BROADWAY — The recent earthquakes in Mexico, Chile and Haiti have given Southern Californians a reason to consider their own level of preparedness.
While government agencies as well as other response agencies like the Red Cross are updating their own plans, we know from experience that preparedness starts at home and now is the time for residents to get shake ready.
One of the more obvious lessons from recent disasters around the world is that a large disaster can mean disruption of services from a few days to several weeks. Planners now advise us that we should prepared to care for ourselves for at least seven days. Here’s how.
• Step 1 — Prepare yourself
First think about keeping safe in an earthquake. Know where you can take cover at home and at work. Since you might be driving during an earthquake, keep an earthquake kit, old shoes, and a good coat in the trunk in case you have to walk home.
Have a personal plan for what you’ll do after an earthquake. Be ready to check for injuries and other life-threatening emergencies like fires or gas leaks. Have a gas shut off wrench handy and find out where gas, electrical and water shut off valves are located. Have a radio handy for emergency updates.
Be careful while inspecting your home for damage. Expect aftershocks and be ready for them. Let your children know that after a large quake you expect aftershocks so they are prepared and don’t become overly frightened.
At work, review your disaster plan and evacuation route. Note where fire extinguishers and first aid kits are kept. Find out who has first aid training or better yet, sign up for a basic class yourself and encourage co-workers and your family to do the same. Keep a small emergency kit with water, snacks, flashlight, radio and other essentials.
If you have a business and don’t have a business recovery plan, call the Red Cross for information. It will help ensure you have business to return to after a disaster.
• Step 2 — Prepare your family and loved ones
Develop a disaster plan that includes evacuation routes and meeting places if disaster strikes. Keep a phone number of someone outside the area that all family members can use to contact each other when not at home. If you have a cell phone buy a “cell phone boost” available at drug stores. They can give you up to an hour talk time in an emergency. Remember: even when phone calls don’t connect, many times text messaging will.
Don’t forget friends and family who may be disabled or need special assistance. Use the same steps I’ve outlined here to get them prepared since you may not be able to reach them immediately. Make arrangements with a neighbor to check on them if you can’t. Consider medical needs. Keep a minimum seven days supply of medicines and don’t forget other medical needs like extra oxygen tanks and a back-up power supply.
• Step 3— Prepare your home or business
Hazard-proof your homes. Take a few minutes this weekend to look for hazards. Kids are great helpers here. Secure furniture and bookcases or at the very least move the heavy stuff lower down. Put latches on cabinets that have breakables. Consider an earthquake insurance policy.
Make sure your water heater straps are tight. If you haven’t installed them yet, do it now. A good strapping kit costs under $25 and takes less than an hour to install.
Put together a disaster kit that includes:
A seven day supply of food and water, preferably non-perishable high energy foods and foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water.
Don’t forget to put away at least one gallon of water per person per day as well. Remember, a seven day supply includes the supplies you already have in your car kit.
Keep a battery-operated radio and a flashlight with extra batteries for seven days on hand.
Have a Red Cross first aid kit with instructions on its use handy. Make sure it’s stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants.
Keep some money on hand for emergencies. Remember, ATMs and credit cards won’t work if power is out.
Provide for a change of clothing for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.
Make provisions for those with special needs including special medications, eyeglasses, contact lenses and solutions; identification cards, birth certificate, passports, sanitary supplies, etc.
Don’t forget pet supplies (leash, plastic bags, vaccination information) and if you haven’t already done so, get your pet chipped in case they are separated from you in a disaster.
The local Red Cross has a variety of disaster kits and planning materials, including our “Earthquake Safety Checklist.” Visit us at www.redcrossofsantamonica.org or call us at (310) 394-3773.
To learn more about seismic hazards check out the Southern California Earthquake Center Web site at www.scec.org or visit the U.S Geological Survey site at www.usgs.org.
JOHN PACHECO is the executive director of the Santa Monica Chapter of the Red Cross.