Quake


The key to riding out and recovering from an earthquake is getting prepared. In last month's Sunset, we showed you how to secure your house and your possessions. Here, we'll explain what you need to do to secure yourself, your family, and your neighborhood. We'll also recommend what to do during and after a big quake, and offer some suggestions for further reading. It's easy to put off emergency preparations, but now before the next quake-is the time to take action.

PLANNING WITH YOUR FAMILY

First, develop a family earthquake plan. Then rehearse it, figuring out and practicing what each of you will do. Have an out-of-town (preferably out-of-state) contact that everyone knows to check in with after a disaster. Preparation is especially important for households with young children; if your family has a plan, your kids will be less afraid.

As a group, take a walk through your house similar to the "spot-the-hazard" inspection we discussed last month. In each room, determine the safe and the dangerous spots to be during a quake. Establish children's play areas away from hazards such as large expanses of glass, brick, or rock, or masonry walls or chimneys.

Know where you'll gather after a quake and who will be responsible for specific emergency steps, like turning off the gas if neccesary. Everyone should know how to turn off gas, power, and water (both the gate valve into the house and the main shutoff at the street) and how to operate a fire extinguisher.

Assure your children that if you're not at home when the quake hits, you'll get back to them as soon as you can; but do let them know that it could take days to do so safely. If you've taken the time to reassure them, they'll hold onto the hope that you'll return. Figure out the best walking routes between home, work, and school. Transportation will likely be severely limited, so you should know some alternatives. Arrange for children to stay with neighbors if you can't get home.

Your child's school should have a plan for dealing with quakes; so should your office. Be sure that your family plan complements those. Check through the PTA to learn the procedures at your child's school. The school should have disaster supplies on site; some have children bring a supplemental kit from home (energy food bars, canned fruit, juice, teddy bear, flashlight, family photo, and so on).

Don't accept the school's assurances about its planning; ask questions about staff training and responsibilities, and ask to see what emergency supplies are on hand. Find out if the school buildings have been made earthquake-safe. Know what the policy is on releasing students after a disaster.

Check with your bank to see what it plans to do after an earthquake. You'll need money; will you be able to get it? Find out from your city where shelters and services will be set up, as well as where police and fire stations and hospitals are located.

YOUR EMERGENCY SUPPLY CACHE

Find a safe place in the house to keep emergency supplies, then gather them together in that place. Don't leave them scattered throughout the house. The small, sturdy structure of a closet makes it an ideal place to store supplies. One reader stores emergency provisions in a fireproof filing cabinet; others use small portable buildings away from other structures.

Keep sturdy bags with your supplies; you can use these to pack and carry what you can if you're asked to evacuate your neighborhood.

Tools and equipment. Earthquake supplies include things you'd likely want to have around the house for other emergencies, such as a storm or a power failure. Some things (sturdy shoes, clothes, gloves, and flashlight) should always be tucked right under your bed. Fire extinguishers should be in the kitchen and garage as well as in your supply cache. Camping gear (lanterns, sleeping bags, stove, tents, rope) can double as emergency equipment; if possible, store it with your other emergency supplies. …

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