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Emergency Preparedness

This is a bit off topic of this blog but in light of this morning’s 4.7 magnitude earthquake I wanted to address the importance of being prepared.

When I was working in corporate I had given a presentation on Emergency Preparedness due to my background in Search and Rescue.  We’ve had a lot of training to be first responders if and when a big earthquake should occur. It went over well and I was happy to share my knowledge.  Sharing this information became even more important when I learned that some executives thought it was a smart idea to  evacuate our office tower and run out side after an earthquake.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Office towers that are constructed these days are built to withstand quakes.  Simply put, you are safer inside than you are outside.  Once you leave the building, should you decide to do so, you are running right into broken glass on the ground not to mention additional falling glass and debris from above.  Stay put. While images of collapsed structures in earthquakes around the world are frightening and get the most attention from the media, most buildings do not collapse at all, and few completely collapse. In earthquake prone areas of the U.S. and in many other countries, strict building codes have worked to greatly reduce the potential of structure collapse. However, there is the possibility of structural failure in certain building types, especially unreinforced masonry (brick buildings), and in certain structures constructed before the latest building codes.  Of course you do want to consider if your building is in danger of collapse, if there is fire, or a gas leak do evacuate carefully but as a rule of thumb if you are in a large office tower when an earthquake occurs,  stay there if you can.

You should keep an emergency bag in your office.  You should also have one in your car, and your home.   The following is the presentation I did a few years ago to educate the office folks so they don’t run into trouble when the “big one” hits.  In this I go into detail about what to have in your emergency bag(s).

Are You Prepared for the Next Earthquake?

California is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. As such, we have long been a leader in the measures taken to prepare for such an event and ensure that all Californians remain safe whenever a quake rumbles through.

But preparedness is a collaborative effort that begins with every individual. To help get you started, there are countless resources available to all Californians providing tips on quake safety and preparedness.

Please take the time to review some of the resources listed below. By taking some simple steps, you will be ready the next time the earth starts shaking.

Steps to Take…

…Before a Quake
Assemble or replenish an emergency supply kit to sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours.
Kits should include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Consumable medical supplies such as catheters and diapers
  • Flashlights
  • Portable, battery operated radios
  • Extra batteries
  • Manual can opener
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Sturdy shoes and work gloves
  • Cash
  • Tools

If you’re a person with a disability or elderly and may need assistance, establish support teams of people who can assist you at home, work and school.

If you need assistance with transportation, pre-identify options such as paratransit, dial-a-ride, taxi, a friend or a neighbor to transport you to evacuation centers or shelters.

If you’re dependent on equipment that needs power, regularly charge devices and have back-up options available.

Copy deeds, insurance policies and other vital records and documents. Store them in a safe deposit box. Make sure the originals are also stored in a safe place.

Compose a list of valuables. Supplement the list with photos or videos of each item. Store the list and copies, as well as photos and videos, in a safe place.

Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross to learn their plans for emergency shelters and temporary medical centers.
Conduct a home hazard hunt

  • Identify “safe” spots in each room
  • Sturdy tables
  • Desks
  • Interior walls

Identify “danger spots” in each room

  • Areas near windows
  • Mirrors
  • Hanging objects
  • Fireplaces
  • Pieces of tall, unsecured furniture

Identify potential exits in each room and keep areas around them clear.

Check chimneys, roofs, walls and foundations for stability. Make sure your house is bolted to the foundation.

Develop a family emergency plan

  • Identify an out-of-town contact
  • Identify a place to reunite if you and members of your family are separated
  • Learn the policies of schools and day care centers your children attend regarding their release after an emergency
  • Identify someone to pick up your children if you are unable to do so
  • Consider the needs of infants, seniors, persons with disabilities.
  • Develop and provide each member of your family with an emergency evacuation plan that includes a floor plan and at least two ways out of each room

Include plans for seniors, infants and those with disabilities

Include plans for your pets and large animals since they are NOT allowed in shelters

Develop a family phone tree or other mechanism family members can use to contact one another if they are separated

Identify at least two evacuation routes and provide them to responsible family members

Identify important documents to take with you if you have to leave

  • Insurance policies
  • Medical records
  • Driver’s license
  • Mortgage information

Find the shutoff valves for gas, water and electricity. Teach responsible family members how to shut off all utilities. Contact your utility company if you have any questions.

Secure water heaters, major appliances, tall heavy pieces of furniture, hanging plants, mirrors and picture frames to the wall studs.

Store breakables, heavy objects, flammable or hazardous liquids, including paints, pest sprays and cleaning products, in secured cabinets or lower shelves.

Organize your neighborhood to be self-sufficient after an earthquake.

Conduct practice drills every six months

…During a Quake

  • If you’re inside, find a desk or sturdy table and “Drop, Cover and Hold On”
  • Take cover against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms if no desk or table is available
  • Avoid windows and exterior walls if you’re in a high rise. Do not use the elevator.
  • If you use a wheelchair or have other mobility impairments and cannot drop, cover and hold on, protect your head and neck with a pillow or your arms, and bend over to protect yourself as much as possible.
  • If you’re in bed when an earthquake strikes, stay there and protect your head with a pillow.
  • If you’re outside, find an open area, away from trees, buildings, power lines, signs and other objects
  • If you’re driving when an earthquake occurs, pull over to side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, signs, power lines. Stay in your car until the shaking stops.
  • If you’re in a public assembly area (ie stadium, theatre, crowded public place, etc.), crouch down and cover your head and your neck with your hands and arms. Do not rush for the exits.

…After a Quake

  • Check for damage to your building, including the foundation, roof and chimneys.
  • Evacuate immediately if the building shows signs of partial or imminent collapse or is threatened by a fire.
  • Check the building for fires, gas leaks, electrical shorts, broken water lines, spilled flammable or hazardous materials.
  • If there is damage, turn off the utility at the source
  • Evacuate immediately if the building is threatened by a large fire or if you hear or smell escaping gas.
  • Report gas leaks to your utility company.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t enter damaged buildings or sleep in locations where large, heavy items could fall on you.
  • Clean up overturned furniture, broken glass and other nonstructural hazards.
  • Don’t use candles for lighting. They can topple over easily during an aftershock, causing a fire or an explosion if there’s a gas leak.
  • Don’t use a charcoal grill or generator inside your building or garage (due to the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Wear a dust mask or avoid prolonged exposure in areas where there’s a substantial amount of dust.
  • Check for hazards outside the building.
  • Assume electrical wires that have fallen are live. Don’t try to touch or move them
  • Avoid contact with any surfaces that are touching fallen electrical wire.

If you are forced to evacuate and must go to a shelter, you will need to take the following items:

  • “Go kit” with basic supplies, including non-perishable food, snacks, water, first-aid supplies, prescription medications, a portable radio and consumable medical supplies.
  • For each person, a change of clothing, jacket, sturdy shoes, personal hygiene supplies, wash cloth and towel, pillow, blankets or sleeping bag
  • Personal identification, credit cards, house keys, cell phone and charger, list of important phone numbers and important documents, including copies of insurance policies, birth certificates and other important documents.
  • A few books, toys and games for children
  • Special food or support materials for infants and elders who require those items.

If you have pets and need to evacuate, you will have to take them to separate shelters set up especially for them and provide the following items:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Feeding dishes
  • Leashes
  • Pet carriers
  • Vaccination records
  • Prescription medications

Use the phone only to report life-threatening situations:

  • If you have a life-threatening situation and your phone does not have a dial tone when you first pick up the receiver due to system damage and overload, wait for several minutes to see if the dial tone returns instead of handing up and calling again immediately.

Once telephone service is restored, call your designated out-of-area contact to update them on your condition and location.

  • Have them contact the rest of your family and friends to update them on your situation
  • Continue to limit your calls to emergency situations until advised otherwise by emergency officials.

If there is a power outage and you don’t have to evacuate:

  • You can safely use food stored in your refrigerator for up to four hours after the power failure.
  • You can safely use food stored in the freezer section for up to two days if you minimize the number of times you open the door.

Emergency Preparedness


  1. Portable battery operated radio
  2. Extra batteries
  3. Whistle
  4. Signal Mirror
  5. Paper pad & Pencil
  6. Change for pay phone
  7. Back up battery charger for cell phone (if there is electricity)

Personal Protection

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Lip Protection
  3. Toilet paper
  4. Light weight jacket
  5. Insect repellent
  6. Extra clothes adequate for climate
  7. In a Water proof bag


  1. Compass
  2. Maps
  3. Flash Light w/ extra batteries
  4. Cyalume sticks (glow sticks)

Food Needs

  1. Water – 2 weeks
  2. Food – 2 Weeks
  3. Can opener
  4. Personals meds


  1. Cash
  2. Space Blanket (heavy)
  3. Emergency Blanket (light)
  4. Water proof matches or bic type lighter
  5. Pocket knife
  6. First Aid kit
  7. Water purification tabs
  8. Plastic trash bags
  9. Disposable camera
  10. Crowbar
  11. Drop ladder
  12. Duct tape
  13. Sterno or Stove
  14. Metal cup or pot
  15. Bags various sixes zip lock



  1. Paper pad and pencil
  2. Whistle


  1. Flash light
  2. Spare batteries & Bulb for flash light
  3. Map Book ( Thomas Brothers Guide)
  4. Compass

Personal Protection

  1. Tennis shoes
  2. Jacket
  3. Leather gloves
  4. Dust mask
  5. Rain gear


  1. Flares
  2. Shovel
  3. Jumper cables
  4. Tools
  5. Tow cable
  6. Show chains (winter)


  1. Fire Extinguisher (10ABC min)
  2. First aid kit
  3. Blankets
  4. Water &  Food non-perishable (2 days)
  5. Toilet paper
  6. Matches

First Aid

  1. (2) Pairs of Gloves
  2. (4) Gauze Pads
  3. Gauze Roll
  4. Assortment of Bandages
  5. Triangular Bandage
  6. Adhesive Tape
  7. Shears/Scissors
  8. Antiseptic Wipes/Towelettes
  9. Antibiotic Ointment
  10. Cold Pack
  11. Elastic Bandage
  12. Splint
  13. Flashlight
  14. Water
  15. CPR shield
  16. Watch
  17. aspirin / pain reliever tablets
  18. Antacid
  19. Antiseptic
  20. Band aids cotton swabs
  21. Razor blade, single edge safety type
  22. Safety pins, large



California Emergency Mobile Patrol

California Emergency Management Agency



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