Prepare your Family for the Big Quake
By Jim Bonato, Pleasant Hill CERT Program Manager
In a 2013 article, I presented a likely scenario for a major earthquake on the Hayward fault: a major earthquake hits at 2:15 in the afternoon, you are at home ready to pick up the kids from College Park High School and Pleasant Hill Elementary, and your spouse is at work in Oakland. We’ll follow this same scenario through a series of articles on disaster preparedness.
Absolutely, the most valuable asset in our lives is…our family. Having a plan that is prepared ahead of time and familiar to all family members can reduce the confusion and emotional impulsiveness that immediately flood our thoughts when we realize our family is in danger. Let’s look at some key elements of a Family Disaster Preparedness Plan.
Should a disaster strike when family members are at home, insure they know the escape routes from your home – two routes per room. Don’t just talk about it; draw a floor plan with the escape routes.
When disaster strikes, your family may not be together. Identify assembly locations and how to get in touch with each other should you be unable to get there. Good examples of meeting locations might be the front yard of a neighbor or a nearby park.
Identify one out-of-state relative for all members to contact, as local lines may be clogged with emergency calls. That relative can keep every member informed about everyone’s location and situation. Keep quarters for pay phones or a prepaid phone card handy. Text messages may get through even quicker.
Every family member should know when and how to shut off the utilities – gas, electricity, and water - to protect the house. After your family, your home is probably your next most valuable asset.
Be familiar with the safety protocols of your kids’ schools. Identify someone to look out for the kids until you can get to them.
Identify your most important records -- deeds, insurance policies, bank account numbers, etc. -- and keep them in a safe place.
Make sure your pets are included in your plan, and take the time to look at www.ready.gov. Being familiar with these items will help get your loved ones back together and preserve that most valuable asset – family.
A Whole Lot of Shakin!
As we continue our series on earthquake preparedness, take some time to think about the actions you would take during an earthquake. Thinking ahead will help program your mind to take those actions immediately instead of stopping to think and, perhaps, panic. The split seconds you save may make the difference between sustaining a serious injury or not.Three basic words we should all review with our families are, DROP, COVER, and HOLD. If inside your house or a building, DROP to the ground, take COVER under a sturdy table or desk, and HOLD on to that table or desk until the shaking stops. If furniture is not available, get down and crouch in an inside corner of the building covering your face and head with your arms. Stay away from glass, windows, tall furniture, shelving, and overhead lighting fixtures that could fall. If in bed, stay there and protect your head with a pillow (hopefully you have already secured any items hanging on the wall above your bed so they are not in danger of falling).
If you are outdoors when the earthquake hits, stay there, but move away from buildings and utility wires. Most earthquake injuries that happen outdoors occur when people are too close to buildings and are hit from falling objects, flying glass, or collapsing walls, especially brick walls. If you are enjoying a day at the beach and see the ocean beginning to recede from the shoreline, get to higher ground immediately. Do not wait and watch.
If you are driving, slow down, stop as soon as it is safe and stay inside your car. Do not stop your car near buildings, under overpasses, or overhead wires.
If trapped under debris, cover your mouth with a handkerchief or cloth and tap on any pipes or walls to help rescuers locate you. Storing and using a whistle from your emergency kit, if it is within reach, will increase your odds of being located early.
So, two very easy concepts to remember are: DROP, COVER, and HOLD, and stay away from objects that can fall or collapse. These simple concepts can make a big difference in your family’s safety during a quake.