Why You Need an Earthquake Response Plan

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KCET is collaborating with the California Earthquake Authority to raise awareness and provide resources to help you prepare for an earthquake. California Earthquake Authority is a publicly managed, not-for-profit, privately funded organization that provides residential earthquake insurance and encourages Californians to reduce their risk of earthquake damage and loss.


You may be familiar with the risks of living in an area with a history of earthquakes. You may know how to protect yourself during the frightening moments during an earthquake – drop, cover, hold. You may even have your disaster kit, but do you have a plan for surviving an earthquake?

An earthquake response plan provides a template for what to do in the immediate aftermath and lays the groundwork for long-term recovery. A response plan is just as important (maybe more important) as a disaster kit.

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1. Discuss with your household what each person will do before, during, and after an earthquake. Who’s responsible for renewing water and batteries each year in your disaster kit? Is your emergency contact information current at your child’s school?  Do you have home improvement projects, like retrofits or foundation bolting, to accomplish? Do you plan to learn CPR or basic first aid?

2. Check for injuries and damage immediately following an earthquake. Aftershocks may cause items to fall or additional damage. Grab your disaster kit and go to a safe place.

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3. If you’re trapped, protect your eyes, nose and mouth from dust. If you’re bleeding, apply pressure and elevate the wound. Call for help using a whistle, cell phone, or by repeatedly knocking three times.

4. Help others and check for damage. Administer basic first aid to those in need and get medical help for serious injuries. If there’s a fire, work with neighbors to put it out immediately. Notify firefighters, but don’t wait for them to come.

5. Shut off gas if you think there’s a leak. You’ll smell its distinct odor, see broken pipes, or see the meter spinning irregularly. Don’t turn the gas on yourself. The gas company does that after it’s checked for leaks. Assume the gas company will take days to reach you.

6. If your electrical system is damaged, turn off the power. If you see a downed power line, assume it’s energized and stay away.

7. Work to clean up anything urgent. Items may have shifted in closets and cupboards. Beware that they may fall as you open doors. Clean harmful materials like bleach, lye, or gasoline by covering with dirt or cat litter. Unplug broken appliances or lamps. Be mindful of damaged masonry, like a chimney, which could fall during an aftershock.

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8. Have a meeting place in the aftermath of a major quake and consider where you might stay if your home is damaged and unsafe. Remember communication networks may be damaged or overwhelmed following a major seismic event. Mobile phone communication may be unreliable. Experts advise texting over calling, as text messages are much less resource intensive. Have an out-of-state contact who can help coordinate or relay information. Google and Facebook often create message boards to facilitate communication. Register yourself there to let friends and extended family know your status.

9. What now? Take stock of your situation, considering the scale of the disaster and your place in it. Take note of your provisions and plan accordingly. If you don’t have power, eat perishable goods from the refrigerator first. If you don’t have running water, you can draw from your water heater. Consider that recovery of basic services could take days or weeks.

Preparing and planning now can reduce future risks and potential losses. It can help meet your needs and lay the groundwork for recovery.


Top Image: 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, collapsed five-story tower, St. Joseph's Seminary, Los Altos, California. | Public Domain

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