In the wake of the recent disaster in Japan, Californians ask themselves, “If a similar earthquake just like the one that hit Japan struck today, are we prepared?” Many studies show, despite being aware that California is prone to earthquakes, few Californians are prepared.

The recent disaster in Japan is a wake-up call that reminds us in the case of a major destruction it will take time for help to come. Electricity, water, gas and telephones may not be working after an earthquake. The police and fire departments will likely to be tied up, so individuals and families should be prepared to fend for themselves for at least several days to a week.

Homeowners can protect their families and reduce the risk of destruction by following the guidelines recommended by the California Department of Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey. SILVAR members can review these earthquake safety measures and share them with their clients:

Identify Potential Hazards in Your Home and Fix Them
1. Move heavy furniture away from where people sit or sleep. Make sure exit paths are clear of clutter. Secure hanging objects, cabinet doors and appliances with earthquake-safety straps, fasteners and adhesives.

2. Water pipes can break and cause extensive damage; broken gas pipes are a major fire hazard. Replace rigid gas connections to water heaters and other gas appliances with flexible (corrugated) stainless steel gas connectors.  Excess-flow gas-shutoff valves for individual appliances will stop gas flow in case of a catastrophic leak.

3. Move flammable or hazardous materials stored in garages and utility rooms to low areas that are secure.

Create a Disaster Supply Kit
Create a disaster supply kit and place it in an easily accessible location. This kit should be in a large watertight container that can be easily moved and should hold at least a one-week supply of the following items:

* First aid supplies, including spare eyeglasses and essential hygiene items

* Drinking water (minimum one gallon per person per day)

* Whistle (to alert rescuers to your location)

* Emergency cash in small bills (ATMs may not work)

* Snack foods high in calories, canned and packaged foods and cooking utensils, including a manual can opener. Don’t forget pet food.

* Emergency lighting—light sticks and (or) a working flashlight with extra batteries.

* Comfort items for your children, such as crayons, writing materials and stuffed animals

* A battery-operated radio (and spare batteries).

* Warm clothing, gloves, sturdy shoes, extra socks, blankets and perhaps even a tent.

* Heavy-duty plastic bags for waste and other uses, such as tarps and rain ponchos

* Copies of vital documents, such as insurance policies, personal identification, medical consent forms for dependents.

NOTE: Replace perishable items like water, food, medications, and batteries on a yearly basis.

Make Sure You Have a Disaster Preparedness Plan
Decide how and where your family will reunite if separated during a quake. Choose an out-of-state friend or relative to call and alert other relatives and friends that you are all right.

It would also be a good idea to discuss earthquake insurance with your agent. Depending on your financial situation and the value of your home, it may be worthwhile.

What to Do During an Earthquake
1. If you’re indoors, get under a desk or table, or stand against an interior wall. Stay away from exterior walls, glass, heavy furniture, fireplaces and appliances. The kitchen is a particularly dangerous spot. If you’re in an office building, stay away from windows and outside walls and do not use the elevator.  If you’re outside, stay clear of buildings, power lines or anything else that could fall on you. 
2. If you’re driving, move the car out of traffic and stop. Avoid parking under or on bridges or overpasses, or close to trees, light posts, signs and power lines.

3. If you’re in a mountainous area, beware of the potential for landslides. If you’re near the ocean, be aware that tsunamis are associated with large earthquakes, so get to high ground.

We are not immune to disaster in our state. Remember the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck on April 18, 1906 ranks as one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit Northern California. Then there was Loma Prieta in 1989, another devastating earthquake with a 6.9 magnitude that struck the region. Let’s make sure we are prepared for the next one.

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