Securing a Piece of Mind
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, preparing for the Big One is a necessity one must not ignore. San Francisco, otherwise known as Earthquake Country, is situated right along San Andreas Fault.
The City by the Bay has experienced two major earthquakes in the last century- the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (7.8 Magnitude) which ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time claiming around 3,000 lives, second is the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (6.9 Magnitude).
No one knows exactly when the Big One will strike again, as seismologists use advanced technologies to detect its arrival, unfortunately, it is not preventable. So what do you do when you live in an area where you know it is just a matter of time before the inevitable happens? PREPARE!
That’s about all you can do other than contemplating moving somewhere else. Preparing for the Big One is not just a state of mind, but a way of living for most people living in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Here are some tips that my family does to prepare for a major earthquake:
1) Conduct Emergency Preparedness Drills
My husband, daughter, and I practice this by heart. We conduct drills once every 6 months. We discuss our game plan and meeting point outside our house in case of an earthquake and/or fire.
Discuss what and what not to do in case of earthquake emergencies. Walk to a safe, designated meeting place outside of the house away from buildings and street lamps.
In case a major earthquake happens and we are not inside our house, we also have a game plan of what to do in case we are separated.
Since I work in downtown San Francisco, we have to take that into consideration on our game plan. In case the phone lines are dead, and cell phones do not have signals, how do we leave messages for each other, where do we leave these messages so they can be seen by us has been part of our discussions.
Where do we meet? What do we do? When you find yourself stranded and nowhere to go to, keep in mind that part of survival in this major situation would be to know how to calm yourself and to think straight.
So as part of our ongoing preparedness, we discuss ways on how we should proceed and where to proceed when the inevitable happens. We spoke of using permanent markers and writing bold messages on walls in designated meeting areas.
The messages should carry our own sign that we agreed upon that only we use so that we know it is one of us leaving the message.
People may think this may be overdoing it, but how else would you communicate when all the phone lines are not working and your cell phone has no signal?
Include in your discussion on how long would you have to wait to start searching for someone in your family? Then practice different scenarios.
2) Out of town contact
It would be wise to appoint an out-of-town contact that you or your family can check and leave messages with in case you got separated. As mentioned on item 1, there will be times that you cannot get a hold of anyone through cell phones.
If you happen to get to a payphone that works, and the only number you can dial are out of the area numbers, then leave your messages to a friend or family you designated then periodically check with them.
3) Know the earthquake faults in your area
There are maps that you can obtain from your city or county planning department. You can also visit http://usgs.gov to get more information. Also discuss that parts of our home are safe to run to.
4) Check for earthquake hazards in your home
If you have gas water heater, put braces on them. Same thing with gas appliances. If you have bookcases or heavy furniture that can topple, make sure to bolt them or anchor them on the wall or floor.
Make sure family members know how and when to shut off water, electricity and gas at main switches and valves. It would also be beneficial to keep a written instruction on how to do these steps in case they forget.
5) Keep Emergency Kits handy
Each of our rooms has a flashlight, for some reason if this happens at night and we lose power, we can just grab it. All three of us each have one underneath our bed.
This will be the one of the first ones we would grab in case of an emergency. We also load our cars with emergency kits consisting of First Aide, Medication, extra batteries, flashlights, portable radio, etc. You may want to include a toolbox in case you need it for shutting down utilities as mentioned in item no. 4.
6) Stock up on water and food
If you are someone who regularly fills up your pantry with groceries then you are, somehow, ready in a sense that you have food to eat. Question is do you have enough supplies to last for everyone to eat 3 meals for a week? Stocking for all the members enough to last a week so that you will have more than enough.
You also have to consider saving pet food if you have pets. Store canned goods that you do not have to cook or reheat, so called ready to eat, and are good to have so you do not have to worry about cooking them.
One more important thing, do not forget to keep a spare can opener to open these canned goods with. Storing enough food is an investment that would not go to waste, because you normally eat anyway, what you can do is check on the expiration dates, then use up the ones that will expire first the next time you cook your family’s meal.
Keep bags of rice, canned goods. Replenish them right away every time you cook one. Water is really the most critical day to day necessity because we not only drink water 3x a day.
So stocking up on a lot of bottled water that will be enough for any normal human consumption that would last a week. Another way to store water to be used for cooking is by saving some water from your faucet in a big water or drum container.
Replace them ever so often, by using them to water the plants and then re-filling with new water. I remember that we often do this back when I was growing up in the Philippines.
Another thing we do to store water is during the rainy season, we place the drum under the down spout to save the rain water coming from the roof. This maybe used for bathing in case the water pipe breaks.
If there are no calamities, we use them to water plants so it is not a total waste if summer has passed and no earthquake comes. Then when rainy season comes, we collect them again. This is a good idea because if water pipes break, you have something bathe with or flush the toilet.
7) Keep enough cash to use
Sometimes when a major calamity hits, it breaks systems that run the ATMs. And if earthquake hits on weekends, when banks are normally closed, you will not be able to withdraw that money.
You need cash to buy other necessities that you may need, if there is a power outage they cannot process your ATM/credit card or checks, so having enough cash is really helpful.
At least save a few hundred dollars in your home, keep it with your kits, so that when calamity hits you have money to use in case of emergencies.
8) Gas up your car and keep extra gasoline
As best practice, my father in law always advices, even in normal situations, to always make sure that we still have at least half a tank of gas at the end of the day.
This is one of the best advices we follow regularly, if you can have a full tank so much the better. You can also store spare gasoline that you can keep safely and away from children’s reach.
9) Pack up extra clothes and blankets
Both our cars have a duffel bag with changing clothes for all members of the family. Most importantly we have jackets and blankets to keep us warm.
You may want to pack up sturdy shoes, in case some of the areas are not drivable and you would have to walk long distance. Keep extra sleeping bags to sleep on at night.
10) Stock up on charcoal and propane for cooking
Save a few numbers of bags for cooking. Enough to cook 3 meals a day for 1 week. There are also propane gas tanks you can store. Depends on you how much you want to store.
There are also small cooking propane stoves they sell at discount stores for $11.95 each, with the propane canisters that can last a coupe of days. Each canister costs about $2.00 each. So with less than $10.00 you will be able to cook food for a week.
11) Earthquake insurance
If you are a homeowner living in an area wherein there is a high probability of getting hit with a catastrophic earthquake, it may not be a bad idea to buy yourself earthquake insurance.
Since basic home insurance does not cover structural damages caused by earthquakes, buying this type of insurance can save you a lot of heartache and headaches, especially when your house falls down in rubbles. In essence, you are buying your own peace of mind.
There are also other precautions you can do around your home to prevent huge damages like repairing plaster cracks on ceilings, walls, and foundation and making sure your home is earthquake ready so that damages would not be too overwhelming.
Hopefully these tips can be of help to anyone living in and around any earthquake country in any part of the world.