Friday, February 25, 2011

Earthquake Preparedness- Duck, Cover and Hold On!

The best way to start on your disaster preparedness plan is to identify the disasters that are most likely to happen in your area.

It would do me absolutely no good to prepare for a hurricane when I am landlocked in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. The disasters that are predicted to happen in my area are severe winter storms and earthquakes. 

I've heard my whole life that we're due for a massive earthquake but it just never really seemed realistic. We've never had a big earthquake here. It's not like California where earthquakes are a common occurrence and the distruction earthquakes cause is a visible reminder to the public to get ready for the next one.

Imagine my surprise when the week we moved into our new house we also experienced 3 earthquakes in 3 days!

Luckily, they were just small and no one reported any damage. It got me thinking though. "What can I do to protect my family and house from a bigger earthquake?"

Before an Earthquake

Prepare Your Home-

  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
  • Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances. (most new houses in my area come with the water heater already secured. Your water heater can be a part of your emergency water supply if you find yourself without any during a disaster.)
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Anchor bookcases, shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects. Just like baby-proofing!
  • Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.
Prepare Your Family-
  • Hold earthquake drills with your family members. Teach your children that just like Stop, Drop and Roll for a fire, you should Duck, Cover and Hold On during an earthquake. 
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
  • Teach all adults and teenagers where the gas, electric and water main shutoff controls are and how to turn them off. Make sure you only shut them off if you are sure there is a leak. Otherwise you will be without those utilities until the power and water companies can come turn them back on. This sometimes can take 2 weeks or more.
  • Identify escape routes from your home and neighborhood. Most likely not everyone is going to be at home when a disaster strikes so you need to have a preplanned meeting place for everyone to reunite. We decided to have one right outside our house and also outside our neighborhood in case we aren't allowed to go back in. (These can be the same ones used for your fire drills too.)
  • Have an evacuation kit for each member of the family that is easily transportable by that member.
  • Designate an out of state contact. Something interesting I have learned is that during an emergency it is easier to make long-distance phone calls than local ones because the local lines are all jammed with everyone around trying to call everyone they know. You should set up one out-of-state contact that everyone in your immediate and extended family knows about because that way everyone can just check in with one person who can then relay any information needed and concerned relatives from other places can get updates without stressing out the people who are actually in the disaster.
During an Earthquake

If you are indoors-
  • Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed - if you are there when the earthquake strikes - hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.
  • Do NOT use the elevators.
If you are Outdoors
  • Move into the open, away from electrical lines, trees and buildings. Drop to the ground and wait for the shaking to stop.
If you are in a Moving Vehicle
  • Pull over slowly and away from traffic but as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, utility wires and near roadway signs that might fall. 
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.
If you are Trapped Under Debris
  • Do not light a match.· Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort - shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
After an Earthquake
  • Check for gas or water leaks and electrical shorts and turn off damaged utilities. If they do need to be turned off don't try to turn them back on yourself. Have the fire department or gas and electric companies turn them back on when it is safe.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
  • Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.
  • Obey evacuation orders- I get so sick of hearing about people who refuse to evacuate and thereby place themselves and others in danger needlessly. Do what you are told. It is for your own safety.
Resources
http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/- you can find your earthquake risk, ideas and support for preparing for earthquakes and additional information to print off and share with your friends and family.











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