Are You Earthquake Ready?

Photographer: Rawich, www.freedigitalphotos.net

I cannot fathom the devastation that has taken place in Japan over the past 24 hours. First an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 and a multitude of aftershocks getting as high as 6.0 on the Richter scale. These aftershocks today reached a higher magnitude than most people have felt in other  non-disastrous earthquakes. Next, if this earthquake was not devastating enough, a tsunami hit and made it a hundred times worse. Homes washed away, buildings burned down, and people missing, the pain and agony continues.

Then as tsunamis do, it traveled across the pacific hitting islands and everything in its path until finally crashing on the west coast. During its travel, Hawaii took a hard hit but survived with minor damage although northern California and Oregon took the brunt of the abuse following Japan. Of course the damage is nothing compared to Japan but the Crescent City and Brookings areas were hit very hard. Harbors torn apart, boats ruined and people pulled into the sea. This is truly a global disaster and my heart goes out to all of those affected by today’s events and I hope and pray for a quick recovery and healing.

In light of today’s events, I began to consider my lack of preparation. I have lived in areas where both earthquakes and tsunamis are present and I have been thinking about what I would do if I were currently in an affected area. Currently I have a home that is located in the middle of a very active fault line as well as my second home/area I grew up in is located near one of the areas hit hard along the west coast today. I spent a great deal of time in the Brooking and Crescent City area as a child. My grandparents spent a portion of each year living and commercial fishing in Crescent City. They personally experienced the last tsunami to hit that area back in 1964 and never believed they would see this degree of damage again in their lifetime. I also spent many years living in Hawaii and experienced what the wind and waves as well as tsunamis can do. To say the least my past, present and future are all surrounded by these types of natural disaster and it has me contemplating just how prepared I am for these natural disasters.

Even though it was just a few years ago when the area I am currently in experienced a huge rash of earthquakes, I have to admit I do not feel very prepared if something on such a large scale were to take place here. Yes I know what to do and where to stand when a quake hits and my children know the drill as well–they should as during our earthquake spell they had to do drills everyday at school, not to mention the fact that my youngest got to a point where a quake would hit and he would yell out “TAKE COVER!”  So even with all of that knowledge and knowing you can never really be prepared for natural disasters, I still feel as if there are a few things I could do to be a little more proactive.

On my quest for preparedness, I reviewed many guides and put this checklist together for myself:

1) Prepare and secure your home. We don’t really think about things falling off of shelves or walls and injuring us until an earthquake hits. However I am sure the last thing you want to happen is to be struck over the head with a falling object. So take the time now to secure things properly to walls including wall hangings, dressers, china cabinets, water heaters, tvs, anything that may tip or fall and hurt someone. Brace overhead light fixtures and remove any heavy objects from walls above beds. When the walls start shaking you will be happy that your belongings are secure and have not turned into weapons.

2) Prepare a disaster kit. Having emergency supplies in a known area and ready to go can be crucial in a disaster. Your emergency kit should include water, food, a first aid kit, money, flashlights, radio, batteries, extra medicines, a whistle, fire extinguisher, a wrench for turning gas off to your house, emergency contacts and phone numbers and anything else you think you need. For me, I am thinking a pair of tennis shoes may be a good addition. I do not think as cute as my shoes are that I want to be walking around during a crisis in a beautiful pair of high heels.

3) Make a plan and share it with your family. What happens when you are in your home and a quake hits? What happens when you are outside? Where will you meet if you are all separated? Who do you call and where do you go? Know which areas of each room are the safest for you to be at when an earthquake hits. We all take cell phones for granted but during an emergency you cannot count on there being service. My husband spent many years working in the telecom industry and when there is an emergency telephone companies try to keep service running. However if the crisis is large enough and those lines are needed for other purposes they will shut your access down. I know it is a lot to consider but all of these things need to be discussed and planned so that every member of your family is prepared in case of an earthquake and you do not have access to communicate directly. Take the time now so that you are not frantically running around later.

4) Make sure your home is structurally sound. This may sound silly but are you sure that your foundation is not cracked and going to crumble when a large earthquake hits? Or what about that beautiful rock masonry work you did around the fireplace, is that going to hold up? If you live in an area prone to earthquakes it is important to have a structural engineer check the integrity of your home. When we were going through our spout of daily earthquakes my youngest son’s preschool had their building checked. Although it appeared to be a strong and safe building and it was not that old, it was determined that it was not built to a proper code. They ended up having to move the children until the structure could be made more stable. Imagine if that were your home, wouldn’t you rather know now it is not safe then when you need it to be strong it crumbles?

5) Know what to do during an earthquake. What happens when you are asleep and wake up during an earthquake? What do you do if you are outside of your home? What do you do when you are inside? Learn the phrase “Drop, Cover and Hold On,” or “TAKE COVER” as my youngest likes to yell.  As basic as that sounds, it can reduce injuries and save lives. For those of you unfamiliar with earthquake procedures you can obtain a great guide and directions for how to handle earthquake situations from the Red cross.

Lastly, I want to note that earthquakes are usually very unexpected and are not predicted. Although today I was shown a YouTube video (March Event) where a scientist accurately predicted today’s earthquake to within a four day period. Although she did not know where or how bad it would be, she did predict that we would have one and it would be severe. Although in most cases earthquakes are not as predictable, you can still prepare to a certain point.

So be prepared but don’t spend your life in constant worry. You cannot worry your life away.  If something is going to happen, you cannot stop it, all you can do is be ready if it does.

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