My sister has lived in Los Angeles for two years and has already been in 2 earthquakes. They were smaller, but she felt them. One occurred while she was in her apartment and the other happened while she was driving. When I lived in Taiwan (teaching English) I experienced an earthquake as well. It was early one morning and I felt my bed moving. Although my area wasn’t hit hard, there were other areas that were effected more severely.
Many people have lived through or know someone who has lived through an earthquake. Growing up on a major fault line we have always been planning and preparing for ‘the earthquake’ that we all know will hit this Wasatch Front area. We practiced drills as kids both at home and in school. It still hasn’t hit but experts agree its only a matter of time. The West Coast isn’t the only place in the US that is at risk of major earthquakes.
According to an official government study, there are 45 states and territories throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk for earthquakes. When I heard that statistic I was surprised. The website says that the common misconception is that the Western US is the only area at risk but it’s not true. There have been multiple earthquakes in the Midwest and back East. Thus, we should all be prepared and understand how to react to and recover from earthquakes.
Secure your water heater using strong straps (like tow straps). Wrap the straps around the body of the water heater and screw them into studs in the wall.
Secure large furniture like a tall heavy hutch by screwing it into the studs in your walls.
Have a sanitation system. Most likely a major earthquake will prevent the ability to use the sewer system. It’s important to dispose of waste properly during the recovery time. This Earthquake pack is amazing and comes with a built in 5 gallon bucket with toilet seat lid!
Have a food storage. I have a few 72 hour kits in which I have nonperishable foods that don’t need to be cooked. I’ve read stories of bad earthquakes and most report that roads are ruined (or closed) and most stores don’t stay open or stocked. So a good rule of thumb is to have at least 3 months worth of canned foods and easily cooked foods in your pantry. This will help considerably (especially if family or friends need help as well).
Have a water storage. Often the water will not be running if your area has been severely hit. We, my parents, and many people I know have these big 55 gallon water drums that are filled with water in case of emergency (tutorial here). I found ours locally (at a grocery store). But they are also available on Amazon (free shipping)!
Try to store flammable products in cupboards or doors that latch.
Learn how to turn off the gas, electricity, and water in your home. Leave a wrench or tool by the shut off valves (if one is necessary to turn it off). A lot of people I know tie the wrench to the pipe so no one can come along and remove it from its intended spot.
Get Earthquake insurance on your home. When we were insuring our home the agent asked if we wanted earthquake insurance on it. I laughed and said, ‘Of course. We live on a major fault line!’. What he said really shocked me. He said, “Well, you are one of the smart ones. Because less than 50% of people who live on this fault line have earthquake insurance”. I found out why when he gave me the figures! We pay about $500 a year for earthquake insurance. But $40 a month is worth it to me for the peace of mind and for a new home if mine is destroyed during an earthquake.
Get together with those who live with you and locate a safe spot in each room to get under during an earthquake. Not all door jams are alike. Some are flimsier than others. If you don’t know, ask an informed person to tell you where the best places to go in each room would be.
Pack an emergency kit with several of the following items. If you are in a high earthquake zone (i.e. California) keep a kit in your car and in your home. If you are at a workplace for the majority of the time, keeping one there is not a bad idea as well. In this kit there should be a:
– Source of light,
– Source for heat
– First Aid kit
– Safety supplies
– Water treatment system
Portable stove– Most likely the utilities will be turned off in harder hit areas as well. Having a charcoal (here is a very inexpensive one) or wood burning stove is a great idea.
If you are building a home or remodeling, there are flexible pipe fittings that are great for earthquakes which help prevent pipes from breaking.
Practice with family, especially children on how to stop drop and hold on. Prepare an earthquake evacuation plan and a meeting point. Ours growing up was to meet at the mailbox out front as soon as the shaking stopped and we could get there safely.
Use Quake Hold putty for your valuables. Quake Hold putty is used on valuables that you don’t want moving around, falling, and breaking. I’m excited to put this on the more important breakable items I own.
When an earthquake begins…
If inside: get under strong structures and hold on to those structures until after the shaking has stopped. Do not attempt to leave a structure while the shaking is going on.
If in bed: cover your head with a pillow and hold on to the mattress until the shaking stops. If your bed is by a window, under a large chandelier, or if you have something large above the head of the bed then get under a sturdy structure or the bed (away from the window) if you can.
If outside: stay outside but move away from tall structures, trees, etc.
If driving: stop as soon as safely possible. Try to stop away from street lights, trees, over passes etc.
After the earthquake expect aftershocks.
If you think you can easily get to safety or join another family member before an aftershock hits then do that. If you are pinned then do your best to get into the safest possible position and wait out the aftershocks or for help to arrive.
After the earthquake…
Look for and extinguish any fires. If there are gas leaks etc. and they are not controlled (and cannot be easily controlled) get everyone away from them.
Check your utilities. If there is a break in the gas line, turn off the gas and electricity. If your sewer line is broken, do not use the toilet. etc.
Stabilize those who are in shock or need immediate assistance.
Gather earthquake supplies or grab your earthquake bucket and 72 hour kit. Dress in long sleeves, pants, boots, and gloves (if possible). Once you and your family or roommates are safe, begin helping neighbors and others who may be trapped or need assistance. Be careful to stay away from dangerous areas and situations.
Listen to a battery operated radio or other forms of communication.
If your home has been damaged go to a designated public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345). If you cannot get to a designated public shelter do all you can to create a safe and warm shelter for the night. Relief usually comes within 24-72 hours.
If you live near the ocean and there are any tsunami warnings or chances of a tsunami, get away from the water/beach.
Stay together with family and friends if at all possible.
And only use your cell phone for emergencies.
Earthquake Protocol– free downloadable PDF
Do you have any other information or ideas? If so leave them in the comment section below.
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abedabun dawn says
I live in the deep south with is what we call hurricane country 🙂 We always try to stay prepared for their ruins. Katrina was bad, but we have had others that were worse, thank goodness my mom taught me how to prepare.
Anita Fowler says
I’m so glad that you are prepared and that your mom taught you how to be. That’s awesome! These earthquake preparation tips are great ideas for other types of disasters as well. Thanks for the comment.
This is great info! Is it ok if I print this off to hand out when I teach at a beginners Preparedness luncheon our neighborhood is having?
I am a huge believer in this since we also live on the Wasatch Fault line and growing up in the Philippines I have experienced a lot more disasters than most.
Thank you for putting this all together! Again it is excellent!
Anita Fowler says
Missy- Of course I’d love you to share it with others! Thank you so much for the kind compliments!
These are some very valuable suggestions- as someone who has lived through a deadly quake 5 years ago and been through over 3000 aftershocks, I know that nothing prepares you for the feeling of helplessness. The fault line was unknown so my city had no warning. We had no water, food or power and the roads were an absolute mess with liquefaction everywhere. Now we have a system in place and even though we are on edge about another large earthquake from the Alpine Fault, a large and we’ll known fault line, I feel a lot more prepared.
Anita Fowler says
Wow I’m so sorry about that! Was the earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand that you are referring to? I had quite a few good friends in Christchurch during that time. I hope other preparedness tips could help you feel even slightly better.