Thursday, January 14, 2010

Earthquake Preparedness

We normally don't post two items in one day, but this is timely and important...We encourage you to add your ideas and tips in the comment section.

By Norm Nyhuis, Trainer / Consultant, Evergreen Safety Council

As I write this article, the news media is flooded with reports from the January 12th earthquake that devastated the island nation of Haiti. Sadly, we may never have accurate information regarding the toll, both human and financial, of this event. At this moment, speculation runs the full spectrum from bad, to worse, to unimaginable.

For those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest, the heart breaking images flickering across our television screens strike very close to home. Earthquakes are a fact of life – actually almost a daily occurrence – for those of us who live along the Pacific Coast, and many of us have vivid memories of our own experiences during the recent earthquakes. Check out for an up-to-the-moment depiction of earthquake activity in the area.

The question is: what have YOU done to reduce the effect of an earthquake on your family?

In 1983, FEMA established a comprehensive Earthquake Education Program under the authority of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977. The intent of this FEMA program include increasing awareness of earthquake hazards and encouraging everyone, both individuals and businesses, to get involved in earthquake preparedness and hazard reduction.

FEMA has published lists that summarize some recommendations for increasing earthquake preparedness actions at work, school, and in your home.

· Post clear instructions for actions to take during and after an earthquake
· Hold earthquake drills on site
· Instruct personnel how to assist customers and visitors to your work site during an earthquake and to direct evacuation of buildings
· Securely store hazardous materials
· Keep a flashlight at sales counters, in desk drawers, and other areas that would be difficult to evacuate or inspect in the dark
· Make provisions for secure storage of essential data and information for your business operations
· Identify an alternate location to conduct business if your primary facility is structurally damaged and can not be occupied.
· Maintain an inventory and location list of valuable items that may need to be moved to a temporary site following an earthquake
· Protect computer systems and personal computers against damage and loss of data as a result of ground shaking and power outage – surge protectors, earthquake straps, regular back-up of data and possibly off-site storage of those back-ups.

Parents need to talk with their school district administrators to learn about the “seismic safety” of school buildings (have they been evaluated?) and encourage the district to improve the ability of school buildings to resist ground shaking without total or partial collapse. In addition, school districts should develop an earthquake safety program.

· Hold earthquake drills, “drop, cover & hold” including evacuation of the building
· Inform parents about plans to care for students during and after a major earthquake – parents should provide their children with a personal 72 hour kit.
· Encourage the training of school personnel in first aid, CPR, search and rescue techniques, and building safety procedures, such as turning off damaged utilities.
· Develop an attendance system that will provide an accurate list of all students and staff on site, each day
· Include information on earthquakes and earthquake preparedness in the curriculum

Among the many things homeowners and families can do are:
· Have family earthquake drills
· Have a family plan for what family members should do during and after an earthquake
· Make sure children know what to do during an earthquake if they are at home alone, and where the family should leave messages if relocation is necessary – this means establishing an out of state contact where each family member can call to report their location
· Build or buy a “grab n’ go” kit of sufficient size to accommodate your family if you need to evacuate your home
· Take some simple and inexpensive steps to reduce the damage to your home and its contents by securing tall cabinets to the wall studs, and secure items to the shelves with sticky gels or similar products
· Know where and how-to shut off damaged utilities and have the necessary tools available to do so

There is a great deal of useful information on the FEMA website, we encourage to become informed and take action.


  1. Norm, Excellent blog entry and strategies to put in place. Is it true to designate an out of state contact for family members to call out to in the case of an earthquake. During the Loma Prieta (sp) in 1989 I could get through to my sister in Atlanta to let my sister know I was okay. She passed that information along to my wife who was just ten miles from me in California but we couldnt complete a local call? That too was back in the day of no cell phone

  2. Larry: Thank you for the kind words. As a retired telephone repair technician, I can address the "local" vs "long distance" issue: It is a simple economic reality that "long distance" service is more lucrative than
    "local" service. So there is an incentive to restore the profitable services first. Also, the repair crews can only do so much in a given time period: fixing a location that restores service for several hundred or thousand, subscribers is going to happen before a fix that restores service to a neighborhood group of 4 or 5. Choosing an emergency contact that is not too close geographically to you is necessary so that person is not affected by the same problem (fire, flood, earthquake, etc) Regarding mobile phones: Cell towers need "power" to operate; if the power is out to your home, it's probably also "out" for the cell-tower next to your home. At that point your cell phone is still useful . . . as a paper weight.


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