How to prepare for an earthquake and its aftermath in California
View our Earthquake Preparedness infographic here.
An earthquake in California can strike at any time, and they are daily occurrences throughout the state with varying impact and magnitude, with approximately 10,000 taking place each year.
These are traumatic, unpredictable events, and having a plan in place before an earthquake strikes can go a long way toward keeping you, your friends, and neighbors safe and alive. There are many issues you should consider before a quake even occurs, including reactive measures and post-quake actions to help everyone, including yourself, stay safe and informed during the lifespan of the event. Keep in mind the information below is not a foolproof plan for earthquake preparedness; rather, consider these to be good, sensible tips. Each quake is going to differ in size and force, but remembering these hints will keep you and others safe. Another good source for homeowner association (HOA) board members is your property management team, who also may have further insight on how to prepare and react to an earthquake based on his/her experiences.
Here are some helpful earthquake preparedness tips provided by the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
What to do before an earthquake:
- Store household items in a way that won’t cause injury. Keeping heavy, metal, or glass objects lower in your house, and items such as plastic storage containers and lighter, shatterproof items higher on shelves is a sensible way to avoid injury. Think about it: Do you want to be in a kitchen that contains heavy-duty glassware cooking pans on high shelves if an earthquake strikes? A falling item of that nature could cause a head or upper body injury, and shattered glass could cause serious cuts. Avoid that scenario by decorating and storing sensibly.
- Make sure large items are fastened to walls. Shelves, cabinets, china closets, and heating units could collapse on a person during a quake and/or cause structural damage. The Red Cross recommends bolting those items to wall studs as a prevention method.
- Don’t sleep under a window. This is a simple idea but a very practical one. Positioning a bed under a window is just asking for trouble. What if, when you’re sleeping, a quake strikes and your windows shatter? Or what if a tree branch crashes through the window? You won’t have time to react, and you could be seriously injured. So place the bed by a wall that’s away from a window. Apply the same plan to any chairs or couches.
- Assemble emergency kits. Preparing for an extended event, a worst-case scenario, is prudent. Do so by assembling emergency grab-and-go kits including bandages or necessary medications, dry food, pet food, water supplies, batteries, flashlights, can openers, radio, extra sets of car keys, and durable shoes for each family member.
What to do during an earthquake:
- Know how to react. When an earthquake strikes, your first steps are crucial. First, drop to the floor, try to get near an interior wall, take cover under any heavy objects such as tables to avoid falling debris, and hold on. A lot of times, people will resort to hiding under doorways, but the Red Cross warns against that idea as they easily can collapse on you, causing injury. If you’re in bed, stay there, curl up, and cover your head with a pillow until the event passes.
- If you’re indoors, stay there. Don’t try to escape your building during an earthquake, even if that’s your instinct to do so. Wait until the shaking stops to exit, and take a staircase out instead of an elevator.
- If you’re outdoors, use good sense. If you’re walking, take cover until the shaking stops by lying down in an open area away from trees, power lines, street lights, or buildings. If you’re in a car, pull over in a safe area away from bridges, trees, and power lines, and remain fastened with your seatbelt until the quaking stops.
What to do after the earthquake:
- Stay informed. Some residential property management companies offer their communities technology that sends voice messages or e-mail instructions to all residents. Access that technology if you can. The neighborhood or city, which you live in also may have an alert system in place, which you can find out by asking your property management company or visiting your local emergency management office. There are other ways to stay informed such as social media updates you can access on a smartphone or contact out-of-town relatives for further information to help you plan your next steps.
- Expect aftershocks. Most earthquakes have a series of aftershocks days, weeks, and even months following the initial event. Seismologists tallied as many as 100 aftershocks from a 5.1-magniture quake in late March of 2014, so when they occur (and they will), follow the safety protocols listed above – get down and hold on.
- Remember your neighbors. Just because you’re in one piece and healthy doesn’t mean those who live around you were as fortunate or as able to escape. Keep in mind elderly and disabled neighbors may need help reaching safety or need medical attention. Find out if anyone who lives near you is injured and needs assistance. Also, the Salvation Army recommends sharing your plans with your neighbors in case they, too, want to be prepared in advance.
- Clean up any danger spots. Look around your home or other places in your building, and take care of anything you can handle such as cleaning up flammable liquid spills or extinguishing small fires. Only do these tasks if it is safe and won’t put you or anyone else in harm’s way.
These are just some of the things you can do before, during, and after an earthquake to remain safe. For more advice on how you can prepare your community for an earthquake, contact FirstService Residential.
For more information on earthquake preparedness, click on the links below.