If you felt some shaking on the Fourth of July, and even if you didn’t personally sense it, you have likely heard it was from a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in the Mojave Desert near the town of Ridgecrest. The quake is being called one of the biggest in Southern California in 20 years, could be felt in various counties as far as San Diego County and Nevada, and is continuing to put out aftershocks.
Do you have a plan for earthquakes? Does everyone in your family know what to do in the event of significant shaking? What if you’re separated from your family? How will you reunite if local phone lines are down or the roads are inaccessible? Do you have enough food and water in case you need to fend for yourself at home for several days until infrastructure is re-established? If you’ve never considered any of these questions, now is the time to prepare and practice your plan. Being prepared can greatly improve your chances for safety and survival in a major disaster.
Being informed is also key in a disaster and the County’s free SD Emergency mobile app is a great resource. While the app also has interactive features to help you prepare, its greatest use may be during a disaster when it shows up-to-date open shelters, health warnings and other information. The free app is available from the Apple Store and Google Play.
What You Can Do
When a strong earthquake occurs, the water and gas lines could be compromised and phones and electricity could be out. Roads could be unsafe to use due to damage or debris. At the same time, if buildings are damaged, emergency officials will be busy with priority calls. That’s when you will need to rely on your emergency preparedness plan and supplies.
Prepare. Gather items for a home, work and car emergency kit to last three days at a minimum. The items should be stored in a ready-to-grab waterproof bag or container, such as a plastic tub. Pre-packaged emergency kits are available at some big box stores or at the American Red Cross, but you can also put your own kits together by buying items or gathering items from home. Include the following:
- Water – at least one gallon per person per day
- Non-perishable food
- First aid kit
Personalize your kits for your family by considering the dietary needs of infants, pets and other family members. If anyone in your family requires medication, keep an extra week’s supply in your kits. Keep a copy of important documents such as insurance policies, identification, and bank records in case you have to evacuate quickly. You can scan and store them online or on a thumb drive. Do the same with family photographs.
Plan. A disaster could happen while parents are at work and children at school. If you are away from your family, you cannot count on phone lines because they can quickly get overloaded. So it’s important to have a Family Disaster Plan that includes several meeting places and an out-of-state emergency contact who family members can call or text message. Text messaging is often a more successful way to communicate during a disaster.
Create a complete Family Disaster Plan (PDF) with important phone numbers and information you may need in an emergency. The plan templates are available in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. If you have a plan, review it, make sure it is still up-to-date, and practice it.
Stay informed. During an emergency, you will want official information. The County of San Diego emergency website is sdcountyemergency.com and will be updated with news including road closures and shelters. If you prefer a mobile version, download the County’s free mobile app, SD Emergency. You can download the mobile application online in the Google Play or Apple store.
Residents can also sign up to get emergency alerts by cell phone during a disaster. Register your phone for AlertSanDiego.
If the power is out, you can use your battery-powered radio to get updates from KOGO 600 AM. Residents can call 2-1-1 to get information about emergency updates or services. The County of San Diego also will also send out information on Twitter via the San Diego County and Ready San Diego accounts.
The family disaster plan includes these tips and more for earthquakes:
- Check home for potential hazards – things that can topple over and cause injury.
- Secure televisions, bookshelves and other heavy furniture to the wall.
- Use special hooks to secure photos and art to walls.
- Plan and rehearse where you and your family can seek cover in each room of your home.
- Drop, Cover and Hold On. Get down low to avoid falling, find a sturdy desk or table to seek cover under and hold onto it while covering your head with your other arm.
- If there are no tables, find an interior wall that is not near any heavy furniture or near glass picture frames, windows or under light fixtures, scoot down and cover your head.
- If outside, find an open area away from buildings, trees, or overhead utility wires, sit down and cover your head.
- Check your home for potential hazards.
- If you smell gas, keep a wrench handy to turn it off at the valve.