For Homeowners January 18, 2010

An Earthquake Can Happen on Seattle's Eastside, Are You Prepared?

The eyes of the world are glued on Haiti right now.  The Haitian tragedy is horrific.  It’s sad to see so many people who are injured and may die because help was not available quickly.

Here in the US, we’re lucky to live in a country with relatively good roads, building codes, a solid infrastructure, great medical services, and police and fire departments. ( You may think things are not perfect here, but they’re pretty darn good when compared to much of the world) Regardless, we’re lucky to have all that’s available to us if and when there’s a disaster.  In the earthquake prone region of the Puget Sound, a disaster certainly can happen.  Our experiences will be different than those of the Haitian people.

Yes and No.  The odds are our buildings will not crumble, even in a strong earthquake.  Medical help will be available. But if there’s a disastrous earthquake or Mt. Rainier decides it’s time to wake up and remind us it’s an active volcano, we’ll have more problems than you think.   You need to wake up and be prepared before the mountain wakes up or the earth shakes.

If there’s a disaster, the police and fire will respond to the most serious, general emergencies.  The police and fire departments will take care of damage in the major places with lots of people.  They’ll be checking out the office buildings, bridges, airports, and streets. They’ll be busy with the major crises.

In Haiti right now the search and rescue crews are driving right past homes to the churches, hotels, and other major buildings in an attempt to rescue survivors.  The same thing will happen here until all those buildings have been checked out.

The police and firemen won’t come to your home right away.  They may not come for several days.  It’s physically impossible to check each home in a community right after an earthquake.  Even though we live in a country far more advanced than Haiti, everyone in the United States needs to be prepared.  If there’s a major natural disaster, you could easily be on your own for 2-3 days or more.

Each person and each household needs to prepare for a possible disaster.

For your home:

  • Know where your water shut off is located.
  • Make sure your water tank has earthquake straps.
  • Put heavy decorative object on lower display shelves or secure them.
  • Bookcases can be secured to the wall.
  • Have tools and wrenches handy (see below)

For you:

  • a first aid kit
  • Water and nonperishable food for three days.
  • Can opener, utensils, plates, plastic cups,
  • Your medication.
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Crank radio
  • Flashlights and lanterns
  • Formula, bottles, and diapers for babies
  • survival blankets

This list is only a start. The 3Days3Ways site has more complete information to help you get prepared. Check it out.  There’s a wealth of information.

Here are some additional tips from Stephanie Day, The Emergency Management Coordinator from the City of Kirkland:

Keep small bills in a safe place in case of an emergency. Imagine spending $20 for water if all you had available were $20 bills.

Keep a wrench in a plastic bag (to prevent rust) next to your gas shut-off so you’ll be ready to turn off the gas if needed.

However, don’t shut your gas off unless you hear or smell something. You can’t turn the gas back on  without the utility company’s assistance — and it could be a long wait!

Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times.

Have at least one corded telephone in your home. A cordless phone or cell phone may not work during a disaster.

Make sure you have a small disaster preparedness kit in your car, in case you’re stuck somewhere out on the road.  Keep a pair of those old sneakers you planned to throw out in your car, just in case you need them.

If there is an emergency, a great site for local information is The Regional Public Information Network (RPIN), which incorporates the latest from Federal Emergency Management Administration, local Ham radio operators, and the National Weather Service among others.

Today it’s important to give to Haiti.  You can contribute through Doctors Without Borders and The American Red Cross, Oxfam American and a host of other places.  Let’s not forget the Haitian people.

Tomorrow it’s important to get prepared for yourself.

Can you think of other things people should do to get prepared?  Are there other websites that provide good information?