By: Henry Guo
Also known as an earthquake swarm, around 400 small earthquakes have occurred along the Calaveras fault in the San Ramon Valley for the past month. Ranging from 1.7 to 3.2 on the Richter scale, these earthquakes are small but frequent.
Unlike hurricanes and other natural disasters, earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning. Nevertheless, if you live in an area at risk for earthquakes, there are things that you can do to reduce the chances that you or other members of your household will be injured, that your property will be damaged, or that your home life will be unduly disrupted by an earthquake. These things all fit under the term preparedness, because to be effective, they must be done before earthquakes occur.
Preparing for earthquakes involves (1) learning what people should do before, during, and after earthquakes; and (2) doing or preparing to do those things now, before the next quake.
Following are activities that you can undertake now:
Prepare Yourself and Your Family to:
- React Safely: Learn what to do during an earthquake. Hold periodic family drills to practice what you have learned. Through practice, you can condition yourselves to react spontaneously and safely when the first jolt or shaking is felt.
- Take Cover: In each room of your home, identify the safest places to “drop, cover, and hold on” during an earthquake. Practice going to these safe spots during family drills to ensure that everyone learns where they are.
- Survive on Your Own: Assemble and maintain a household emergency supply kit, and be sure that all family members know where it is stored. The kit should consist of one or two portable containers (e.g., plastic tubs, backpacks, duffel bags) holding the supplies that your family would need to survive without outside assistance for at least 3 days following an earthquake or other disaster. Make additional, smaller kits to keep in your car(s) and at your place(s) of work.
- Stay in Contact: List addresses, telephone numbers, and evacuation sites for all places frequented by family members (e.g., home, workplaces, schools). Include the phone number of an out-of-state contact. Ensure that family members carry a copy of this list, and include copies in your emergency supply kits.
Make your home safer to be in during earthquakes and more resistant to earthquake damage by assessing its structure and contents. Depending on when and how it was designed and built, the structure you live in may have weaknesses that make it more vulnerable to earthquakes. Common examples include structures not anchored to their foundations or having weak crawl space walls, unbraced pier-and-post foundations, or unreinforced masonry walls or foundations.
What is in your home can be as or more dangerous and damage-prone than the structure itself. Any unsecured objects that can move, break, or fall as an earthquake shakes your home are potential safety hazards and potential property losses. Walk through each room of your home and make note of these items, paying particular attention to tall, heavy, or expensive objects such as bookcases, home electronics, appliances (including water heaters), and items hanging from walls or ceilings. Secure these items with flexible fasteners, such as nylon straps, or with closed hooks, or by relocating them away from beds and seating, to lower shelves, or to cabinets with latched doors. Ensure that plumbers have installed flexible connectors on all gas appliances.