Golden West Security is in business for your safety. With that in mind we reminding you of a few of the things that you can do to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake.
Earth Quake Safety
- One of the best things we all can do is organize. While it is human nature to just set things in convenient places, to put them away will reduce clutter and spills in the event of a shaker.
- Cabinets that latch. Not with just a magnet but an actual latch. These are not common anymore. But a latch system can retain the items inside the cabinet and prevent them from falling on the floor. A man I knew who had decided to use a simple 90 degree heavy wire that would rotate around to prevent the doors from swinging open. He was just doing the job when the Sylmar earthquake hit. Those cabinets with the fasteners stayed closed while those without them vomited their contents on the floor.
- Attach bookshelves and cabinets to the wall so they are not as likely to fall over.
- DO NOT put book shelves over your bed. During the Sylmar earthquake I personally was hit with almost every item off the bookshelf that was securely fastened to the wall but the books of course were not. This does not lead to a secure feeling when the house is shaking in the dark and gives the impression that the roof collapsed.
- Know where your shut offs are. Houses in California are well built to earthquake standards and a collapse is unlikely. But a fire due to leaking natural gas can is very likely to destroy everything you just saved. Know where the gas shut off is and how to turn off the gas. (The gas should not be turned back on until checked by the Gas Company.) Likewise you may need to turn off the water if you have broken pipes. (At least it is easier and safer to find leaking water that it is gas.)
- Have some emergency supplies on hand.
- Water enough for at least one gallon per person per day. The 5 gallon Arrowhead or Sparkletts bottles are not expensive and since they are now plastic they are almost indestructible. In a major emergency you should not plan on any government help for 3 to 5 days. You and your neighbors will be on your own.
- Non perishable food that is easy to prepare. A 2 week supply is suggested. Have a manual can opener. There is nothing worse than being hungry and looking at cans you can’t get open.
- Battery powered radio with extra batteries. This may be the only way to receive emergency information for several days as phones and cell towers will not work.
- First aid kit, sanitation and hygiene items, and necessary medications.
- Leatherman type multi purpose tool. This fits in a pocket and will give you needed tools immediately and you won’t have to go looking for them;
- Family emergency contact information should also be kept in a notebook and not just on your computer or cell phone which will not work until power is restored or the network returns to service.
- Emergency cash. Any stores that may open may not be able to process credit card transactions and the ATM will be down as well.
- Basic supplies should be kept handy in one spot in the event you should have to evacuate, that way you will have basic supplies and not wish you had brought a needed item. Survivalists call this a “bug out bag”.
- Have a flashlight and sturdy slippers near the bed. There will be no power so you will need the light and remember there is now most likely glass on the floor. If you hurt yourself you will not be able to help your family.
During an Earthquake
- If you are in bed, it may be best to just stay there and ride it out. A bed is soft and springy and will protect you reasonably short of a building collapse. You will be tempted to run to your children. This you should wait to do. They will almost always stay in bed fully under the covers and be protected. In a shaking house you will fall if you try to run, and you will cut yourself on broken glass if you try to crawl.
- In the event of a building collapse you can roll off the bed beside the bed and the strength of the bed will protect you from falling ceilings.
- During the day the safest places to be are curled up beside your easy chair or laying down behind your couch. These items are sturdy and well built and will not collapse under even heavy loads. And they will leave a triangle of space beside them. This is know as the “triangle of life”.
- A doorframe is not the safest place unless the wall is a load bearing wall. Some interior walls are basically just decoration and they will collapse door frame and all. But if you get in a load bearing door frame, you should brace yourself in with your back to the hinges and your hands and feet against the side with the latch. If you reverse this you may find your hands wedged into the door jam as the door closes on your fingers leaving you stuck in a door and muttering words that children should not hear.
- A table is not the safest place either. In Peru children were found crushed under their desks where they hid. The weakest place on the table is the middle. And if it collapses it will fall in. A safer spot is beside the table at the table leg which is its strongest part. This will again provide you with a “triangle of life” space beside the table.
- The most likely and often first part of a building that fails is the stairs. And even if they don’t fall during a quake, a mass of people flooding down them can collapse the entire structure which will result in mutilation injuries of those involved. If stairs must be traversed, one at a time should proceed stepping out to the edges of the steps and not the middle.
- If you are in a car, try to stop in a safe place (not next to large objects or billboards) and ride it out. If you find yourself under a freeway overpass, you would be better to get out of the car and curl up as small as possible beside it. In the Oakland earthquake where the Nimitz Freeway overpass collapsed, everyone who stayed inside their cars died. The few who got out beside their cars survived.
After the initial Shaker
- Check your family and those near by to ensure they are safe or if they need help.
- Check your services to see if phones and power has gone down.
- Shut off gas. Many homes have automatic shut offs now. You can check with your gas company as to your situation. (Don’t wait till the day of the quake to ask.)
- Check your building to see if there are cracks or structure failures. If so get out.
- Clean up as much as possible to make your area safer.
- Organize your safety materials for use as long as needed.
- In the event of emergencies, fire and police are in charge. If a state of emergency is declared YOU MUST obey instructions given you. Don’t try to argue your civil rights with authorities if you are told to evacuate. You could find yourself in jail as a looter. In the event National Guard units move in, follow their instructions. Under martial law you can be shot for failing to do so.
- If your cell phone works you can try to contact family and let them know your condition. Keep in mind everyone will be doing the same, so any working circuits may be overloaded and it might be hours before you can make a simple call.
- Have a primary person out of town that you will contact in an emergency and let others know who that is. That way you will only have to make one call and the rest can check with them. It is best if they are in another state so as not to be affected by the same problem.
- Be prepared to be on your own with no help from authorities for 3 to 5 days. When your local community pulls together, this is attainable and you will find you have made friends for life.
We hope this information can be of assistance to you and help keep you safe.