Disaster Planning for an Earthquake

If Americans learned nothing else from the Hurricane Katrina disaster we learned that when a disaster of this magnitude strikes, local emergency resources will be spread too thin to adequately respond to our needs and national relief may come many days later. For some, help may come too late. A disaster, by definition, occurs unexpectedly and overwhelmingly. In a time when we have become so reliant upon technology that a power outage may cause us to miss e-mails, eBay auctions, or – heaven forbid – ‘Survivor’, many people cannot fathom anything beyond the loss of creature comforts as being distressing. Whether it is an earthquake, hurricane or other occurrence, planning for a disaster means increasing your chance of survival.

Take a look around to figure out where fresh drinking water will come from for at least three days. Remember that you will need one gallon of water per person, per day just for basic survival needs. Do you really want to try to break into your water heater tank to drink that nasty, rusty water? Sure, you have a water filter on your kitchen faucet but the water won’t be running. Forget driving down to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water. If you manage to buy some after waiting hours in line, you likely won’t be able to buy enough. How many days can you get by with the food in your house right now? Ketchup soup and freezer burnt tortillas will sound pretty good after a few days with nothing else to eat. Hopefully no one in the house has been injured by falling debris or toppled furniture and is in need of treatment. Gas line breaks often result from earthquake activity, so lighting matches and turning on flashlights, which can spark, may not be a great idea. Do you have a supply of glow sticks? These are things everyone must think about right now in preparing for an earthquake or other disaster.

Today, not next month is the time to prepare for getting through an earthquake. FEMA, the Red Cross and other local and national emergency services are in agreement that during a major disaster, individual households will not be their first priority and will probably not receive attention within the first 72-hours after a catastrophe. It is up to you to get your family through the first three days after a disaster.

Preparing your home for an earthquake and assembling a 72-hour emergency kit is very easy, inexpensive and painless. If you prefer to bottle your own water for emergency storage, either purchase containers meant for water storage from your local outdoor supply store or reuse plastic milk or juice containers. Remember to store enough to provide one gallon, per person, per day. That is three gallons per person for a 72-hour kit. If you feel the need to buy bottled water, that will work too. Find a storage place for your kit that is indoors and convenient to access. It is advisable to create multiple caches for your earthquake kit supplies, in the event some part of it may become inaccessible or damaged as a result of structural problems. For the food portion of your kit, most adults need 1200 to 1800 calories per day to feel comfortable. Items that need to be stored in a refrigerator or freezer are not practical for the kit. Freeze-dried meals can be purchased inexpensively at a place such as REI. They are easy to prepare, store well and taste pretty good. The downside of meals like this is you will need a heat source to prepare them. Nutrition bars, granola, jerky, fruit leather and canned products are also a good, inexpensive addition to your 72-hour kit. You will probably need a can opener. Adding comfort foods to your kit is a good idea and one time you won’t feel guilty about having a stash of Snickers bars. First aid is a basic component to a successful 72-hour kit. You may have everything you need to make a first-rate first aid kit and can put together several types of bandages, tape, gauze, aspirin and miscellaneous other items in a bag and drop it into your kit. Excellent inexpensive kits may be purchased from Costco, grocery stores and local pharmacies. Glow sticks are a must! Disasters rarely conveniently occur on a Saturday at 8am in June. You may be fumbling through your kit in the middle of the night, so have a light source handy. Candles are not the best choice for your kit because of the increased likelihood you may burn your house down. Building a fire anywhere in your home is also not smart because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Even the fireplace may not be usable, if some portion of it has collapsed. A portable radio with working batteries should be added to your kit. We all benefit by staying informed during an emergency and a radio will help you stay in touch with the outside world. Finally, take a look around the home to identify any pieces of furniture, which should be secured to the walls. Even a modest earthquake can quickly bring down a heavy bookcase or tall cabinet.

When it comes to taking care of yourself after an earthquake, you may be the only person who is able to meet your needs. A little preparation today may save you angst and suffering when disaster strikes. Whether you stick everything in a couple duffel bags or in a Rubbermaid box, make sure your 72-your emergency kit can easily be gathered up and carried away if necessary. Your preparation for three days of survival may just save you from the fate suffered by those who are not ready for a calamity. Be a victim or be a survivor. It is your choice.