Get Prepared

Earthquake Preparation in 8 Essential Steps

Most people don’t think about earthquake preparation the way they think about preparing for other dangers. You know that earthquakes are a risk, but they don’t feel real. Earthquakes aren’t something you can see in your daily life. Earthquakes can’t be predicted. Earthquakes are hard to understand. You think, “It’ll never happen to me,” or, “I’ll make time for earthquake preparation one day.” You instead prioritize more immediate risks like protecting your home from burglary, and neglect to prepare for the long-term risks that could be even more devastating.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many people haven’t prioritized earthquake preparation for these very reasons.

It’s more important than ever to prepare for natural disasters. Recent events, such as the 2017 Northern California Wildfires or the Mexico Earthquakes of 2017, are a tragic reminder of how things can change in an instant. Earthquakes are especially dangerous for the amount of destruction done in just seconds. Science won’t protect us from the sheer power hidden in fault lines. Science aims to understand earthquakes and the way we understand earthquakes is changing.

The way we understand earthquakes is changing.

Here is what we know: earthquakes are unpredictable events that follow (slightly) predictable patterns based on past fault line behavior. We know that areas near the San Andreas Fault, Hayward Fault, and Cascadia Subduction Zone are overdue for a major earthquake. We also know that a major earthquake from one of these fault lines could produce catastrophic results. Scientists predict that the next big earthquake could be as massive as 7 to 9 magnitude.

There’s good news. You can prepare for these earthquakes. Earthquake preparation can mitigate damage to your home, your family, your pets, and even your finances.

Earthquake Preparation Infographic
Keep in mind these tips for earthquake preparation.

Here are 8 steps to earthquake preparation:

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice. 

    First, learn what to do during an earthquake. Develop a safety plan with designated safe areas for each room of your residence. Practice with earthquake drills so that you and your family are prepared to react quickly during a real earthquake.

  2. Gather Supplies. 

    Second, create an emergency supply kit with enough supplies to last at least three days. Tell family members where this kit is stored. Add portable containers to your kit, like a duffel bag, so that you are able to take your supplies with you if necessary. Make additional emergency kits to keep in other locations, such as your car and workplace.

  3. Make an Emergency Contacts List.

    Before finishing your kit, create a list of important phone numbers and addresses. Designate an out-of-state emergency contact to add to your list. Include potential evacuation sites for other places, such as a school or a workplace. Give a copy of the list to each family member and keep a copy in your emergency kit(s).

  4. Take a Class. 

    After you’ve got your supplies, attend a first aid and CPR class. It is essential to know how to help before emergency responders arrive.

  5. Prepare your Pets. 

    Next, research potential places that could shelter your pet if you need to evacuate. Knowing your pets have a place to stay will help to prevent heartbreak and frustration in the wake of a disaster. Remember to include more than one potential shelter in case you need a backup plan.

  6. Prepare your Family. 

    From time to time, make sure that your family members know how to use a fire extinguisher and where to find it. Know how and when you should shut off the utilities to your home, and make sure your family members also know this information. Talk with your family about when to call 9-1-1, and talk with children about what to expect if and when they call for help.

  7. Prepare your Property. 

    Check your home for hazards. Secure heavy items, such as bookcases, to prevent tipping. Use security tape to keep breakable items and items on shelves from shifting.  Avoid hanging heavy items above areas like a bed or doorway. Keep important documents in a safe location.

  8. Prepare your Wallet. 

    Finally, make sure your family has a financial plan for earthquake damage.

    1. Store extra cash in a safe place. After an earthquake, you may not be able to pay with a card or access an ATM.
    2. Set a disaster fund aside so that you have money ready to pay any deductibles or make immediate repairs. Keep this disaster fund separate from your regular checking account.
    3. Talk to your insurance agent about earthquake insurance. Earthquake damage is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. An earthquake insurance policy can help pay for repairs to your home and, in some cases, the cost of living somewhere else during the repairs. Earthquake damage could mean a hefty repair bill, and earthquake insurance will reduce this financial strain on your family.

Want more information on earthquake preparation? Check out FEMA’s Earthquake Safety Checklist. This checklist is a comprehensive resource to help get you started on your preparation plan.

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