Photo credit: Noble Public Adjusting Group
If you’ve got people you care about, you need to get prepared for the next major earthquake. We’ve been through a couple earthquakes ourselves, which inspired us to take San Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency Response training (NERT) course to learn how to prepare from the pros. NERT in SF, CERT in Oakland, or any other emergency responses training are great ways to prepare.
If you don’t have time for a 6-week certification class, we've given you the cheat sheet on what we learned. Here are a few tips to make sure you and your family are as prepared as possible:
1) Make Your Family's Plan
- Map out an evacuation plan for your home, and decide where and when to reunite your family should you be apart when an earthquake happens. Pick a place that is accessible from everyone's daytime routine (school and work), and that is relatively open. This is super important, as communication might not be possible.
- Choose a person outside the immediate area to contact if family members are separated. Long distance phone service will probably be restored sooner than local service. Do not use the phone immediately after an earthquake.
- Create a list of emergency local and personal contacts, and have each member of your family carry a copy. It should have phone numbers for local emergency agencies, your agreed-upon contact person out of the area, your reunion plan for if you are separated when an earthquake happens, and any other information.
- Before a quake occurs, call your local Red Cross chapter a (Bay Area Red Cross- 1-888-4-HELP-BAY) and Office of Emergency Services to find out about their plans for emergency shelters and temporary medical centers in case of such a disaster.
- Know the policies of the school or daycare center your children attend. Make plans to have someone pick them up if you are unable to get to them.
- If you have a family member who does not speak English, prepare an emergency card written in English indicating that person’s identification, address and any special needs such as medication or allergies. Tell that person to keep the card with him/her at all times.
2) Stash an Earthquake Bag
Stock up on earthquake supplies and have them in a ready-to-go place, like under the bed or by the door. Make sure everyone knows where to find your bag. You can find Family Bags that have individual items for each person without having to double up on the tools and equipment that you only need one of. You should have at least the following:
- Three-day supply of food
- Three-day supply of water
- Tools for additional water, like a water filtration bottle, expandable water storage container or jugs
- First Aid
- Hygiene supplies
- Waterproof matches and/or flint and steel
Communication tools- hand-crank radio recommended. It has a flashlight and phone charger combined, and means you don't have to rely on electric or batteries
- Shelter and warmth
- Cutting tools (knife and/or scissors)
- Protection- goggles, gloves, etc…
Light- again, we recommend a hand-crank powered flashlight
- Personal items, like glasses, contact lenses, medications, etc...
3) Be Resourceful with Water
Oftentimes the first things to go are electricity and water. Staying hydrated is the most basic and urgent of human needs. You should have water for everyone in the family for 72 hours in your earthquake bag, but there are other places you can find water in a pinch. Know them:
- The bathtub- after an earthquake, turn on your bathtub and fill it up. Having that much water at your disposal is key in a crisis.
- Ice cubes- a great source of water.
- Toilet tank- no one’s first choice, but it is clean water.
- Hot water heater- you can drain and use for drinking water.
4) Utility Shutoff
Many times it’s the fires that stem from earthquakes that wreak the most havoc- see 1906 San Francisco earthquake for proof! Oftentimes gas lines burst or leak, giving a flame plenty of fuel to spread into a devastating fire. Turning off gas lines after an earthquake is so important!
- Locate the shutoff valves for water, gas and electricity. Learn how to shut off the valves before a quake happens. If you have any questions, call your utility company.
Buy a gas shutoff tool and ziptie it to the gas shutoff valve. That way you know it’ll be there when you need it.
5) Make Copies
- Make copies of vital records and keep them in a safe deposit box in another city or state. Make sure your originals are stored safely. Keep copies of important documents (like ID, passport, insurance cards) in your Earthquake Bag.
- Keep extra cash and change. If electricity is out, you will not be able to use an ATM.
- Take photos and/or videos of your valuables. Make copies and keep them in another city or state.
6) Practice Makes Perfect
- Conduct Earthquake Drills (Duck, Cover & Hold) every six months with your family to make sure you are ready.
- Know the safest place in each room because it will be difficult to move from one room to another during a quake.
- Establish all the possible ways to exit your house. Keep those areas clear, and practice evacuation.
Bottom line- living in the Bay Area means we need to take precautions to prepare our families for the inevitable... major earthquakes. Having food and water, supplies, and a plan in place is crucial. Encourage your neighbors to do the same- we survive best as a community when each household is prepared individually!