What would you do if there was a flash flood? How would you react to a moderate to severe earthquake? Do you know what kind of disasters are likely in your area?
Know your Dangers: In Southern California we don’t need to prepare for a tornado. Our weather patterns rarely offer the opportunity for one to occur. However, we can have earthquakes, fires, flash floods and mud slides in various locations.
It is important to know what could happen in your area and what could happen to your home. Of the items listed above earthquakes and possibly fires are the most likely to hit our home. They are what we’ve prepared for.
Talk to Authorities: If you’re like me, you need to get credible information about what could happen and how to prepare. The internet provides a lot of good information, particularly on the .gov sites. However, actually talking to the authorities can be better because it gives you the opportunity to ask for clarification if something doesn’t make sense. Unless they are in the middle of handling a crisis they usually don’t mind.
Research Preparation Options: Where would you store an earthquake kit? What should go into a “grab and go” bag? Is it safe to drive? Do you need to build something or retrofit? These are things to find out before a disaster happens. Again, the internet is a great place to begin. In fact, you can often purchase supplies you’ll need specifically designed for the type of problems you might face.
Do the Work: If you don’t act on your research it will do you no good. As an example, after the Northridge quake two things became very obvious. Many people did not have flashlights. Some of those who did couldn’t find them after the ground stopped moving. The other problem came with water heaters. Three out of 65 homes had strapped them to studs. The rest had to buy new water heaters because the quake knocked them over.
Make a Plan: Disasters don’t always happen when you’re all together in your home. We were lucky; it was at early in the morning. If it had been later in the morning we might have been scattered around the city or even in a neighboring city.
If you have children, find out what the schools do and how they release children after a disaster. Most have cards with a list of adults you approve who can check them out. Until one of those people shows up, the child will stay at the school.
If you work away from home, you may have to walk to get back there. Having a pair of walking shoes at work might be wise. You may also want to keep some emergency supplies in your work area or in your car.
You’ll need to plan where to meet, who to use as a contact and alternate ways to get out of your home or office. In your contacts have at least one contact out of state. After Northridge the only way we could communicate with family members in SoCal was to call a relative in another state and have them relay messages.
Follow Through: All of this work can be useless if you don’t act on it during the disaster. You may wonder why I’m stating the obvious. Some things, and earthquakes are among them, can panic you to the point of not being able to think. You may not be able to stifle the panic immediately but you’ll have to fight it down in order to handle the situation. If you remember that it can help. We went from screaming to “get the flashlight out of your drawer” within seconds of the end of the earthquake. It can be done.
After a disaster you may find that there are things you need to change in your plans and preparations. Expect that. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you survived and now want to be even more prepared the next time.