Earthquakes bring with them the possibility that you will need to evacuate your home. Of course, you hope the walls you love will be strong enough to withstand even the worst quake nature can throw at you, but preparing and planning for evacuation are necessary steps towards keeping your family safe after an earthquake has occurred. Always remember that walls can be replaced, but those you love cannot.
Talk It Out – Schedule a family meeting with all members of your household present. Talk through plans for a potential evacuation, should the need arise, after an earthquake hits. Including children in the meeting is important, but remember to use non-threatening, age-appropriate language when discussing earthquakes with them. Having a blueprint to refer to can help identify areas of strength and weakness within your house’s structure, but if one is not available, sketch a floor plan you can refer to instead. If you live in an apartment building, sketch out the entire building including exits, not just your apartment. Pay special attention to hallways and stairwells, which may become blocked during a quake.
Create a Communication Chain – Determine how you will locate each other within the home after the earthquake, utilizing whatever system is the most viable for your family. Some families keep easily-accessible, sturdy whistles in each room for this use. Decide who will be responsible for individuals who need extra support, such as babies, small children or the elderly, and who will be in charge of your pets. You may wish to create a buddy system or roll call system for evacuation. Also decide how you will communicate with each other after the earthquake, should you not be together when it hits.
Identify Your Exits – If possible, map out two ways to get out of every room in your home. Determine whether or not you need to purchase rope ladders or other types of equipment for this purpose, and determine where they will be located at all times. Never stow essential equipment of any kind in a closet or other area of your home which might become blocked during an earthquake. Also identify at least two routes that lead out of your home into the outdoors and remind everyone that elevators should never be used after an earthquake.
Find Your Utility Switches – Mark where the locations of all utility switches and valves are for fast turnoff. If a turnoff tool or any other equipment is needed, know where it is at all times or purchase multiples to keep at or near each switch so you don’t waste time after the earthquake looking for it. Remember that things dislodge during earthquakes so try to stow tools you may need as securely as possible.
Know Where Your Go Bag Is – Always keep your go bag in the same place and never store it in an area of your home that might become inaccessible after an earthquake, such as the back of a closet. If you have dogs, your go bag should include extra leashes and treats in case you need to coax them out into the open. Earthquakes are as scary for dogs as they are for people.
Survey Your Exterior – Most earthquake-related injuries are caused by crumbling exterior walls, flying debris and shattering glass windows. Take some time to look at your home’s exterior to identify where the safest areas will be should you need to exit quickly. Remember that aftershocks are as unpredictable as the big one and loitering around outside buildings is to be avoided.
Decide Upon an Emergency Meet-Up Location – Your family should practice getting to an evacuation site or other location you agree upon, where you will be able to find each other if you are not together during the earthquake. Two locations should be chosen, one within your immediate area and one outside of it, in case your entire neighborhood needs to be evacuated.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
To learn more, visit CBS San Francisco’s Earthquake Resource Center