Explain why the ground and buildings shake. Go to a museum, a theme park or an expo that has an earthquake simulator so everyone can experience the shaking sensation. Remind everyone that the shaking will stop. Read stories about earthquakes and let your children ask questions. Learn the difference between fact and fiction.
Talk about the possibility that aftershocks as strong as the earthquake itself might occur and continue for some time. Make sure everyone understands that aftershocks are normal.
Assemble Childrenís Earthquake Kits
Help your children to assemble their own earthquake kits. Include a note from parents, a special toy, family photograph and treat, as well as water, food and other earthquake supplies. Kits should meet their needs and likes. Remember that no supplies are "wrong."
Accustom Everyone to Living without Electricity
Go through an entire evening without using electricity to prepare everyone Ė especially children Ė for the possibility of having to live without it. Conduct a "flashlight" walk around the block; hold a candlelight or "flashlight" dinner; tell stories or play games instead of watching television.
After An Earthquake
Monitor family members Ė particularly children Ė for behavioral changes, including withdrawing from family and friends, overeating or loss of appetite, disobedience and antisocial behavior. Parents and teachers can respond to such problems by encouraging interaction with family members and friends, by providing additional attention and physical comfort and by providing structured but undemanding responsibilities. Contact your local mental health agency for more information.
STEP 10: LEARN NOT TO BURN
Fires claim the lives of thousands each year. Strong temblors can trigger fires by:
Earthquake-related fires are also caused by:
Having a good fire extinguisher and knowing how to properly use it before an earthquake or a fire can help save your home and your life.
Equip your home with dependable fire extinguishers and teach family members how to use them. Proper use of fire extinguishers can keep a small fire from growing, provide you with an escape route through a small fire and help you fight a small fire until professional firefighters arrive.
How to Operate
Hold the extinguisher upright and remember the word "P-A-S-S":
P for PULL
Pull the pin, ring or seal
A for AIM
Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire. Remember that most fire extinguishers last only 8 Ė 10 seconds. Make sure you aim at the base of the fire before you release.
S for SQUEEZE
Squeeze or press the handle
S for SWEEP
Sweep slowly from side to side at the base of the fire until the fire goes out
Several types of fire extinguishers are available:
You can reduce your risk of fire-related death or injury particularly during sleeping hours, by installing smoke detectors in the following locations:
Be sure to test your smoke detectors each month and change batteries annually. This is also a good time to check your fire extinguishers.
STEP 11: EMERGENCY LIGHTING
Every home should have emergency flashlights and spare batteries.
The magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994 damaged several Los Angeles City Department of Water and Power (DWP) facilities. The quake also damaged several high voltage transmission lines and caused some towers to fail completely. As a result, much of the city was without power for the first time in its history. DWP personnel were able to restore service to 93 percent of the city within 24 hours, but it might take much longer in a larger, regional earthquake. Donít be left in the dark. Empower your family by obtaining battery-operated flashlights and extra batteries for your home and car.
Flashlights can provide immediate emergency light and psychological comfort when earthquakes or other disasters disrupt power. Theyíre good only when you can find them and the batteries work.
Place a flashlight in every room; secure each one to ensure accessibility. Maintain an ample supply of extra batteries and bulbs. Check them every six months.
Lightsticks are also an excellent source of emergency light and do not require electricity or batteries to operate. Maintain an ample supply for each family member.
Emergency wall units that plug into electrical sockets and activate when electricity is disrupted can also provide emergency light during power outages.
Reliable information and instructions are essential after a damaging earthquake or another disaster. Empower yourself and your family by including battery-operated portable radios or televisions and extra batteries in your emergency preparedness kits.
Electrical outages can also impact persons with hearing impairments and other with special needs. Prepare NOW by including the following, as appropriate, in your emergency kits:
Strong earthquakes can also damage utility lines and appliances, putting your home at risk to fire.
Before the next earthquake:
After the next earthquake:
STEP 12: GIFTS OF LIFE
Are you having trouble deciding what to get a family member, friend or coworker for an upcoming holiday or birthday? If so, a survival gift might be the answer, especially for someone who hasnít already bought or assembled his or her own emergency preparedness kit. Flashlights, portable battery-operated radios, first aid kits and other emergency supplies will be valuable after a damaging earthquake since people living in the affected area might have to rely on themselves for at least 72 hours.
Make a list of persons for whom youíre going to buy or assemble survival gifts. List what you think everyone needs. Depending on your financial situation and the needs of the people on your list, you might get one item or an entire kit. You can also coordinate with other relatives, friends and coworkers to buy different emergency supply items or to assemble kits as a group project, with each participant contributing one item to the kit.
Suggested Gifts and Approximate Price Ranges
Less than $5
Between $5 - $10
Between $10 - $20