For the first ten years of my life, I lived in Tornado Alley. In school, we’d have regular tornado drills in addition to fire drills. Most homes had basements (or even tornado shelters) to provide cover when the warning alarm sounded.
For four years of school, I lived near the Southeastern coastline. Hurricanes wreak havoc there, with what seems like increasing frequency. We watched the path of a hurricane for days, as people shuttered up their homes and evacuated to inland areas. So until I moved to Wine Country, I never gave a thought to earthquake preparation.
I have lived in earthquake territory for twenty years now. As terrifying as tornadoes and hurricanes are, I think earthquakes are scarier. Tornadoes and hurricanes both offer a sense of predictability, unlike earthquakes. Even the most sensitive earthquake alarms give you mere seconds to prepare. So the time for earthquake preparation is now. This is your earthquake warning alarm. It’s time to set your home and family in order.
Earthquake Preparation Guidelines
Look around your home, and assume that everything will fall over during an earthquake. Would it hurt if it landed on you or your child(ren)? If the answer is “yes,” then anchor it. Anchoring furniture has the added benefit of making it more child proof for the climbers in your life, as well! Additionally, reconsider anything heavy you have mounted above your bed. If you don’t want it falling on you or a loved one in the middle of the night, then it doesn’t belong there.
Prepare A “Go Bag”
In addition to having at least three days of food and water for every member of your household (including pets) stashed in a safe place, have a bag that you can easily access in case your home becomes unsafe. We strongly recommend you place your earthquake go-bag items in a metal or thick plastic garbage can and that you refresh at least annually (for water that is stored in plastic, you will want to use and restock every three months). Your “go bag” should include:
Make a Family Communication Plan
Earthquakes don’t follow our schedules. It is very possible that an earthquake will hit while you’re at work, your partner is at their work, and your kids are all at different schools. Be prepared by gathering all important contact information, and making sure that everyone in your family has a copy in their wallet, purse, or backpack. You can print out wallet sized cards from this website.
Be sure that your child’s school or daycare has a plan in place for earthquakes. Make plans for who will pick up your children and where you will meet. Know that texting is the best way to communicate during a natural disaster, and know how to conserve the battery life on your cell phone.
Know What to Do During an Earthquake
Hint: it is not stand in a doorway. That’s what I learned growing up, but it turns out that doorways don’t magically protect you from falling objects. The safest way to protect yourself during an earthquake is to drop to the ground, cover your head, and hold on. If you’re in bed, stay there. If you’re in a car, stop as safely as you can away from trees and utility poles and stay in the car. When you believe you’re in a safe spot, but things start falling on you, try to crawl to a safer area or under a sturdy cover.
When the shaking stops, if there is a safe way out, get out of the building. If you are at the coast, head to higher ground immediately. Be prepared for aftershocks, which are likely to occur after a big earthquake.
If you are at home, or once you get home, check your gas lines to make sure nothing is leaking.
We live in Wine Country. It is beautiful here. The people here are wonderful, real, and unpretentious. I am super excited to raise my children here, and I’m proud to call this my home. However, the trade off is that we may have an earthquake. We can’t prepare with storm shutters or shelters, but we can still be prepared. It’s certainly tempting (and easier) to stick my head in the sand and ignore the warnings. But if I can actually set my house and family in order through earthquake preparation, chances are I will feel a lot less anxious if the “big one” ever does hit.