Earthquake Safety: Ready for the Big One?

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet…

Living in Los Angeles is usually pretty amazing; we have perfect weather, legal weed, and that liberal bubble that keeps us nice and cozy. One of the few downsides? Shifting tectonic plates, yo. Is this California’s slow attempt to leave the rest of the country and float off into the Pacific Ocean? Possibly. Last week Mother Earth rattled us with two major quakes in the span of 24 hours, the latest one clocking in at a mighty 7.1 on the Richter scale. That makes it the largest quake in SoCal since 1999.

Being a native Angeleno, Jenn lived through many a quake, including the devastating 1994 one in Northridge. Her childhood was filled with school drills instructing kids to, “duck, cover, hold on”...uh, I have some follow up questions. Are we still doing “duck and cover”? Wasn’t that from the Cold War? And “hold on”? What are we holding on to? Our butts (Jurassic Park shout out!)? We decided that an updated earthquake safety plan was way overdue, so let’s get prepped before Mother Earth bitch slaps us again.

Get Your Emergency Kit Ready

There are many sites online where you can buy emergency kits, but if you choose to buy or assemble your own, make sure they have the following items:

The Basic Kit: What’s in it?

This list includes the must-haves recommended by FEMA in case of an earthquake. We’d personally add closed toed shoes...Havaianas during an earthquake apocalypse seems a little too casual.

  • Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

  • Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert

  • Flashlight

  • First aid kit

  • Extra batteries

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Manual can opener for food

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Additional Supplies

If you’ve got kids or pets in the family, you’ll want to pack the specific items they’ll need in your kit. We even got our dogs emergency light up leashes for our kits.

  • Prescription medications

  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives

  • Glasses and contact lens solution

  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream

  • Pet food and extra water for your pet, a pet carrier

  • Cash

  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Matches in a waterproof container

  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

  • Paper and pencil

  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Kit Storage Locations: Where is it?

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.

  • Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.

  • Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.

  • Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.

Stay Safe During an Earthquake: What to do?

If an earthquake happens, protect yourself right away. Drop, Cover, then Hold On!

  • Find a sturdy desk or table, get underneath it and hold on.

  • If in a vehicle, pull over to a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, or utility wires.

  • If in bed, stay there, cover your head and neck with pillows.

  • If outdoors, stay outdoors, get away from trees, power lines, or utility wires.

  • Do not get in a doorway. Many interior doors are not load bearing, plus the door can swing back and crush your fingers or hit you.

  • Do not run outside.

Be Safe AFTER: Now What?

  • Expect aftershocks to follow the largest shock of an earthquake.

  • Check yourself for injury and provide assistance to others if you have training.

  • If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building.

  • Do not enter damaged buildings.

  • If you are trapped, cover your mouth. Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting so that rescuers can locate you.

  • If you are in an area that may experience tsunamis, go inland or to higher ground immediately after the shaking stops.

  • Save phone calls for emergencies.

  • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.

  • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.

Make a Family Communication Plan

If an emergency happens and cell service is disrupted, a communication plan assures that you can reunite with your family. Put together a plan by discussing these 4 questions with your family, friends, or household to start your emergency plan. For more details about creating a plan (there’s a PDF to print and fill out as a household), go to FEMA’s website.

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