On October 17, 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the San Francisco area. This was just two months after I moved to San Diego at the age of nine. The idea of the earth shaking so hard that buildings crumbled to the ground and bridges collapsed without any warning at all, left a huge scar. It didn’t help that the news headlines was that our fine city was due for the “big one” in the next 20 years. To this day, every little tremor is just the beginning of a massive quake, until it stops. Surprises are nice, but not this one.
27 years later, the predicted major earthquake has yet to hit. So when the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services issued a Heightened Earthquake Alert that stays in effect until Tuesday, I thought this would be the perfect time for all of us to go over our emergency plans. Our families should be as earthquake ready as we possibly can be.
Earthquakes can hit us at any time without any notice at all. It is important to have a plan in place that everyone in your house knows about. That will keep the panic down to a minimum when the inevitable happens. ~ Fritzi Gros-Daillon of Household Guardians (a North County business!)
Use the list below to start preparing your home and your family for a major quake.
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Mirrors, picture frames, and other hanging items should be secured to the wall with closed hooks or earthquake putty. Do not hang heavy objects over beds, sofas, or any place you may be seated.
- Objects such as framed photos, books, lamps, and other items that you keep on shelves and tables can become flying hazards. Secure them with hooks, adhesives, or earthquake putty to keep them in place.
- Bookcases, filing cabinets, china cabinets, and other tall furniture should be anchored to wall studs (not drywall) or masonry. Use flexible straps that allow them to sway without falling to the floor.
- Electronics such as computers, televisions, and microwave ovens are heavy and expensive to replace. Secure them with flexible nylon straps.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Get professional help to assess the building’s structure and then take steps to install nonstructural solutions, including foundation bolts, bracing cripple walls, reinforcing chimneys, or installing an earthquake-resistant bracing system for a mobile home. Examples of structures that may be more vulnerable in an earthquake are those not anchored to their foundations or having weak crawl space walls, un-braced pier-and-post foundations, or unenforced masonry walls or foundations. Visit www.fema.gov/earthquake-safety-home for guidance on nonstructural ways to reduce damage and earthquake-resistant structural design or retrofit.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.
The USGS says on their site that the recently “revised probabilities are lower than those made earlier this week, due to decreasing swarm activity. The probabilities may change if the swarm activity increases or decreases.”
A major quake might (probably) won’t happen today or tomorrow, but use this time to get you and your family ready for an emergency situation.
And don’t forget to DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!