An earthquake can leave your home and family in disarray. The damage caused by an earthquake can easily exceed the limits of local jurisdictions and you may need to depend on your own resources for amounts of time ranging from several hours to several days.
By having a plan of action and preparing for an earthquake, you can reduce the chance of stress and panic and allow local jurisdictions to perform their functions to the best of their abilities.
Your family should always know how to contact one another following an earthquake to let everyone know your personal status. The most efficient way to accomplish this is to have everyone call a common relative or friend out of state and leave a message. This person should act as a contact and relay any messages from any other family member who calls. This should be done as soon as possible following an earthquake, as phone lines in and out of the region will most likely become jammed with traffic.
For parents with children, you should know your school's policy on where the children are to go following an earthquake. If it is unlikely for you to pick up the children at school, please arrange for a neighbor, relative or family friend to pick them up and go to a prearranged location.
Fires following earthquakes are one of the greatest threats to life and property. Several things that can be done to help reduce the potential for fire following the earthquake:
- Strap the water heater securely to the wall to prevent toppling and a leaking gas line,
- Install smoke detectors throughout the house,
- Install fire extinguishers in high-risk areas (kichen, etc.) and learn how to use them properly,
- Learn the location of utility shutoff points (gas, water, etc.) and learn how to shut them down,
- Store gasoline, other flammable liquids, pesticides, household chemicals, and other hazardous materials in unbreakable containers and move them away from possible sources of ignition.
For information on reducing the potential damage to your home and injury to your family, please see How To Fix My Home.
The average home has on hand some of the supplies and food required for up to three days, which may be the length of time before utilities are restored. The list below will help you determine any items not on hand, or items that should be stored together in case of emergency evacuation. Stocking your car or workplace with some of these supplies may also be desirable, since families may be physically separated in an emergency.
Water and Food
- Water. Each person requires one to two gallons a day for drinking. Also learn how to purify water, either through tablets or heat.
- Food. Keep pantry shelves well-stocked, preferably with canned foods and dried foods that can be eaten without cooking or refrigeration. Be sure to plan for any special diets. Don't forget a manual can opener.
Medical and General Hygiene
- An ample stock of hygiene products, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, and toilet paper.
- A spare pair of eyeglasses (you may not be able to continue wearing contacts) and an extra supply of any necessary medication.
- Any supplies needed for special care of babies, seniors and the disabled.
- A first aid kit and book. Taking a first aid course or CPR course will also be beneficial.
Tools and Hardware
- A working flashlight in a convenient location.
- A portable radio to listen to emergency information.
- Spare batteries (store them in the refrigerator to extend their life).
- A wrench for shutting off gas and water services.
- A fire extinguisher in high-risk areas.
The following are actions that should be taken in the event of an earthquake.
During an Earthquake
- If you are inside, stay in, get under a desk or table or brace yourself in a doorway, and stay away from windows, bookcases, chimneys and mirrors.
- If you are outside, stay outside, move to an open area, and beware of overhead wires, chimneys and falling objects.
- If you are in a car, pull over and stop, but not near power lines or under an overpass. Stay in your car until the shaking stops. If a line from a power pole falls onto your car, consider it a live electrical wire even if you see no sparks or arcing.
After an Earthquake
- Check for fires, leaking gas and injuries.
- Look for people who may be hurt or trapped.
- Do not use telephones except to require emergency help.
- Turn on a portable radio for instructions and news.
- Clean up spilled flammable liquids, chemicals and medicines.
- Check for leaking sewage under house or near street before using toilet.
- Organize emergency supplies and important legal documents in case of evacuation.
- Draw a moderate amount of cold water in the bathtub in case water service is disrupted later.
- Keep streets clear for emergency vehicles.
For more in-depth information regarding preparing for an earthquake, please visit the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).