Guest Editorial: Earthquake Plans Will Get You Through the First Three Days

Emergency planners say you should be prepared to go three days without emergency help after an earthquake. The Great California Shakeout is a reminder to get your plan and your supplies in place.

by Larry Whitney

Whether you were asleep in Portland, Maine last night, or were watching the 1989 World Series in San Francisco, you live in earthquake country.

At 10:18 a.m. today (Thursday, Oct. 18), Californians will celebrate the Great California Shakeout.  This is a time to consider how you will respond in the event of an earthquake and what you still need to do to be prepared for the next earthquake.

Earthquakes happen constantly. Most of them go relatively unnoticed but there may be one that has a big impact on you.  The Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes were not that long ago.

Surviving an earthquake requires that you do a couple of things.  First of all, remember to Drop, Cover and Hold on.  This is true regardless of where you are.  Drop to the ground, cover your head with your arms, and hold onto something stable.

Experts no longer recommend standing in doorways as a source of protection from the effects of an earthquake.

What happens next is based upon what you did before that moment.  What quake preparations have you made? 

We each need to plan today to be ready for whenever the next major earthquake strikes. Part of your preparations should include a bag or backpack near the front door of your home with items you will need for the first 72 hours.  Do you have at least three days of food, water and other supplies? Have you put copies of personal documents in a safe place so that, if you have to leave your home, you can take your driver’s license, birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, deeds, insurance and other documents for yourself and your family members? Banks and ATMs may be closed.  Have you set aside an ample supply of cash that you can quickly retrieve for use in the first 72 hours?

Do you have a communications plan?  This is a plan identifying who your family members will contact outside of the area when there is an emergency. Local phone lines will be jammed, but long-distance calls may still be possible.  Cell phones were not functioning in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina; however, text messages were still working, and they were used extensively both by first responders and survivors.

Do you have a family meeting plan? Where will your family members gather if your home or unusual gathering spot is destroyed? If you have children in school, what is the school’s emergency plan and how will you reconnect with your children?  You should ask school officials to see the plan; write down the information so you won’t have to trust your memory.  Likewise, do your children have a plan and do they have it written down in a backpack or book bag so that they know what to do?  Do your children have written information that they can give to a person in charge?

Most advice focuses on surviving the first 72 hours after a major emergency such as a powerful earthquake.  In a worst-case situation, where there is severe damage throughout the Bay Area, you may have to be able to survive on your own for 7 days before police, firefighters, or other first responders can reach you.  Are you prepared to do that?

Through our Fire Department and the Benicia Emergency Response Team (BERT), the city of Benicia offers classes in emergency preparation and response -- not just for earthquakes but for many emergencies that you and your family may confront.  The next seven-part BERT training class starts in January.  Applications are available at the Benicia Fire Department or online at www.BeniciaBERT.com.

Additional information is available from the American Red Cross and the California Emergency Management Agency.

A popular Internet website has interesting and entertaining information on preparedness.  Visit http://www.totallyunprepared.com/.

To stay up to date with local news and events, you can follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/BeniciaBERT) or “like” the Benicia Emergency Response Team’s page on Facebook.

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If there’s something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor JB Davis at 707-628-0051 or email him at benicia@patch.com.


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