Being Disaster Ready

With the aftermath of Sandy in the forefront of my mind, I have also been thinking about emergency preparedness for my own family. Living in Northern California, we don’t think about hurricanes or tornadoes, but obviously, earthquakes. It’s easy to be complacent about it, because major earthquakes are rare… but unlike hurricanes or tornadoes or snowstorms, there is no way to predict when an earthquake will hit (well, ok, tornadoes aren’t as predictable as snowstorms or hurricanes, but at least it is precipitated by extreme weather). We only know that the longer we go without a major rattler, the more likely one will hit.

Since he grew up in CA, R was already well versed in how to be prepared beforehand, and how to act during an earthquake. (He was a young teen when the Northridge quake hit, was shaken awake from a dream in which he thought his friends were shaking his house!) That said, we weren’t *really* prepared until we had J a few years ago.

A good basic list with discussion on how to be prepared beforehand and how to act during an earthquake is here. The steps are:

1) ID hazards, and secure them. Hardware stores sell all kinds of earthquake straps, etc. This doubles as baby proofing! Our TV, shelves, J’s bunkbed, the washing machine/dryer, are all fastened to the wall, specifically to the studs. All our kitchen cabinets also have little hooks to lock them shut.

2) Make a plan. R and I have agreed that if something happens during the day, we will both converge on wherever J happens to be; if it’s during school hours, we meet at J’s school. Text each other to confirm each other’s status (when service is limited, text goes through even if voice does not). My father in NJ is our emergency out of state contact. We both know where our emergency supplies are. Which brings me to….

3) Make disaster kits. We have a store of canned and dried goods, and water, squirreled away. We try to buy new cans every year, and use the old ones once we’ve refreshed the supply. The kit includes a hand crank radio/charger (so we can charge our phones), flashlights, and batteries. I don’t know if there is an extra medical kit in there, I should check that soon. And I know we DON’T have cash in there, but maybe we should….

4) Assess safety of your home itself. Our complex is relatively young, and has no masonry, no garage, so we are in relatively good shape. We are also, thankfully, in an area with low probability of liquifaction. (The USGS has good maps of liquifaction zones.)

5) During an earthquake, protect yourself; Drop, Cover, and Hold On. We recently went over this with J, as there was an earthquake exhibit at the Cal Academy of Sciences, and his teachers at school also talked about it. Get under a table and hold onto the legs. Make sure you are away from windows. He took this very seriously, and while R was installing earthquake straps onto his bed, he decided that his father was trying to START an earthquake, and immediately went under the kitchen table!

One thing interesting that I recently found out was that what R was trained to do as a child (brace yourself in a doorway) is no longer recommended, as building codes have improved. Apparently, the safest place really is under a table, away from windows.

6) After a quake, check for injuries. This one reminds me of what they tell you on airlines: take care of yourself first, and then address others near you. Also, check for other immediate hazards. (fire, gas leak, etc.)

7) After immediate concerns are taken care of, follow your emergency plan!


All in all, I think we are decently well prepared, except for the emergency stash of cash. When we first started putting together our emergency kit, I didn’t really think much of that part, but observing the aftermath in NJ, I see the point. If there are widespread power outages, no one is going to be able to ring you up on plastic!

I hope you all have explicit plans in place, and that we never have to put them into practice.

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3 Responses to Being Disaster Ready

  1. My fantasy earthquake kit has 2 dirt bikes, 20 days of MREs, and a camp latrine.

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