Are you prepared for an earthquake or complacent?
■ By Shellie Milne / Contributed
Earthquakes. They’re as Californian as Hollywood and the Beach Boys. We hear a lot about the San Andreas Fault, which is capable of producing an 8.0+ magnitude quake. But did you know that the San Jacinto Fault line runs directly through our valley, and it’s the most seismically active component of the San Andreas Fault?
Many of us living in California for any length of time have likely become complacent. How many of us begin to feel the shaking, have a thousand thoughts run through our minds, but, in the end, think, “I’ll just sit here and ride this one out… it will be just like the last ones I have felt.”
Whether it is a jolt, a rolling wave or several small aftershocks, as soon as it starts, we all wonder if this is “the big one.” There’s no Doppler radar or sirens to warn us – it just happens. The most worrisome earthquakes are those that come in the middle of the night and wake us up. Often, we are disoriented and not sure of what to do next. So much emotion, fear and adrenalin pumps through your body in a 10- to 20-second time frame, and then it’s over. At least for a few moments until the aftershocks begin. We’ve all been there, many times.
For families with children at home, parents are getting up to run into their child’s room, while, at the same time, the child is running into mom and dad’s room. This usually results in a collision of sorts in the hallway. For those in older homes, you’re suddenly acutely aware that you don’t know how “up-to-date” the engineering of your house is. Our agricultural residents are suddenly faced with not only their safety and well-being, but that of their animals as well.
Mobile homes carry special risks
Manufactured/mobile home residents certainly feel quakes differently, and if they are mounted on a series of piers, then they REALLY feel it. These homes also run the risk of dropping 24 to 36 inches during a substantial quake. This drop can bend the steel chassis and damage or sever utility connections.
If you don’t already have one, purchase an Earthquake Restraint Bracing System (ERBS). Several manufacturers are available online. Ensure the one you select is certified by the Department of Housing and Community Development and the contractor installing it is licensed, insured and is a recommended contractor for this particular work.
Create a plan
How many of us truly take cover? Do we know how to shield ourselves appropriately? Do our loved ones know how?
Have an important conversation with everyone who resides in the home. Discuss what to do in the event of an earthquake and any special considerations that come with your particular situation. Some of the very basic issues to cover are as follows:
Ensure everyone’s safety
Remind your family that their initial reaction to the start of a quake is NOT to be the first one to post it on Facebook or Instagram. Their responsibility is to ensure their safety and those around them.
Make sure everyone knows where the safest part of each and every room is. Contrary to popular belief, doorways and running outside are not the safest place to be. Building collapse is less of a danger than flying or falling objects. Stay away from the exterior walls of the house – windows can shatter and cut you. Interior walls are safer.
Shut off utilities if needed
Know where the gas, electric and water main shutoffs are and how to turn them off if there is a leak or electrical short. Some utilities require a special tool, available at your local hardware store. Make sure more than one person in the household knows how to shut off utilities in case of injury or absence from the home at the time of the quake.
Brace heavy items
Bolt bookcases, tall furniture, file cabinets, etc. to wall studs. Brace or anchor heavy electronics and other heavy items. Secure items that might fall. Move heavy or fragile items to lower shelves. Fasten drawers and cabinet doors with latches or locks. Brace overhead light fixtures. Strap your water heater to wall studs and bolt down any gas appliances.
Drop, cover and hold on
DROP where you are, onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and also allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter if nearby.
COVER your head and neck with one arm and hand. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If not, crawl next to an interior wall, away from windows. Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs.
HOLD ON until shaking stops. Under shelter: hold onto it with one hand; be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts. Without shelter: hold onto your head and neck with both arms and hands.
After the earthquake subsides, remember and remind your loved ones that the worst may not be over. Sometimes, aftershocks can be stronger than the original quake.
Be aware of each other’s schedules. It is important to realize that not every earthquake comes at 2 a.m., when most are at home, asleep in bed. Earthquakes can occur at anytime and loved ones may be at work, school, shopping, etc. If the quake is large enough, realize that cell phone towers will be down. Identify a place where everyone meets or has a way to check in with one another after the quake to have a proper accounting of everyone and their injuries, if any.
We have been fortunate, so far, to not have had a Northridge-type quake in the valley, but we are certainly poised for one. Do not take things for granted. Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Next edition, we will address what we can do in the event of a large scale quake and how to prepare sufficiently for it.