An earthquake can be scary, but taking some simple steps before one hits can potentially help you avoid injury and help you be prepared for the aftermath.
Make an earthquake preparedness plan
If you live in an area that has a potential for an earthquake, you should have a plan in place for what to do if one strikes. We recommend the following:
- Taking stock: Create a home inventory and review it annually with your insurance agent. A home inventory will help you afterward to catalog damages and help you file a claim.
- Getting covered: Most homeowners and renters policies don’t cover earthquake damage. Talk with your agent to find out what kind of coverage you have and what coverage you might need. Additional coverage for earthquakes may help if the worst happens.
- Gearing up: Make earthquake kits and keep them in a spot that you can get to them quickly so they can be reached even if your building is badly damaged. It is also a good idea to have a kit in your car and at your work. Keep your supplies in an easy to carry container such as a backpack. Your kit should have:
- First aid kit,
- Gloves and masks,
- Bottled water,
- High-calorie snack foods,
- A whistle to alert rescuers,
- Spare eyeglasses or contacts if needed,
- Toiletries, and
- Copies of personal identification.
- Filing it away: Make sure your important documents are stored in a secure place. Important documents, such as marriage licences, birth certificates and wills, should be stored in a safe that is rated to withstand the potential damage.
- Making a contact list: Create an emergency contact list, including your pets information. Ideally, your contact list would have some names that are outside your local area because it may be hard to contact people who are also affected by the earthquake. You should store this list with your earthquake kit.
- Practicing safety: Gather your family and practice “drop, cover and hold on.” Your family should also know where to find the earthquake kit and how to stay safe during an earthquake.
Secure your home
It is important to identify hazards and then prepare your home as best you can for a potential earthquake. The powerful forces of an earthquake can move even large and heavy objects. These heavy objects will be extremely dangerous if unsecured. A study by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) found that 55% of the injuries from the 1994 Northridge earthquake were caused by falling furniture or objects. Some steps you can take now to prepare your house include:
- Assessing your structure: Older homes may not be as sturdy as newer homes so you should check to see if your building has any weaknesses. Common weaknesses include structures not anchored to foundations, weak crawl spaces and unreinforced masonry walls or foundations. You might want to consult an expert to evaluate your residence.
- Securing large objects: Top heavy furniture, appliances and water heaters should be secured to wall studs. Special straps can tie down TVs and computers. Latches on kitchen cabinets can keep items on the shelves and mirrors and pictures should be hung on closed hooks.
- Hunting down hazards: Take a look around your residence and consider if an object can fall or break if shaken, and if so, what damage it could do. Lessen the danger of these hazards by:
- Moving heavy or large items to the floor or low shelves;
- Moving things that can fall on you away from where you spend a lot of time, this includes moving objects away from beds;
- Moving objects away from doors or potential escape routes.
If you take some time every week to make sure your home is safe, you’ll soon have a home that may keep you and your loved ones safe during an earthquake. Finally, you should know how to stay safe during an earthquake and what to do after an earthquake.