It has been 20 years since California residents have experienced a major earthquake, a 6.7 magnitude temblor that rattled Northridge awake, killing 57. But after La Habra’s recent 5.1 earthquake, and its hundred plus aftershocks, many people have earthquake preparedness on the brain.
So what can you do to prepare for the next big California quake? Keep reading for tips on how you can prepare for an earthquake, as well as what you can do during and after an earthquake, to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Before an Earthquake
First, officials recommend that you review your insurance policy at least once a year with your agent. Be aware of exactly what your homeowners insurance or your renter’s insurance covers in a disaster. The California Department of Insurance warns that most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance don’t cover any damage caused by earthquakes.
It is also a good idea to review your car insurance policy and be familiar with the damages your policy covers. Does your policy cover your car in case it’s damaged in an earthquake or any other natural disaster? Prepare financially by knowing exactly what coverage your insurance policies cover.
Around your home, prepare by:
- Bolting bookcases, china cabinets or any other shelves or tall furniture to the wall.
- Place any large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
- Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches or anywhere else where people might sleep or sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top-heavy objects.
- Repair any defective electrical wiring or leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Make sure to seek professional help when doing so.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks, since flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Be sure your residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
- Store pesticides, weed killers and any flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Child-proof latches on your cupboards so they don’t fly open during an earthquake.
- Always have an emergency kit ready in an easy-to-access location.
Prepare with your Family
Get together with your family and locate safe spots in each room. Talk to them about what to do in case of an earthquake and hold earthquake drills with all family members.
It is also important to realize that you may not be with your family when a disaster strikes, so plan on how you will contact one another. Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify that they are safe. In case of a big disaster, it may be easier to make a call out of state, than it is to call across town.
During an Earthquake
- Drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, and anything that could fall (furniture, lighting fixtures, heavy furniture, etc.).
- If you are in bed when an earthquake strikes, stay in bed, unless your bed is under a heavy light fixture that could fall.
- Do not run outside during an earthquake. Wait until the shaking stops and it is safe. Research has shown that most injuries happen when people inside buildings attempt to leave the building during a quake.
- Don’t use elevators.
- Stay outside, in the open if possible, until the shaking stops.
- Move away from any buildings, utility wires, and streetlights.
- In case you are in a car, you should stop as quickly as possible and stay inside the car. Stay away from buildings, poles, trees or any overpasses. Once the shaking has stopped, avoid roads, bridges or ramps that may have been damaged by the earthquake.
After an Earthquake
Once the shaking has stopped, make sure it’s safe before you move out of a building. Be cautious and expect aftershocks. Help any injured or trapped persons and give first aid when appropriate. If a person is seriously injured, do not move them unless they are in immediate danger of further injury, and call for help.
Other steps to take after an earthquake are:
- Listen to battery-operated radio or television for the latest emergency information.
- Be aware of any possible tsunamis.
- Watch for fires; the most common hazard after an earthquake. Look for and extinguish small fires.
- Stay away from damaged areas.
- Inspect utilities: check for gas leaks, look for electrical system damage, sewage and water lines damage.
- Open any cabinets cautiously and be aware of objects that can fall off the shelves.
If your home has been damaged and is no longer safe, go to a designated public shelter. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area.
So, how are you preparing for the next big California quake? Sound off in the comments section below!