Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Earthquake Preparedness

The recent tragedy in Haiti has shocked me into the world of earthquakes. Living on a major fault line most my life has caused me to repress thoughts of earthquakes. Growing up I experienced many earthquake drills in school and home and yet have never been in a major earthquake. Because of the inescapable fact that someday I will be in an earthquake, I am quick to empathize with those whose world is literally rocked by this natural disaster.

Earthquakes differ from other natural disasters as there is next to no real warning. Unlike hurricanes or tornadoes, we can not watch them develop. We must have our homes and our families constantly prepared. If you live near a fault line or plan on ever visiting somewhere by a fault line, read through these recommendations by FEMA:


Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines, and inflexible utility connections. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.

Bolt down and secure to the wall studs your water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and gas appliances. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations. (My bookshelf, which is right near the head of my bed, is getting bolted to the wall today!)

Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten shelves, mirrors, and large picture frames to walls. Brace high and top-heavy objects.Store bottled foods, glass, china, and other breakables on low shelves or in cabinets that fasten shut.

Anchor overhead lighting fixtures.

Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.
Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.

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! (Growing up we had earthquake drills about once a year. My Mom would remind us where our 72 hour kits were, and to some that they even existed. We had a designated meeting place, out by our mail box. We would separated, the drill would start, we would grab our kits and meet by the mailbox.)


Indoors: Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall, and hold on. If there isn’t a table or 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, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

Stay in bed - if you are there when the earthquake strikes - hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.

Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.

Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.

Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

DO NOT use the elevators.


Stay there.

Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

In a moving vehicle:
Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.

Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped, watching for road and bridge damage.

Trapped under debris:
Do not light a match.· Do not move about or kick up dust.

Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort - shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.


Be prepared for aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures.

Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.

Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations.

Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called “tidal waves”). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.


If you want to donate money or supplies to Haiti here are a few different websites to visit:

Red Cross
Islamic Relief
LDS Services

My mother told me today about a family who had decided not to go out to eat for two weeks and instead give the money they would have spent to the relief effort in Haiti. Maybe for some of us, sacrificing restaurants for two weeks would not create a lot of excess money. But what if we prepared a few meals, or maybe even a week of dinners, from our food storage and donated the money we would have spent on groceries. Any little bit can help in this situation.


StrivingSimply said...

I work at a Catholic school, and kids and teachers are paying a minimum of $5 tomorrow to "dress down." I strongly recommend this practice to any business or private (uniformed) school as a way to promote donating for the needy in Haiti.

Plus, if you text 'Haiti' to 90999, you will automatically donate $10 to the Red Cross. You'll see the charge on your phone bill.