Opinion: The next earthquake How prepared is your household?


By Johanna Podio

During the first two weeks of July, California had close to 1,800 earthquakes.  Theses earthquakes ranged from 2.0 to 7.1 in magnitude. Most have been centered in the Ridgecrest area near Bakersfield. A few have been near the San Francisco area in Livermore. As California continues to rock and roll, how ready are you for the next large earthquake?

After a major earthquake hits, Californians need to be prepared and self sufficient for 72 hours. Earthquakes can happen anywhere and anytime. According to Redcross.org, everyone should have an evacuation plan, a safe place to duck and cover in your home, and make sure your home is properly secured with braces and bolted down bookcases. Know how to shut down your water and gas valves, have enough water and food for three days. Having a first aid kit, three day supply of medicines, flashlights and batteries, a hand crank radio/charger, personal clothing and hygiene supplies, and food and supplies for your pets is also a necessity.

FEMA recommends that you also have important family documents, cash, cleaning supplies, a fire extinguisher, and activities for your children.

While the list to get ready for an earthquake can be endless, it is important to prepare for a major earthquake.

The Loma Prieta earthquake was the last major quake in Northern California on Oct. 17, 1989. It was centered in the Santa Cruz Mountains and was a 6.9 magnitude quake. The quake was responsible for 63 deaths and billions of dollars in damage.

My grandmother, Linda Webb, who lived in Watsonville then, survived the earthquake and its destructive wake. Her home, a large two-story Victorian built before the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, moved 18 inches off its foundation during the quake and was destroyed.

“I was teaching an art class to my young students in my studio when the quake hit.  I had to secure the safety of 14 children as my home and studio started to move all around us.  The studio’s glass windows all burst apart and shattered glass went everywhere.

“My youngest daughter ran around and shut off the water and gas to prevent a fire.  A lot of our neighborhood homes had fires from gas leaks. It was a very scary experience.”

When asked, “How well were you prepared for the earthquake?” she said,  “I thought I was prepared. I had food and water, a safety plan, I taught my children how to turn off the gas and water mains, knew how to duck and cover.

“What I was not prepared for was the lack of phone service, the lack of communication, loss of bridges and roads in and out of our town, the amount of destruction caused to our home was devastating. After the earthquake, we had terrible rains, which added to the destruction. You can never be prepared for that kind of destruction.”

My grandmother also remembers about how her food kit was destroyed by falling cabinets and debris. When asked what she would do now to prepare for an earthquake, she said, “I have everything located in one central area and protected from falling objects. I hope to be better prepared this time.”

According to FEMA’s Ready.gov website, for your emergency kit you will need:

  • One gallon of water per person and for every day.
  • A three-day supply of food but it has to be non-perishable foods like a small package of tuna.
  • A battery-powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries. The best thing to have is a  NOAA weather radio with tone alerts. This will help you know what’s happening and alert you if another earthquake or other emergency happens.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries.
  • A first aid kit and a whistle to signal for help.
  • Towelettes, garage bag, and a plastic ties for personal sanitation.
  • A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities like  gas and water
  • A can opener for opening food products.
  • A local map to find a safe place to evacuate
  • Medication and glasses.
  • If you have pets, then pet food and extra water, too.
  • Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Have cash and change.
  • Sleeping bag and warm blankets for each person.
  • A change of clothes.
  • A fire extinguisher, matches, in a waterproof container.
  • Personal hygiene supplies.
  • Books and activities for the children.

For more ideas about earthquake preparedness go to FEMA or Red Cross websites.  They both have checklists to help get prepared for the next earthquake.

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Young Voices

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Young Voices Media Project teaches Monterey Bay area teens multimedia skills to report the news from their communities. This project was generously supported by the Clare Giannini Fund.