Q: The earthquakes that have occurred in Japan have me concerned for the safety and preparedness of my family. What are some ways I can prepare for emergencies and disasters?

A: What has happened in Japan has been heart wrenching. It is a reminder of how powerful mother nature is. What you do before, during and immediately after an earthquake may make a life-and-death difference to you and your family. The following suggestions can help you cope the next time the earth shakes:

Before an earthquake

Emergencies can strike quickly and without warning. When emergencies occur, you can take important steps that will save lives and protect your family. The American Red Cross of Santa Monica and the city of Santa Monica launched the “I’ve Got 7” program to help you prepare for the unthinkable. Here are seven things you need to have on hand to help keep you, your family and your community prepared:

1.) Food and water. Pack non-perishable high-energy foods and foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. To avoid damage and to assure access, store food in a box on the floor of a closet or garage. Don’t store supplies on high shelves. Have at least one gallon of water per person per day. Store enough water to last each person at least three days. You can store tap water that has been sealed airtight or store-bought bottled water. Store tap water in a sturdy, rinsed-out bottle. Date your stored water containers and replace the water every six months. And, don’t forget food and water for your pet.

2.) Preparedness supplies. This includes a battery-operated radio, a flashlight with extra batteries and a first aid kit. Pack a first-aid handbook, and make sure your first-aid kit is stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants. Inspect it from time to time and replace any expired or used items.

3.) Training. Get trained. Enroll in a class to learn first-aid, CPR or learn to become a disaster volunteer. Participate in the Disaster Training Program offered by the Santa Monica Fire Department.

4.) Money. Have cash (ATMs and credit cards won’t work if power is out).

5.) Clothing and bedding. Provide a change of clothing for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves. Have a sleeping bag, blankets, pad or air mattress to sleep on.

6.) Special needs. Medications; eyeglasses, or contact lenses and solution; identification cards; birth certificate; passports; etc.; sanitary supplies; baby needs; pet supplies (pet carrier, plastic bags, vaccination information).

7.) Contact information. A current list of family phone numbers and e-mail addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service.

Other Supplies

• Tools to turn off the main gas and water lines coming into your home or facility. Painting wrenches a bright color will make them easier to find in an emergency. (Some people chain a wrench to the meter so it will be available when needed, making sure to leave enough slack in the chain so the wrench can be used.)

Make sure the other adults in your family or program know where your supplies are kept and how to use them. Consider keeping essential supplies in a case or backpack that you can carry with you if you have to evacuate.

Other Precautions

• Earthquake-proof your home or child care facility by removing heavy objects from bookcases, high kitchen cabinets, and shelves in closets. Anchor bookcases and your water heater to the wall. You can buy industrial-strength Velcro to hold down televisions and other heavy items and security latches for cupboard doors.

• Teach everyone how to “duck, cover & hold.” Duck under a sturdy table or desk. Stay under cover until the shaking stops. (If no furniture is available, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms.) Hold onto a desk or table. If it moves, move with it. Stay in this position until the shaking stops. Teach children where it is safe to “duck, cover & hold” in outside play areas — well away from trees, utility lines, and buildings, especially windows and chimneys. Caution children about the possibility of aftershocks.

• Identify the location of the nearest hospitals, fire stations and police stations.

At Home

Discuss earthquake safety with your family. Plan an earthquake drill, including “duck, cover & hold” routines and practice it from time to time. Plan how to reunite your family after an earthquake. Select one person who lives outside the area as your family’s “point-of-contact” — the person everyone would call to get or give information after the quake. Share this information with your child’s school or child care program.

During the Shaking

Don’t Panic. The motion is frightening but, unless it shakes something down on top of you, it is harmless. Keep calm and ride it out in one place.

If you are inside: move under a desk, table, bench, or move up against inside walls, away from overhead light fixtures. Stay away from glass, the fireplace, and chimney or outside walls. If you are outside: move away from buildings, utility wires, chimneys and trees. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops.

Don’t run out of or into buildings. The greatest danger from falling debris is just outside doorways and close to outer walls and chimneys.

Don’t use candles, matches or other open flames during, or after, the tremor.

If you’re in a moving car, stop in a clear area away from trees, overpasses, etc., as quickly as safety permits, but stay in the car. A car will jiggle on its springs during the earthquake, but it is a good place to stay until the shaking stops.

After the Shaking

If you smell gas, immediately open windows, shut off the main valve and avoid using electricity. Leave the building and report leakage to the fire department via 9-1-1. Don’t go back inside until a utility official says it’s safe. Once the gas is turned off, leave it off until the gas company can turn it on again.

If water pipes are damaged, shut off supply at main valve.

Don’t go sight-seeing and stay out of severely damaged buildings; aftershocks can shake them down.

For complete “I’ve Got 7” information — including the I’ve Got 7 checklist, detailed tips about what you need to be disaster ready, safety hints, a shopping list of necessary supplies, skills you should have such as a knowledge of first-aid and CPR and the “I’ve Got 7” pledge card — log on to www.ivegot7.com. For additional information or to inquire about other programs or assistance call (310) 394-3773 or go online at www.redcrossofsantamonica.org.

Today’s questions were answered by NRO Scott McGee (Beat 5: Montana Avenue to north city limits, Ocean Avenue to 26th Street). You can reach him at (424) 200-0685, or via e-mail at scott.mcgee@smgov.net.

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