Your home may have some level of structural damage to foundations, cripple walls, anchorage of walls to the floor or roof, masonry chimney, and around the garage opening or large window openings if soft story conditions are met. On the other hand, damage to non-structural elements and contents is most likely to occur to interior partitions, exterior wall panels, suspended ceilings, electrical and mechanical equipment, ducts, water and gas pipes, water heaters, hanging objects, furniture, home electronics, dishes, etc. In the meantime, electrical, gas, water and sewage, and transportation systems are most likely to be disrupted for several days, weeks, or even months after a strong earthquake. Emergency response agencies and hospitals will likely be over-whelmed and unable to provide immediate assistance. To help your family cope during and after future inevitable earthquakes, you should establish, update, or maintain your own earthquake preparedness plan now.
What is an Earthquake Preparedness Plan?
Earthquake preparedness is to know how to setup various disaster plans before a moderate-to-large earthquake hits your area, and how to react during and after the earthquake. The objective is to protect yourself and your family from destructive earthquakes as well as to minimize the earthquake damage to your home and its contents. Seismic retrofitting and contents mitigation are two major components of earthquake preparedness that will be discussed in separate articles. Disaster management and disaster recovery during and after the earthquake will also be discussed in another article. In this article, you will learn how to prepare personal survival kits, a household emergency kit including emergency food and water for two weeks, a financial recovery kit, and other essential emergency preparedness items.
How to Prepare Personal Survival Kits?
For each household member; keep one survival kit at home, another in the car, and a third kit at work/school. Backpacks or other small bags are best for survival kits. These kits are collections of first aid, survival, and emergency supplies that shall include:
- Medications, prescriptions list, medical insurance cards copies, doctors’ names and contact information.
- First aid kit and handbook, dust mask, sturdy shoes, and whistle.
- Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning solutions.
- Personal hygiene supplies.
- Bottled water, snack foods high in calories, and toiletries.
- Working flash-light with extra batteries and light bulbs.
- Extra cell phone battery and charger.
- Emergency cash and road maps.
- Copies of personal identification, and list of out-of-area emergency contact phone numbers.
- Games, crayons, writing materials and teddy bears for children.
How to Prepare a Household Emergency Kit?
Store a household emergency kit in an easily accessible outdoor location other than the garage. This kit which complements your family’s personal survival kits should be in a large watertight container that can be easily moved and should hold at least one week (ideally two weeks) emergency supplies of the following items:
- A minimum of one gallon per person per day of drinking water.
- Emergency food that is canned and packaged.
- Cooking utensils including a manual can opener.
- Charcoal or gas grill for outdoor cooking and matches.
- Pet food and pet restraints.
- First aid supplies and medications.
- Essential hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper.
- Extra car and house keys.
- A wrench and other basic tools.
- Working flash-light with extra batteries and light bulbs.
- A portable battery-operated radio with spare batteries.
- Comfortable warm clothing, baby items, extra socks, blankets or sleeping bags, and even a tent.
- Work gloves and protective goggles.
- Heavy-duty plastic bags for waste and to serve other uses.
How to Prepare a Financial Recovery Kit?
Copies of your essential financial documents should be kept in a fire-proof document safe in order to be available after a damaging earthquake. Consider purchasing a home safe or renting a safe deposit box. Copies of essential documents in this financial recovery kit shall include:
- Picture identifications, birth certificates, social security cards, naturalization papers or residency documents, passports, driver licenses, marriage license or divorce papers, child custody papers, and power of attorney papers.
- Medical prescription and records.
- Mortgage, home improvement records, homeowner and auto insurance policies, and earthquake insurance policy.
- A list of phone numbers for your financial institutions and credit card companies.
- Bank statements and financial records, credit card numbers, and certificates for stocks, bonds, and other investments.
- A list of your household inventory and possessions with photos and videos. Appraisals of valuable jewelry, art, and antiques. This item is particularly important for earthquake insurance claims.
- Deeds, titles, and other ownership records for property such as homes, autos, recreation vehicles, and boats.
- A backup of critical files on your computer. A list of names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of critical personal and business contacts.
- Wills or trust documents.
- Emergency cash.
Other Emergency Preparedness Items
- Provide all family members with a list of important contact phone numbers including a designated out-of-area emergency contact person who can be called by everyone to tell where they are.
- Locate a safe place outside your home to meet your family after the shaking stops.
- Determine where to live if your home cannot be occupied after an earthquake.
- Know about the earthquake preparedness plan developed by your children’s school or day care.
- Keep a working flashlight and sturdy shoes next to everyone’s bed.
- Install smoke alarms, test them monthly, and change the battery once a year.
- Buy a fire extinguisher, put it in an easily accessible location, and get training in how to use it properly.
- Keep needed tools near utility shutoffs and learn how to turn off electricity, water, and gas. Only turn off the gas if you smell or hear leaking gas.
- Identify safe spots in every room, such as under sturdy desks and tables, then practice “drop, cover, and hold on” with your family specially children. Learn how to protect your head at all times during earthquake shaking.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home and from each room.
- Take a Red Cross first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training course.
The 2010 Haiti earthquake is a wake up call for anyone who lives in an active seismic region to establish, update, or maintain their own earthquake preparedness plan. In the United States, these regions include -but not limited to- Alaska and the West Coast especially California; the Midwestern States especially Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee around the New Madrid and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zones; and the Charleston area in South Carolina.