Monday, November 3, 2014

Earthquake : be prepared !

Si vous voulez lire la version française de cet article, il a déjà été publié ici.

Today, my husband's department has organized a day named "Be Prepared !" with the checking of survival kits, bag supplies and few other useful items for earthquake. Obviously, this subject particularly dears to their heart. Indeed, all the participants have received a free meal ! So, I want to make a post about it!

Why to be prepared ?

It's true that I'm pretty stressed out and the kind of person who continuously checks the USGS website only when I hard a door slams. But without coming to this extreme, it is important when you live in California (or in other risk areas) to remain aware of the risks and be prepared to respond appropriately.
Indeed, many deaths during an earthquake are caused by inappropriate behaviors or a lack of preparation. So, of course, if a 5-floor building collapses on you, you cannot do much, but for all others, it still worth a shot, right?

I'll summarize below, the few tips that Caltech gave us as well as what I read both on the Red Cross website and on the Californian government website. But if you want more information, do not hesitate to visit them!

Be prepared !

Be prepared foremost, this is what can potentially happen and how to cope. Staying calm when a disaster is happening is the best way to avoid a lot of mistakes !

Locate places

It sounds very silly, but having spotted in advance safe places where you regularly attend can allow you to react faster and better.

  • So do not hesitate to read the evacuation map of the buildings in which you live and work.
  • Spot shelters in each room, i.e. where you will be the most protected: under tables, against the interior walls away from windows, on bed with your head protected by a pillow or your arms, etc. The best is to be protected from falling debris (windows, lamps, wall units, etc.).

Prepare your home

This point will not help you to protect yourself from an earthquake, but it will reduce some risks and is essential when a disaster happens. Besides, I think all people living in areas subjected to frequent natural disasters can prepare their homes in the same way.

Secure your home

  • If you are a owner, do not hesitate to check the status of your home and secure it as much as possible. You can call a specialist to check the structure of your house. You can also adapt some basic industrial rules to limit fire risks and put beside the main door a readily accessible emergency button to turn off the gas and electricity.
  • Reduce the risk of falling objects by having small furniture and limiting the number of objects hung on the walls (at least off beds and chairs). You can also secure your wall units by fixing it to the walls. Do not hesitate to put child safety on closet doors to avoid any easy falls (but do not dream : If the Big One happens, you can say goodbye to your nice dishes: -s)
  • Do not hang over the beds and ensure that no piece of furniture or window can fall on the bed

To put in your home :

  • A flashlight in each key areas (living room, kitchen, bedside tables, etc.) 
  • A pair of "hard" shoes beside/under the bed (to evacuate as fast as possible without injury) 
  • 11 gallons of water per person (it seems excessive, but remember that if the water is off after a disaster, we must continue to wash yourself, cook, flush the toilets, etc.) 
  • 11 days of non-perishable food and easy to prepare per person.

To put in your evacuation kit  :

  • A flashlight
  • 3 gallons of water per person
  • 3 days of non-perishable foods and easy to prepare per person.
  • A radio
  • A first-aid kit (bandages, gauze, tape, disinfectant, aspirin, antibiotic cream, etc.).
  • A Swiss knife
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Copies of official documents (medical records, proof of address, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc. This is obviously better to have a virtual copy of all your important documents!).
  • A cell phone charger
  • Family contact information
  • Cash flow
  • Life blankets
  • A map
  • A reserve of seven days of medication, baby or dog things, if necessary
Eventually, you can add
  • Extra clothes
  • A whistle
  • Matches
  • A parka (this would be the last straw that the earthquake happens in the same time that one of the three annual rainfall! )
  • Duct tapes and scissors  (I don't know why !)
  • A sleeping bag

Organize a family map

This is not the most urgent, but it can still help in case of a disaster to limit big messes and fears about your relatives. Decide on a location outside of your residential area where each member of your family will be able to gather and to check on your conditions.

Be organized financially and administratively

This is not the most urgent neither, but it can be helpful to have thought about it and be forewarned. Is it necessary to take "earthquake" insurance? Where to keep the important documents? All these issues must be addressed in advance, because it would be a shame to lose everything by not having thought about!

Practice !

Even if this is something which seems trivial, that has to be said. In the same way you do fire evacuation tests, it is important to be trained to react to an earthquake. So you will not have any hesitation in real life, since you will be on a familiar ground.
  • Try in family the famous "drop, cover and hold on" ! 

What to do when an earthquake happens ?

During the earthquake


  • If you take refuge under a piece of furniture, hold-on tight and stay there, even if it moves (and even if furniture cross the room!). Remember to put yourself in a safety position, i.e. in a fetal position with your back towards the ceiling in order to protect the most of your vital organs.
  • If you are in your bed, adopt the same position and put a pillow in your head.
  • If your are outside, move away from all potential danger and use the safety position explained above.
  • If you are in a car, park as far as possible to bridges, electric poles, etc. and stay in the car with your seat-belt fasten, even if something falls on the car.
Remember that escape is a very bad reaction. Indeed debris may fall down on your head. Whereas, if you stay under a piece of furniture, you are less likely to be injured and increase the chances of being in an air pocket if ever, unfortunately, the building collapses.

Just after the earthquake

When you are absolutely sure that the earthquake is over, go out carefully using only the stairs. Stay extremely attentive to any falling debris, especially close to the facades.

And once the earthquake has ended ?

Stay alert: a replica can happen, or a tsunami or a landslide. If a reply arrives, take the same safety procedures explained above: a replica can be as dangerous, or even more than the first one. Otherwise, follow the steps below:

  • Check if you or your relatives are not wounded.
  • Look quickly if the building is not damaged, in which case, evacuate.
  • Check if fires didn't start, if this is the case, try to extinguish the fires.
  • Wear clothes with long sleeves, a pants, hard shoes and gloves.
  • Switch on the radio to be aware of the actual relief operations.
  • Use your cell phone just in case of emergency.
  • Clean all the inflammable products which were spread over.
  • Go helping the people requiring special helps and more specifically, the oldest and the disabled persons.
  • Avoid driving, and when the crowd is passed, register your familly as safe and sound (fingers crossed !!!) on the Red Cross website or by calling +1-866-GET-INFO.
A short summary to not forget anything ????

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