The Earthquake Blog
Five Simple Steps to Make Your Home "Earthquake Ready" 4
A few years ago, my friend Zach and I decided to (finally) get our families prepared for the next major earthquake. Living in California means that earthquake prep is something every one of us has to do. When we got down to it, we were so amazed by how many people haven’t truly prepared their families, and we were inspired to make it simple and easy. We started an emergency preparedness company, and we’ve helped more than 10,000 people with earthquake preparedness over the past few years.
It’s never fun to think about your family in a disaster situation, but a few simple steps can make your family safer and better prepared in the days after a major earthquake.
Have a few minutes right now? Here are 5 things you can quickly do today that will absolutely keep your family safer in the next major earthquake.
1. Put Shoes By Your Bed
An earthquake shakes literally everything around, causing furniture, shelves and everything unsecured to fall and break. It covers your floors with broken glass, smashed pottery, wine bottle shards, and anything else you can imagine. There is a 33% chance the next major earthquake happens while you are asleep. Imagine, it’s dark, the power is out, you are in bare feet, and you have to evacuate.
If you do have to leave, you may be walking the streets barefoot, and could be on the move for hours or days after the event. A pair of shoes can be a gamechanger in a dangerous situation.
Have 15 seconds? Put a pair of old shoes under your bed right now.
2. Add a Flashlight to Your Nightstand
Expect the power to be out after an earthquake. That fun flashlight function on your phone? It’s not going to last long without power to plug it in. Plus, your phone is a key source of communication and information. By relying on a flashlight for emergency events, you can see what's going on around you and preserve your phone's power.
Need a flashlight? For a limited time we are giving away our Heavy-Duty Mini LED Flashlights for FREE (just pay shipping). Why are we doing this? Because we want to help people take the first step in being prepared! :)
Bonus tip: remember to test the batteries in your flashlight and smoke alarms when you change the clocks during daylight savings time twice a year.
3. Move Your Earthquake Kit
Your earthquake kit should be easy to grab. You don't know where you will be when an earthquake strikes and may be in a panic trying to keep yourself and your family safe. Your kit should be near the main exit of your home, so you can get it quickly. Consider a coat closet that's easily accessible, and remember not to hide your emergency kit under a bunch of junk!
Unfortunately you won't have time to collect valuables during the event, but your family’s safety is most important. In the event of an evacuation, you should head straight to the front door or your primary exit, so make sure your supplies are ready and waiting.
Still don’t have an earthquake kit for your family? We get it - that’s why we exist! We’ve built the smartest, most efficient earthquake bags you can make or buy, built for people like you. Find your custom Earthquake Bag in under 5 minutes HERE!
4. Give Everyone Emergency Information
If you're like most of us, you probably have an emergency contacts list attached to your fridge or on your home office bulletin board. Put a copy in your child's backpack, the glove box of your car, your wallet or purse, and in your earthquake kit. This way you'll always have the information handy even if you have to leave in a rush. If your little ones are separated from you, it helps if their rescuers know who they are, who they belong, and how to get you back together.
Include an out-of-town emergency contact. Let them know your status as soon as possible. Local phone lines may be jammed after an earthquake so it will be easier to reach someone outside of the disaster area.
5. Choose an Emergency Meeting Place
If an earthquake strikes during the day, you’ll likely be separated from your loved ones. You may be at work while children are at school. Discuss with your family where you plan to reunite in the event of a disaster. Your cell phones might not work during a disaster, so it's important to have a plan beforehand.
You may not want to think about an earthquake, but that doesn’t make the probability any different. We know that another major earthquake will strike here, so let’s be grown ups and take a few simple precautions for our families. It doesn’t have to take long, and it can make a huge difference in protecting you from injury and keeping you in contact with loved ones.You’ll feel better knowing that you’ve done what you can to make your family safer. Need more earthquake prep info, or want someone to build out your family’s kit for you? Check out earthquakebag.me for earthquake prep tips and tricks, info on supplies and how to use them intelligently, and what to look for when preparing for your family.
- Skyler Hallgren
Scientists Find More Clues of “The Big One” Primed to Hit Southern California 0
Angelenos have heard about “The Big One” their entire lives - so much so that some seem to have gone deaf to the warnings. Every time earthquakes come up in conversation, we know that we are supposed to have a plan, supplies, and food + water. The danger we know is boring.
But it’s new information that catches people’s attention.
Scientists have learned more about our seismic history, and what it means now. According to the USGS, we have a 93% chance of a 7.0+ earthquake in the next 30 years, and there are several ways it can hit. First, there is the probability that the faults directly underneath the LA basin will rupture, shaking violently beneath us. Southern California is fractured with faults we know about, and others we don’t yet recognize. The Northridge fault, for example, was unknown until it caused the 6.7 magnitude quake in 1994.
However, scientists now fear the highest probability of a megaquake is east of the basin - the Inland Empire and the Salton Sea - and the ways it could cripple the region. A quake on the San Andreas is particularly dangerous because the fault’s shape funnels energy directly towards LA, unleashing a disaster that we haven’t seen since California became a state. Shaking could last for as long as three minutes.
Another recent study of the San Andreas near the Grapevine found that major earthquakes are expected on that part of the fault every 100 years. The gaps between major quakes have been 20 years to 200 years, with the strongest earthquakes happening after the longest gaps. It’s been 160 since the last.
Why This Could Be So Devastating
The next major quake on the southern portion of the San Andreas would be crushing because of it’s layout and location:
- The megaquake that concerns scientists would release more energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
- The shape funnels energy west towards the LA Basin
- The LA Basin is made of sand and gravel - materials through which earthquakes are magnified
- It could destroy miles of I-10 and other key interstates that straddle it
- It would sever key rail lines, essential water aqueducts, and crucial power lines
The biggest concern is that the next major earthquake will sever power, oil and gas lines for weeks or months, leaving the LA region without power and energy. A lapse that long would be unprecedented in recent US history outside of Hurricane Katrina, which led to brutal living conditions, and could lead people to abandon the LA area.
Famous SoCal seismologist Lucy Jones says “it’s not so much about dying in the earthquake. It’s about being miserable after the earthquake and people giving up on Southern California.” This is a key point, because many push off preparation because they think it’s futile. Not so.
Most of us will survive the immediate earthquake, but the challenge starts when the shaking stops. Experts agree that millions may be without water, electricity, gasoline, and communications for days, even weeks. Hospitals and urgent care stations will be overwhelmed and won’t be able to care for all the injured. Damaged roads and closed banks, grocery stores and pharmacies will require people to have planned ahead. Communications and supplies will be very hard to come by.
Experts expect that to last for days, weeks, or longer. The damage to the region’s infrastructure could take a year or more to fix, and that’s why emergency response agencies cannot stress enough the need for each of us to be self-sufficient in the aftermath. That means being stocked with food, water, off-the-grid light and communication sources, and well as the tools and first-aid needed to take care of ourselves individually for the first days or weeks.
Progress, or Lack thereof
The good news is that scientists have been installing early-warning systems up and down the west coast. That system could give LA up to a minute of warning that a major earthquake is about to hit. Unfortunately, President Trump’s budget proposes cutting out Federal funding for the early warning system, prompting elected officials from Southern California to urge the administration to reconsider.
What We Can Do
Above all, we need to encourage our neighbors, families, friends and neighborhoods to get prepared to be self-sufficient. Every emergency response agency from CERT to FEMA urges people to have the basics at home, in the car, and at work / school to survive for the first few days to a week. It’s our responsibility to make sure we are ready, as government agencies won’t be able to help most of us right away.
That means having food, water, shelter, warmth, first aid, hygiene items, tools and other supplies packed and ready to go at a moment's notice. Whether you build your own, or buy one that is tailored to your family, get it done now. We built The Earthquake Bag to give people the best option for the best price, and to make it super easy to prepare your family right now. Check out EARTHQUAKE BAGS HERE.
Additionally, call or write your representative in Congress, and encourage them to fight for funding for the early warning system here in Southern California. It’s an important step for the nation’s most populous state, and the second biggest city in the country, to deal with the risks we face from our geography. It’s up to us to get involved, and make sure our homes, workplaces and communities are prepared.
- Skyler Hallgren
Do You Live On One of SF's Liquefaction Zones? 1
If you live or work in the Marina, SOMA, FiDi, the Mission, Mission Bay, Dogpatch, or Hunter's Point, you likely do.
How SF Set Itself Up for Damage
San Francisco's coastline looks different now than it did 150 years ago. As SF developed and grew, the city expanded our scraggly bay coastline into a smooth, straight line. As SF historian Katelin Ghormley explains, the red areas are mostly pre-WWI landfill. If you remove them, you see the natural coastline & what it looked like before the Gold Rush of 1849. Originally, there were a ton of natural coves, but with the massive influx of people, it resulted in a combination of planned and unintentional filling. The financial district for example, has 60 buried ships that we know of underneath the buildings that were abandoned as men headed to the gold mine fields.
The Richmond and Sunset
The yellow areas are naturally occurring loose fill, most notably the Richmond district on the west side that used to be sand dunes. Not as bad as the red areas, but worrisome. You know about the Sutro Baths right? Well, Mr. Sutro bought up the entire Richmond district (near his baths) while it was still dunes during one of SF's big housing crisis'. Of course you can't build a house on sand, but he terraformed it and made a huge profit. Unfortunately, it's still all sand underneath all that topsoil.
The Marina, Soma, Fidi and More
Parts of the Marina, for example, were created when a lagoon was filled with dune sand and building rubble from the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 to create space
for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Mission Bay was previously an actual bay, until the city filled it in to expand the city. The area previously known as the Barbary Coast in the Financial District is located a half-mile from today's coastline. Those filled-in parts of the city are built on soil that isn't as densely packed, so they are much more susceptible to damage. When this soft soil starts moving during an earthquake, it becomes like quicksand (liquefaction) and can shift the the structural integrity of buildings, and lead to water and gas pipes bursting.
What Happens When the Ground Liquefies?
It's when the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake-shaking or other rapid loading. It occurs when the space between individual particles of soil is filled with water, exerting a pressure on the soil that influences how tightly the particles are pressed together. Prior to an earthquake, the water pressure is relatively low. However, the shaking can cause the water pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles move easily with respect to each other (imagine shaking a bowl of oatmeal).
Photo: The Marina District experienced liquefaction during the 1989 earthquake
Liquefaction has been responsible for tremendous amounts of damage during earthquakes around the world, and in the Bay Area. The 1989 quake devastated the Marina in particular because of it's composition, and led to 1990 Seismic Hazards Mapping Act, requiring the California Geological Survey to map and publish liquefaction risk areas. Knowing is half the battle, and it's allowed us to fortify the buildings that are in the most compromising locations.
How to Prepare
There are two important elements of being prepared. The first is having a plan, the second is having the right supplies.
1) If you haven't taken the time to build your family earthquake plan, download the 3 Step Earthquake Prep Guide. This guide has three simple steps you can take tonight to be prepared for the big one.
2) If you don't have the government recommended food, water, first-aid, and shelter supplies we recommend an earthquake kit. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, we’ve made one for you. It’s The Earthquake Bag and it’s our mission to make sure everyone either buys one of ours or builds one of their own. Everyone is safer when we all are more prepared individually.
Whether you live in a liquefaction risk area or not, make sure that you have the tools you need, food and water, and a plan by the door or under the bed. We know San Francisco will experience major earthquakes again, and we are smart enough to be prepared for whatever happens.
- Skyler Hallgren
Still Haven’t Made an Earthquake Kit? Get Started with These 8 Must-Haves 1
Still don’t have an earthquake kit at home for your family? Does even thinking about it make you freak out a little? We know how you feel. It took years of living in California before we finally decided to kill the earthquake anxiety and get it done. Thank god the big one didn’t happen while we procrastinated.
It’s not that we didn’t know better ‒ we knew we needed to prepare, and we worried for our family that we hadn’t already. We were just so overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring our what to put in it, how to plan, finding supplies we could trust, and not leaving anything. So don’t feel bad ‒ we’ve been there too!
Let’s take the stress out of it. We’ve helped over 10,000 people get prepared personally following recommendations from FEMA and government agencies, and we’re happy to share our system and help you get it done now. After all, you can’t prepare after an earthquake strikes.
Here's the short list:
The most important thing is to prepare a thoughtful plan on how your family will respond after an earthquake. Map out an evacuation plan for your home, highlight danger areas to avoid, and settle on a primary and backup meeting place. Create and print a list of emergency and personal contacts. Find out where local agencies place shelters in the aftermath of a disaster. Know your work/school plan and evac routes.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Rendezvous Point. Decide where your family can safely meet, and even plan for a backup location. Most days your family is separated (at school and work). Even if you are home when a quake strikes, evacuating can be confusing.
*PRO TIP ‒ Buy, print, or make local maps, and mark hospitals, urgent care centers, and possible evacuation routes. Google maps may not be an option, so be ready to work off a paper map.
You can't survive without water, so make it a priority. Find bagged water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for at least 72 hours per-person. Beyond bagged water, set your family up to create your own clean water with purification tablets, an expandable water carrier, and a water filtration bottle. We make sure our bags have water capabilities for a gallon of water per-day per-person. Don’t settle for less.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Bagged water. You can’t fill up old bottles and call it a day. You need water that is sealed air-tight to avoid bacteria for at least 5 years. The last thing you want in an emergency is contaminated water, so look for bagged water that is Coast-Guard approved.
*PRO TIP ‒ Find yourself without water? Your water heater, ice cubes in the freezer, and even the back of the toilet (purified) are all good sources of drinking water.
Keeping energy levels high when you need to travel on foot is vital, so throwing old granola bars and a can of soup in your bag won’t cut it. Your family needs high calorie and nutrient content that will hold up in any condition.
Find food with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get at least enough for 72 hours. Our bags are packed with over 1,000 calories per-person per-day, and yours should be too.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Military-style MRE bars, because they are dense, sustaining, and long-lasting. They are good for at least 5 years, so you won’t have to keep re-provisioning.
*PRO TIP ‒ Basic snacks won’t cut it- you need something advanced. After a disaster, food becomes currency. Don’t pinch pennies.
Being able to treat wounds is a survival must. Get a large first aid kit, and make sure it has bandages, gauze, tape, alcohol pads, and splints at the very least.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Latex gloves. You never know who might have a communicable disease, or what you may have to touch in the course of providing first aid.
*PRO TIP ‒ Stock up on medicine to treat illness and wounds. Think aspirin, ibuprofen, antacid, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream, among others.
Emergencies are less dangerous with updated info and light, but it’s tough when internet, TV, phones, and the electric grid are down. You need evacuation instructions and survival info, so an off-the-grid radio is key. Pack extra flashlights, waterproof matches, a 30-hour candle, and bright sticks. Even a Flint and Steel comes in handy when you are desperate for light and warmth.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Experts agree, a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight is crucial. It gives you access to light and communication without batteries or the power grid.
*PRO TIP ‒ Find a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight that also charges your phone. You’ll be glad you can stay in touch.
This isn't the first thing people think of, but it is an absolute game-changer in an emergency. Pack travel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor and shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, infectious waste bags, maxi pads, a washcloth, glasses, contacts and contact solution.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Infectious Waste bags are particularly important- not disposing of waste leads to infection and disease. Often these are the biggest dangers.
*PRO TIP ‒ Pack Maxi Pads. It’s often overlooked, but makes a huge difference in comfort and hygiene.
Sometimes the most dangerous part of a disaster is the sharp, toxic, unhygienic or generally treacherous environment left after an earthquake. Pack goggles, a dust mask, work gloves, and waders/galoshes.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Leather gloves; your hands are the easiest places to cut with debris after an earthquake, and an infection can be lethal.
*PRO TIP ‒ Make sure your dust mask is N95 certified. That means it’s medical-grade and can actually remove harmful particles in the air. Think about building debris after a collapse, like lead, asbestos, and other chemicals.
Staying dry and warm is essential the key to staying alive and healthy. You’ll want thin, lightweight sleeping bags, blankets and ponchos, as well as body warmers and an emergency tent.
* MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Emergency blanket. They are heat-reflective and the lightest weight; specifically designed for emergencies.
*PRO TIP ‒ Pack quick-activating hand/body warmers and a fleece blanket for extra protection against the cold.
Think carefully about what you’ll need when evacuating ‒ you won’t have internet or phone service. Pack copies of personal documents, family and emergency contact info, cash, house + car keys, glasses + contacts.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Medication. If it’s vital to your health now, have extra packed for an emergency. It’s very unlikely that the pharmacy will be open.
*PRO TIP ‒ Cell signal in a disaster area may be jammed, so have a pre-established out-of-town contact person for you and your family. Write it down and have a copy in your earthquake bag.
You know you need one, so stop putting it off and get it done right now. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, we’ve made one for you. The Earthquake Bag is tailored specifically for your family needs, and has even more than the recommended food, water, and tools for less than it costs to buy them yourself.
ps - Our Complete Bags are 25% off right now. Oh yeah, and we donate $5 to those in need of emergency help right now for every order we receive. Hope we can help you out!
- Zach Miller
We thought we prepared for an earthquake... we were wrong. 0
Photo Credit: Ross Setford
Written by Steph Pemberton, New Zealand
It was just after midnight when the shaking started.
Initially it was enough of a jolt to wake us all up, but not enough to get me out of bed.
Once I realized it was a big one, and I mean a BIG one, it was already too late. The earth was rumbling like a freight train and the house was swaying side to side. I tried to run for cover, but the power of the earthquake threw me sideways into a chest of drawers.
Winded and bruised, I made it to a doorframe while we waited for the shaking to stop.
It didn’t stop.
The earthquake lasted for two minutes- an eternity.
Once the ground finally settled, an eerie silence filled the house. Whether out of motion sickness or absolute pure fear, I ran to the bathroom to be sick.
After trying to settle back to bed with our hearts racing a million miles an hour, our house suddenly illuminated with a bright light. We went to investigate, assuming the streetlights or a neighbor with a flashlight as the likely culprit.
We gingerly crept back to bed thinking it was over, but an hour later the tsunami sirens sounded and within 60 seconds we were out the door. Five of us, plus a dog, piled into our car and headed for the hills.
When it came to earthquakes, we thought we were prepared. After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the whole country was on edge.
Trying to be proactive, I headed off to my local hardware store to put together an emergency kit. And I went all out. Flashlights, batteries, dust masks, a fire extinguisher, first aid kits, blankets, a radio, gloves, food, and toilet paper – you name it, I bought it. There were enough supplies to look after five housemates and a dog for three days.
“She’ll be right” is a typical Kiwi attitude, so some laughed at what they deemed as me being excessively over-prepared. Just you wait, I joked, you’ll come begging for some supplies in the next earthquake!
I packed up my emergency kit into a large container and gave myself a pat on the back.
But fast-forward to the 7.8 earthquake we experienced two weeks ago, I was kicking myself.
Of course it was a great idea putting together an emergency kit, but with mere minutes to evacuate, we couldn’t take the kit with us, because a) it weighed 70 pounds, b) the container was too big to fit in the car, and c) it was in the laundry cupboard under a heavy toolbox.
While it would have been ideal if we were stuck in our house, in the instance of getting evacuated we couldn’t take it with us.
Panicking and unable to decide what to take, we left with the clothes we were wearing and nothing else.
The power in the whole city was out, and at 1am it seemed like peak hour traffic down our quiet street.
We took shelter at a friend’s house on the hill with some others also trying to get to higher ground. Huddled around a tiny radio, we sat in the dark waiting to hear news about the possible tsunami. It wasn’t until four hours and no tsunami later that we got the all clear to go back home.
Our house was unscathed aside from a few items smashed on the floor, but the full extend of the damage wouldn’t be known until the sun came up.
Roads torn up, buildings on a lean, the coastline uplifted, entire towns cut off from landslides, and the downtown of Wellington, the capital city, closed down. Two people died, one crushed underneath his home.
Photo Credit: Anthony Phelps
Growing up in New Zealand, we practice earthquake drills at school. But you never prepare for the biggest earthquake in New Zealand’s history to hit at midnight.
Bewildered and without power, it’s hard to make sense of the situation and figure out what to do. And although we had an emergency kit, we couldn’t get to it in time and it was too heavy to carry if we were unable to use our car. We needed something lighter, that we could grab in an instant.
Everyone in Wellington knows the risks of where we live. The city is situated right on top of the collision zone where the Australasian Plate meets the Pacific Plate – which often makes for a bit of a bumpy time.
So it’s surprising how unprepared we all are. We know big earthquakes are coming, we know we should plan for it, but we don’t think about getting around to it until it’s too late.
Two weeks after the earthquake, many organizations are still locked out of their offices – some are too dangerous for people to go back inside, and some are now being earmarked for demolition.
The first thing we did when we got back to work was to check our emergency packs. We each have one under our desks with essential items, and practically, it’s in a backpack.
Why didn’t I think of using a backpack? It seems so obvious now. We’ve learned we need to have something we can grab at a moment’s notice if we’re being evacuated again.
The most important thing is to get to a safe area as fast as possible. So an emergency kit in a backpack is perfect for this.
It’s not about being equipped for every scenario, but taking practical steps that will help you get through.
Organizing a portable and practical emergency pack for your home and for your office is the simplest way to be prepared.
- Zach Miller
Giving Campaign Update: Your orders have changed lives 0
2016 Donation Overview
- Zach Miller