Earthquake Safety Information

WHAT IS AN EARTHQUAKE?

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth's surface. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth's surface move slowly over, under, and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free causing the ground to shake. Most earthquakes occur at the boundaries where the plates meet; however, some earthquakes occur in the middle of plates.

 

Ground shaking from earthquakes can collapse buildings and bridges; disrupt gas, electric, and phone service; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and huge, destructive ocean waves (tsunamis). Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill and other unstable soil, and trailers and homes not tied to their foundations are at risk because they can be shaken off their mountings during an earthquake. When an earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.

The Northridge, California, earthquake of January 17, 1994, struck a modern urban environment generally designed to withstand the forces of earthquakes. Its economic cost, nevertheless, has been estimated at $20 billion. Fortunately, relatively few lives were lost. Exactly one year later, Kobe, Japan, a densely populated community less prepared for earthquakes than Northridge, was devastated by the most costly earthquake ever to occur. Property losses were projected at $96 billion, and at least 5,378 people were killed. These two earthquakes tested building codes and construction practices, as well as emergency preparedness and response procedures.

Where earthquakes have occurred in the past, they will happen again. Learn whether earthquakes are a risk in your area by contacting your local emergency management office, American Red Cross chapter, state geological survey, or department of natural resources.

Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning. Earthquakes can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. On a yearly basis, 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world. Estimates of losses from a future earthquake in the United States approach $200 billion.

There are 45 states and territories in the United States at moderate to very high risk from earthquakes, and they are located in every region of the country. California experiences the most frequent damaging earthquakes; however, Alaska experiences the greatest number of large earthquakes—most located in uninhabited areas. The largest earthquakes felt in the United States were along the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, where a three-month long series of quakes from 1811 to 1812 included three quakes larger than a magnitude of 8 on the Richter Scale. These earthquakes were felt over the entire Eastern United States, with Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi experiencing the strongest ground shaking.

AWARENESS INFORMATION

Expect aftershocks. Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that follow the main shock and can cause further damage to weakened buildings. After-shocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks, and a larger earthquake might occur.

Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking, or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. Much of the damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable. We must all work together in our communities to apply our knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programs, hazard hunts, and neighborhood and family emergency plans.

EMERGENCY INFORMATION

  1. The best protection during an earthquake is to get under heavy furniture such as a desk, table, or bench
  2. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls.

Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

DANGER ZONES

Earthquakes occur most frequently west of the Rocky Mountains, although historically the most violent earthquakes have occurred in the central United States. All 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes. Forty-one states or territories are at moderate to high risk.

HELP YOUR COMMUNITY GET READY

The media can raise awareness about earthquakes by providing important information to the community. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and hospitals.
  2. Conduct a week-long series on locating hazards in the home.
  3. Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do during an earthquake.
  4. Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home. Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about shutting off utilities.

DID YOU KNOW...

  • Many people think of California as "Earthquake Country," but the state with the most major earthquakes is Alaska. The grandaddy of earthquakes was along the New Madrid Fault in Missouri where a 3-month long series of quakes in 1811--1812 included three quakes larger than a magnitude of 8. These quakes were felt over 2 million square miles.
  • The Richter Scale was developed by Charles F. Richter in 1935. It is a logarithmic measurement of the amount of energy released by an earthquake. Earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 4.5 are strong enough to be recorded by sensitive seismographs all over the world. In the United States several thousand shocks of varying sizes occur annually.
  • The effects of earthquakes are also measured by the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale. The intensity of a quake is evaluated according to the observed severity of the quake at specific locations. The Mercalli scale rates the intensity on a Roman nu meral scale that ranges from I to XII.
  • The Loma Prieta (northern California) earthquake of October 1989 registered 7.1 on the Richter scale and as high as XI on the Mercalli scale.

WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE STRIKES ?

Develop a Family Disaster Plan:

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services--water, gas, electricity or telephones--were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

Families can--and do--cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed in this brochure to create your family's disaster plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere--at work, at school or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe?

Steps to Safety:

Find Out What Could Happen to You. Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office and American Red Cross chapter--be prepared to take notes:

  • Ask what types of disasters are most likely to happen. Request information on how to prepare for each.
  • Learn about your community's warning signals: what they sound like and what you should do when you hear them.
  • Ask about animal care after disaster. Animals may not be allowed inside emergency shelters due to health regulations.
  • Find out how to help elderly or disabled persons, if needed.
  • Next, find out about the disaster plans at your workplace, your children's school or daycare center and other places where your family spends time.

Create a Disaster Plan. Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disaster. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather and earthquakes to children. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.

  • Discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain what to do in each case.

  • Pick two places to meet:

    1. Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
    2. Outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
  • Ask an out-of-state friend to be your "family contact." After a disaster, its often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact's phone number.
  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. Plan how to take care of your pets.

Complete This Checklist

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by phones (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
  • Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number for emergency help.
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
  • Check if you have adequate insurance coverage.
  • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it's kept.
  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms.
  • Conduct a home hazard hunt.
  • Stock emergency supplies and assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit.
  • Take a Red Cross first aid and CPR class.
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster.

Practice and Maintain Your Plan

  • Quiz your kids every six months so they remember what to do.

  • Conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills.
  • Replace stored water every three months and stored food every six months.
  • Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

Emergency Supplies

Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with items you may need in an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks, duffle bags or covered trash containers.

Include:

  • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil.

  • One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.

  • A first aid kit that includes your family's prescription medications.

  • Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.

  • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler's checks

  • Sanitation supplies.

  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.

  • An extra pair of glasses.

  • Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car.

Utilities

  • Locate the main electric fuse box, water service main and natural gas main. Learn how and when to turn these utilities off. Teach all responsible family members. Keep necessary tools near gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Remember, turn off the utilities only if you suspect the lines are damaged or if you are instructed to do so. If you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Working with neighbors can save lives and property. Meet with your neighbors to plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster until help arrives. If you're a member of a neighborhood organization, such as a home association or crime watch group, introduce disaster preparedness as a new activity. Know your neighbors' special skills (e.g., medical, technical) and consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as disabled and elderly persons. Make plans for child care in case parents can't get home.

Home Hazard Unit

  • During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. Anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a home hazard. For example, a hot water heater or a bookshelf can fall. Inspect your home at least once a year and fix potential hazards.  
  • Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards. 

Evacuation

  • Evacuate immediately if told to do so:
  • Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your family disaster supplies kit
  • Lock your home.
  • Use travel routes specified by local authorities--don't use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.
  • If you're sure you have time: Shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving, if instructed to do so; Post a note telling others when you left and where you are going; Make arrangements for your pets.

If Disaster Strikes

If disaster strikes remain calm and patient. Put your plan into action. Check for injuries. Give first aid and get help for seriously injured people. Listen to your battery powered radio for news and instructions. Evacuate, if advised to do so. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.

Check for damage in your home...

  • Use flashlights--do not light matches or turn on electrical switches, if you suspect damage.

  • Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards.
  • Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
  • Shut off any other damaged utilities.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately.

Remember to....

  • Confine or secure your pets.

  • Call your family contact--do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
  • Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case service is cut off.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.

If you are at risk from earthquakes:

  • Pick "safe places" in each room of your home. A safe place could be under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance to move to safety, the less likely you will be injured. Injury statistics show that people moving as little as 10 feet during an earthquake's shaking are most likely to be injured. Also pick safe places, in your office, school and other buildings you are frequently in.

  • Practice drop, cover, and hold-on in each safe place. Drop under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to one leg of the table or desk. Protect your eyes by keeping your head down. Practice these actions so that they become an automatic response. When an earthquake or other disaster occurs, many people hesitate, trying to remember what they are supposed to do. Responding quickly and automatically may help protect you from injury.

  • Practice drop, cover, and hold-on at least twice a year. Frequent practice will help reinforce safe behavior.

  • Wait in your safe place until the shaking stops, then check to see if you are hurt. You will be better able to help others if you take care of yourself first, then check the people around you. Move carefully and watch out for things that have fallen or broken, creating hazards. Be ready for additional earthquakes called "aftershocks."

  • Be on the lookout for fires. Fire is the most common earthquake-related hazard, due to broken gas lines, damaged electrical lines or appliances, and previously contained fires or sparks being released.

  • If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use the stairs, not the elevator. Earthquakes can cause fire alarms and fire sprinklers to go off. You will not be certain whether there is a real threat of fire. As a precaution, use the stairs.

  • If you're outside in an earthquake, stay outside. Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Crouch down and cover your head. Many injuries occur within 10 feet of the entrance to buildings. Bricks, roofing, and other materials can fall from buildings, injuring persons nearby. Trees, streetlights, and power lines may also fall, causing damage or injury.

  • Inform guests, babysitters, and caregivers of your plan. Everyone in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs. Assure yourself that others will respond properly even if you are not at home during the earthquake.

  • Get training. Take a first aid class from your local Red Cross chapter. Get training on how to use a fire extinguisher from your local fire department. Keep your training current. Training will help you to keep calm and know what to do when an earthquake occurs.

  • Discuss earthquakes with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing earthquakes ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.

  • Talk with your insurance agent. Different areas have different requirements for earthquake protection. Study locations of active faults, and if you are at risk, consider purchasing earthquake insurance.

Create a Disaster Supplies Kit:

Why Talk About a Disaster Supplies Kit?

After a disaster, local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it may take days. Basic services, such as electricity, gas, water, and telephones, may be cut off, or you may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice. You probably won’t have time to shop or search for the supplies you’ll need. Your family will cope best by preparing for disaster before it strikes.

Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it may take days...you probably won’t have time to shop or search for the supplies you’ll need.

What Is a Disaster Supplies Kit?

Assembling the supplies you might need following a disaster is an important part of your Family Disaster Plan. Following a disaster, having extra supplies at home or supplies to take with you in the event of an evacuation can help your family endure evacuation or home confinement. Learn more about Disaster Supplies Kits by contacting your local emergency management agency or your local American Red Cross chapter.

Awareness Information

Involve Children in Disaster Preparedness. Ask children to help you remember to keep your kits in working order by changing the food and water every six months and replacing batteries as necessary. Children might make calendars or posters with the appropriate dates marked on them. Ask children to think of items that they would like to include in their own Disaster Supplies Kit, such as books or games or appropriate nonperishable food items.

Prepare Your Kit

Tips for Your Disaster Supplies Kit

  • Keep a smaller Disaster Supplies Kit in the trunk of each car. If you become stranded or are not able to return home, having some items will help you to be more comfortable until help arrives.
     
  • Keep items in airtight plastic bags. This will help protect them from damage or spoiling.
     
  • Replace stored food and water every six months. Replacing your food and water supplies will help ensure their freshness.
     
  • Rethink your kit and family needs at least once a year. Replace batteries, update clothes, etc.
     
  • Ask your physician or pharmacist about storing prescription medications. It may be difficult to obtain prescription medications during a disaster because stores may be closed or supplies may be limited.
     
  • Use an easy-to-carry container for the supplies you would most likely need for an evacuation. Label it clearly. Possible containers include: a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, a duffel bag, a cargo container that will fit on the roof of your vehicle.

Disaster Supplies Kit Basics

The following items might be needed at home or for an evacuation. Keeping them in an easy-to-carry backpack or duffel bag near your door would be best in case you need to evacuate quickly, such as in a tsunami, flash flood, or major chemical emergency. Store your kit in a convenient place known to all family members. Kit basics are:

  • A portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries.
     
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
     
  • First aid kit and first aid manual.
     
  • Supply of prescription medications.
     
  • Credit card and cash.
     
  • Personal identification.
     
  • An extra set of car keys.
     
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
     
  • Signal flare.
     
  • Map of the area and phone numbers of places you could go.
     
  • Special needs, for example, diapers or formula, prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions, hearing aid batteries, spare wheelchair battery, spare eyeglasses, or other physical needs.

If you have additional space, consider adding some of the items from your Evacuation Supplies Kit.

Evacuation Supplies Kit

Place in an easy-to-carry container the supplies you would most likely need if you were to be away from home for several days. Label the container clearly. Remember to include:

  • Disaster Supplies Kit basics
  • Three gallons of water per person.
  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food.
  • Kitchen accessories: manual can opener; mess kits or paper cups, plates, and plastic/disposable utensils; utility knife; a can of cooking fuel if food must be cooked; household liquid bleach to treat drinking water; sugar, salt, pepper; aluminum foil; plastic resealable bags.
  • One complete change of clothing and footwear for each family member, sturdy shoes or work boots, rain gear, hat and gloves, thermal underwear, sunglasses.
  • Blankets or sleeping bag for each family member.
  • Tools and other accessories: paper, pencil; needles and thread; pliers, shut-off wrench, shovels, and other useful tools; tape; medicine dropper; whistle; plastic sheeting; small canister, A-B-C-type fire extinguisher; emergency preparedness manual; tube tent; compass.
  • Sanitation and hygiene items: toilet paper, towelettes; soap, hand sanitizer, liquid detergent; feminine supplies; personal items such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, comb and brush, lip balm; plastic garbage bags (heavy-duty) and ties (for personal sanitation uses); medium-sized plastic bucket with tight lid; disinfectant; household chlorine bleach; small shovel for digging an expedient latrine.
  • Entertainment, such as games and books.
  • Remember to consider the needs of very young and older family members, such as infants and elderly or disabled persons: For baby: formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications. For adults: heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin, prescription drugs, denture needs, contact lenses and supplies, extra eyeglasses, and hearing aid batteries. 

To Build a Makeshift Toilet

  • Line a bucket with a garbage bag and make a toilet seat out of two boards placed parallel to each other across the bucket. After each use, pour a disinfectant such as bleach (1 part liquid chlorine bleach to 10 parts water) into the garbage bag. This will help avoid infection and stop the spread of disease. Cover the bucket tightly when it is not in use
  • Bury garbage and human waste to avoid the spread of disease by rats and insects. Dig a pit two to three feet deep and at least 50 feet downhill or away from any well, spring, or water supply.

Home Disaster Supplies Kit

In addition to your Disaster Supplies Kit basics and Evacuation Supplies Kit, gathering the following items will help your family endure home confinement, which often happens following disasters and may include the loss of utilities.

  • Wrench to turn off household gas and water. Keep it near the shut-off valves.
     
  • A week’s supply of food and water.
     
  • Additional blankets and sleeping bags.

Also, consider using a NOAA Weather Radio with the tone-alert feature in your home. NOAA Weather Radio is the best means for receiving warnings from the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by NOAA Weather Radios sold in many stores. NOAA Weather Radio now broadcasts warning and post event information for all types of hazards--both natural (such as earthquakes and volcanic activity) and technological (such as chemical releases or oil spills). Working with other federal agencies and the Federal Communications Commission’s new Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio is an "all hazards" radio network, making it the single source for the most comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public. Your National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) feature, which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued for your county, giving you immediate information about a life-threatening situation. The average range is 40 miles, depending on topography; the National Weather Radio signal is a line-of-sight signal, which does not bore through hills or mountains.

Water

Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency:

  • Store water in plastic containers, such as soft drink plastic bottles. Seal containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Replace water every six months. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
  • Keep at least a three-day supply of water, or a minimum of three gallons per person. It is strongly recommended to have more if possible. Use one-half gallon per day for drinking, and one-half gallon for cooking and sanitation. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more. Store your three-day supply in a handy place. You need to have water packed and ready in case there is no time to fill water bottles when disaster strikes.

Water needs to be treated only if it is of questionable purity:

  • Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Strain water through a clean cloth to remove bulk impurities. Bring water to a rolling boil for about one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
  • You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir, and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
  • Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or other solid impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right side up when the lid is upside down (make sure the cup is not touching the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
  •  
  • Melt ice cubes or use water from undamaged hot water tanks, toilet tanks (not the bowl), and water pipes if you need additional water.
  • If you need to find water outside of your home, you can use rainwater; streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water; ponds and lakes; and natural springs. If you question its purity, be sure to treat the water first. Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or a dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. Do NOT drink flood water.

Food

Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, you should consider preparing a supply that will last that long. The easiest way to develop a two-week stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you normally keep on your shelves. If your water supply is limited, try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Familiar foods can lift morale and give a feeling of security in time of stress. Also, canned foods won’t require cooking, water, or special preparation. Take into account your family’s unique needs and tastes. Try to include foods that they will enjoy and that are also high in calories, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Pack at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water, and store it in a handy place. You need to have these items packed and ready in case there is no time to gather food from the kitchen when disaster strikes.
  • Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking, and little or no water. Foods that are compact and lightweight are easy to store and carry.
  • If you must heat food, pack a can of cooking fuel.
  • Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned food with high liquid content. Recommended foods include:

    • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Canned juice, milk, and soup (if powdered, store extra water).
    • High-energy foods, such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, and trail mix.
    • Comfort foods, such as hard candy, sweetened cereals, candy bars, and cookies.
    • Instant coffee, tea bags.
    • Foods for infants, elderly persons, or persons on special diets, if necessary.

    Also consider:

    • Compressed food bars. They store well, are lightweight, taste good, and are nutritious.
    • Trail mix. Available prepackaged, or assemble your own.
    • Dried foods. They can be nutritious and satisfying, but contain a lot of salt, which promotes thirst.
    • Freeze-dried foods. They are tasty and lightweight, but will need water for reconstitution.
    • Instant meals. Cups of noodles or cups of soup are a good addition, although they need water for reconstitution.
    • Snack-sized canned goods. Good because they generally have pull-top lids or twist-open keys.
    • Prepackaged beverages. Those in foil packets and foil-lined boxes are suitable because they are tightly sealed and will keep for a long time.

    Food options to avoid:

    • Commercially dehydrated foods. They can require a great deal of water for reconstitution and extra effort in preparation.
    • Bottled foods. They are generally too heavy and bulky, and break easily.
    • Meal-sized canned foods. They are usually bulky and heavy.
    • Whole grains, beans, pasta. Preparation could be complicated under the circumstances of a disaster.
  • If your electricity goes off:

    • First, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator.
    • Then, use the foods from the freezer. To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers (meaning foods are safe to eat) for at least three days.
    • Finally, begin to use nonperishable foods and staples.
  • Remember to store nonperishable foods for your pets.

First Aid Kit

Assemble a first aid kit for your Disaster Supplies Kit and one for each car.

  • The basics for your first aid kit include:

    • First aid manual.
    • Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes.
    • Assorted sizes of safety pins.
    • Cleansing agent/soap.
    • Latex gloves (2 pairs).
    • Sunscreen.
    • 2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6).
    • 4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6).
    • Triangular bandages (3).
    • Nonprescription drugs.
    • 2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls).
    • 3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls).
    • Scissors.
    • Tweezers.
    • Needle.
    • Moistened towelettes.
    • Antiseptic.
    • Thermometer.
    • Tongue depressor blades (2).
    • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant.
  • Have the following nonprescription drugs in your Disaster Supplies Kit:

    • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever.
    • Antidiarrheal medication.
    • Antacid (for stomach upset).
    • Syrup of ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the poison control center).
    • Laxative.
    • Activated charcoal (use if advised by the poison control center).
    • Vitamins.
  • Add any necessary prescription and nonprescription drugs.
  • Add special needs for infants, elderly persons, or anyone with serious allergies.

Important Documents

  • Keep the following original documents in a safe deposit box if possible, and copies in a waterproof, fire-resistant portable container:

    • Will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds.
    • Passports, social security cards, immunization records.
    • Bank account numbers.
    • Credit card account numbers and companies.
    • Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers.
    • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates).

Protect Your Property

  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these items can fall over, causing damage or injury.

  • Secure items that might fall (televisions, books, computers, etc.). Falling items can cause damage or injury.

  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. The contents of cabinets can shift during the shaking of an earthquake. Latches will prevent cabinets from flying open and contents from falling out.

  • Move large or heavy objects and fragile items (glass or china) to lower shelves. There will be less damage and less chance of injury if these items are on lower shelves.

  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches. Latches will help keep contents of cabinets inside.

  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches, on bottom shelves. Chemical products will be less likely to create hazardous situations from lower, confined locations.

  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes can knock things off walls, causing damage or injury.

  • Brace overhead light fixtures. During earthquakes, overhead light fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or injury.

  • Strap the water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from damage and leaks.

  • Bolt down any gas appliances. After an earthquake, broken gas lines frequently create fire hazards.

  • Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings will be less likely to break.

  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger.

  • Check to see if your house is bolted to its foundation. Homes bolted to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during earthquakes. Homes that are not bolted have been known to slide off their foundations, and many have been destroyed because they are uninhabitable.

  • Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer. Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, front and back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports, and garage doors. Learn about additional ways you can protect your home. A professional can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage.

  • Follow local seismic building standards and safe land use codes that regulate land use along fault lines. Some municipalities, counties, and states have enacted codes and standards to protect property and occupants. Learn about your area's codes before construction.

DURING AN EARTHQUAKE

  • Drop, cover, and hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. It is very dangerous to try to leave a building during an earthquake because objects can fall on you. Many fatalities occur when people run outside of buildings, only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. In U.S. buildings, you are safer to stay where you are.

  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.

  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Drop to the ground and stay there until the shaking stops. Injuries can occur from falling trees, street-lights and power lines, or building debris.

  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seat belt fastened until the shaking has stopped. Trees, power lines, poles, street signs, and other overhead items may fall during earthquakes. Stopping will help reduce your risk, and a hard-topped vehicle will help protect you from flying or falling objects. Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.

  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. More injuries happen when people move during the shaking of an earthquake. After the shaking has stopped, if you go outside, move quickly away from the building to prevent injury from falling debris.

  • Stay away from windows. Windows can shatter with such force that you can be injured several feet away.

  • In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake. Earthquakes frequently cause fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems to go off even if there is no fire. Check for and extinguish small fires, and, if exiting, use the stairs.

  • If you are in a coastal area, move to higher ground. Tsunamis are often created by earthquakes.

  • If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris that could be loosened by the earthquake. Landslides commonly happen after earthquakes.

AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE

  • Check yourself for injuries. Often people tend to others without checking their own injuries. You will be better able to care for others if you are not injured or if you have received first aid for your injuries.

  • Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves. This will protect your from further injury by broken objects.

  • After you have taken care of yourself, help injured or trapped persons. If you have it in your area, call 9-1-1, then give first aid when appropriate. Don't try to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.

  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Putting out small fires quickly, using available resources, will prevent them from spreading. Fire is the most common hazard following earthquakes. Fires followed the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 for three days, creating more damage than the earthquake.

  • Leave the gas on at the main valve, unless you smell gas or think it's leaking. It may be weeks or months before professionals can turn gas back on using the correct procedures. Explosions have caused injury and death when homeowners have improperly turned their gas back on by themselves.

  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately and carefully. Avoid the hazard of a chemical emergency.

  • Open closet and cabinet doors cautiously. Contents may have shifted during the shaking of an earthquake and could fall, creating further damage or injury.

  • Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe. Aftershocks following earthquakes can cause further damage to unstable buildings. If your home has experienced damage, get out before aftershocks happen.

  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.

  • Listen to a portable, battery-operated radio (or television) for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, this may be your main source of information. Local radio and local officials provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation.

  • Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, drop, cover, and hold on! Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks, and even months following an earthquake.

  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines, and stay out of damaged areas. Hazards caused by earthquakes are often difficult to see, and you could be easily injured.

  • Stay out of damaged buildings. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe. Damaged buildings may be destroyed by aftershocks following the main quake.

  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to inspect your home. Kerosene lanterns, torches, candles, and matches may tip over or ignite flammables inside.

  • Inspect the entire length of chimneys carefully for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to fire or injury from falling debris during an aftershock. Cracks in chimneys can be the cause of a fire years later.

  • Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents, for insurance claims.

  • Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.

  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.

    • Examine walls, floor, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.

    • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

    • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.

    • Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.

    • Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.

  • Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.

  • Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard. The behavior of pets may change dramatically after an earthquake. Normally quiet and friendly cats and dogs may become aggressive or defensive.

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Guardian Insurance does not endorse the content of these articles and they are provided merely for information. These articles are reproduced with the permission of the Author.