Earthquakes happen every day. It is as common as the tides in the ocean, in fact on average there are several hundred small scale earthquakes each day, while larger magnitude (up to 7 on the scale) earthquakes can happen monthly. As common as they are, it is easy to ignore the reality that if we were to have a magnitude 7 or larger earthquake in a populated or semi-populated area in Southeastern Utah, it’s impacts could be absolutely devastating. Many experts are cited, saying a large-scale earthquake is overdue for Utah and each year in April, most of the state participates in a public exercise know as “The Great Utah Shakeout”. This April is a good opportunity to look at how we can better prepare ourselves, our families, our businesses and communities for a large-scale earthquake.
The Earthquake Country Alliance (https://www.earthquakecountry.org/sevensteps/) recommends the following seven steps that we can all take to makes ourselves safer when an earthquake does happen.
Step 1: Secure your space.
We do this by identifying potential hazards and securing and moving items to a location where there is less danger of them falling and injuring someone. In earthquakes it is common for people to be severely injured or die because of unsecured items such as bookcases, cabinets, even televisions. Only 1% of casualties are usually caused by building damage. This is also a good idea if you have small children in routine day to day activities. An easy way to go about this is by moving heavy objects to the floor or low shelves, move things that could fall where you spend a lot of time, and move heavy objects away from doors or escape routes.
Step 2: Plan to be Safe.
Create your own emergency plan now and figure out how you will communicate. Having a plan before a disaster will help you be ready and helpful to others. Make sure each family member or employee knows what to do during an earthquake. Make sure they know immediate action (drop, cover, and hold on), identify safe spots in every room. If families are separated, go over a plan on how they will reunite (one parent goes to the school on their way home, how they will communicate if cell towers are down (sometimes texts still work), and finally where they will all gather. Make sure family and friends have an updated contact list with important phone numbers, learn about your work of school’s earthquake plan and how you might participate in any training. Keep copies of essential documents on a thumb drive and hard copies in an easy to access yet secure location. Build a consistent habit of keeping shoes and a flashlight (maybe even an emergency whistle) in an under-bed bag secured to each bed. Keep a fire extinguisher for your home and office.
Step 3: Organize Emergency Supplies.
Everyone should have access to emergency supplies that you keep stored at various locations. As mentioned before an under-bed bag should include shoes, a flashlight, dust mask, clothing, gloves, small first aid kit, and a whistle. Go-Bags, car kits, or 72-hour kits containing all the supplies you might need for up to 72 hours when an evacuation is needed (or to help you get home if you are at work or away). This kit might include: medications, first aid kit, gloves, dust mask, spare eyeglasses, bottled water, personal hygiene, whistle, sturdy shoes, emergency cash, list of emergency contact numbers, snack foods, portable radio with extra batteries, toiletries, Home or work supplies should include basic necessities in case you are sheltering in place for up to 2 weeks for larger groups. These supplies should include: water (minimum of one gallon per day per person), wrenches to turn off gas and water, work gloves and goggles, heavy duty plastic bags for waste or shelter, portable radio, additional flashlights or light sticks, canned or packaged foods, alternate means of cooking (camp stove), cooking utensils and manual can opener, pet food, comfortable warm clothing to include socks, blankets or sleeping bags (perhaps a tent), copies of vital documents.
Step 4: Minimize Financial Hardship.
While earthquakes usually only last seconds, their effects can last months or longer. If you are able to organize your important documents, it can relieve some of the burden. Important documents you may consider gathering copies of: ID, insurance cards, emergency contact numbers, and photos of belongings in your home (to file an insurance claim).
Step 5: Drop, cover, and hold on.
Drop where you are onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and allows you to stay low to the ground to crawl to shelter if possible. Cover you head and neck with one arm and hand. If you are close to a sturdy desk or table, crawl underneath it for shelter, stay away from windows and stay bent over to protect vital organs.
Step 6: Improve Safety.
We do this by evacuating if necessary, helping the injured and preventing further injuries or damage. The moment the ground stops shaking it is important take action quickly and safely. Check for injuries and damages that need immediate attention. Use your training in first aid to assist those in need. Look around your environment to identify any new hazards such as leaking gas lines, damage to the building, water or electric lines, or other things that may be dangerous, especially if there are aftershocks. Be prepared to report damage to city or county government. First take care of your own situation. Remember your emergency plans. Aftershocks may cause additional damage or items to fall, so get to a safe location. Use your “grab-and-go” emergency supplies as needed.
Step 7: Reconnect and Restore.
In the aftermath of a large earthquake, once immediate needs are taken care of it will be very important to monitor local radio for safety advisories, and about where to get emergency housing, food, first aid, clothing and financial assistance. If the power is off, plan meals to use up refrigerated and frozen foods first. If you keep the door closed, freezer food may be good for a couple days. Saved your canned food for later. If you water is turned off or unsafe, you can drink water from water heaters, melted ice cubes, or canned vegetables. Avoid drinking water from swimming pools or spas. If you stay in your home and the gas has been interrupted, make sure the gas company is one to turn it back on.
Planning for an earthquake and following these steps could often determine your quality of life in the days, weeks, or months following an earthquake.
Please visit: https://www.shakeout.org/utah/index.html for additional information and resources.