On the topic of cheery news, have you checked out the potential for an earthquake where you live?
- Are you aware?
- Are you prepared?
While every year people on Florida worriedly follow the weather channel and track hurricanes, people in California, Oregon and Washington rarely check on the earthquake likelihood. There is a 62% chance San Francisco will have a 6.7 or worse earthquake by the year 2032.
Let’s walk through this important topic.
- No building is earthquake proof. Just like no ship is unsinkable, aka the Titanic.
- A seismic retrofit usually means securing the house to its foundation if it isn’t already. If you take one of the carriage tours in Charleston, SC you’ll see bolts sticking out the sides and fronts of old buildings. They’ve been “retrofitted” since the earthquake of 1886. Do you know how your building will fare in an earthquake? Where you live? Where you work? For example, in downtown Seattle there are some beautiful old brick buildings, which, while quite elegant, are a very bad place to be in case of an earthquake.
- Besides the building itself, the ground it’s on is key. One of my greatest concerns while we lived on Whidbey Island was looking at the high bluffs that lined the shore. They were sand and dirt, not rock. People who’d lived there for decades told me of constantly eroding bluffs. Imagine what an earthquake would do to them? We could see the end Camano Island which had fallen off a long time ago from an earthquake—and caused a tsunami!
- Moving inside the house, look around. What large items of furniture do you have that aren’t secured? That could be tipped over during an earthquake? Look at what you hang on the walls. What happens if that fell off? Think of shelves and what could fall off them. There are entire companies that specialize in “earthquake proofing” your dwelling.
- Consider some special adaptations if you live in a high earthquake zone. Think about how much time you spend in bed? Doesn’t it make the odds of an earthquake happening while you are there high? It’s a good idea to keep shoes, flashlight and even a helmet underneath your bed. As with everything else in the Survival Guide, you can’t put them there while or after the earthquake occurs!
- Secure tabletop objects. TVs, stereos, computer monitors, etc. should all be tied down.
- Make sure your gas appliances have flexible connectors to reduce risk of leak and fire.
- Anchor your furniture. When anchoring to a wall, make sure you attach to a stud, not drywall. Purchase an inexpensive stud finder for this.
- Make sure your windows are safety glass or cover them with shatter-resistant film. Make sure you use safety film and not just a sun film.
- Ceiling fans and lights should be double secured with a second chain, loose enough to allow them to sway but strong enough to keep them from falling on you if the main connector breaks.
- Framed pictures and painting should be anchored to a stud and with a closed hook so they can’t shake off.
- Strap your water heater to a straight wall nearby.
- There is some controversy over what to do during an earthquake, but let’s go with what FEMA and the American Red Cross suggest: duck and cover (watch out for that nuke!). If possible, get under a table or other solid piece of furniture and hold on until the shaking stops. If that isn’t available, stay against an inside wall. Do not go near windows or go outside until the shaking stops.
- While it is a common belief that doorways are safe, that’s only true if they are part of a load-bearing wall. Do you know which walls in your house are load-bearing and which are just decorative?
- Do not hold on to your pet while the earthquake is going on. They’re smarter than you and will find a better hiding place. Well, okay. Then there’s Cool Gus. Then again, Gus pretty much always lies underneath a table or desk when he gets his well-needed rest!
- If you’re in bed, it might be best to stay in bed, unless you have objects, like that large mirror above your bed that could fall on you.
- If you are driving and an earthquake occurs, if you can, keep driving until you reach a safe place. Do not stop on or under an overpass, on bridges, or other places that can collapse or have something, like a building, collapse on it. Stay away from power lines. Stay in the vehicle. If you are in a parking garage, get out as fast as possible.
- If you’re outside during an earthquake, get clear of anything that can collapse. Watch for downed power lines. Stay away from buildings’ outside walls. Watch for windows that could blow out of buildings.
- Be careful of gas leaks. Pipes will break. Do not use open flame. Do not use candles. Do not fire up that “Gosh, glad I lived through that” cigarette that then blows you up.
- Remember, if there’s an earthquake, and you also live in a tsunami zone, evacuate out of the zone.
- If you’re trapped in rubble, do not light a match. Try not to move too much or you might cause a further collapse. Tap on something, preferably a pipe, with something hard, rather than yell, as you could inhale toxic dust. If you can see light, crawl toward it. If you encounter vertical rubble, check to see if it load-bearing. Lightly press against it. If it doesn’t move, it is probably load bearing. If it does move, you can remove it and continue on.
- Aftershocks are common. They can continue for months, even years.
- You might have read on the Internet or heard of something called the “triangle of life”. Ignore it. No, don’t go google it now.
- Download an APP to your smartphone that can notify people where you are and if you need help or are safe. The Red Cross has a Hurricane App for free in the Apple App store and the Google Play Store. A First Aid app is also available.
- Like pretty much every emergency situation covered so in the Survival Guide, the best thing you can do is be properly prepared and then be knowledgeable. How prepared are you for an earthquake if there is a high probability of one in your area?
Are you ready?
Yeah. Don’t worry, if the earthquake doesn’t get you in LA, I guess the zombies will.