Now, not later. That is the mantra of all preparedness preparations. Everything from earthquake preparedness, general power failures, and even for many, massive volcanic ash fallout is a very real possibility. Being prepared for natural, or even man-made disasters means you need to not only think ahead, but put that thinking into practice and REALLY get prepared.
We’ve already learned what to do in an earthquake and after it’s over, but taking the steps now to improve your earthquake preparedness situation (and your overall disaster preparedness situation) could legitimately mean the difference between life and death in some scenarios. Death? You mean that 7.0 quake that left some damage to our homes, roads, and businesses? That wasn’t a very big deal, was it? Well, like we’ve said before, we got lucky…very lucky.
The potential to have larger, stronger, longer-lasting earthquakes in Alaska, in which the entire Southern coast lives on the ‘Ring of Fire‘, is a very real possibility. Having an earthquake that makes the 7.0 quake that struck Alaska in November of 2018 look small could happen, and it has! Taking a look at the damage from the 1964 earthquake shows what happens when the ‘big-one’ strikes.The bleak reality of another earthquake of that size, or larger, could literally mean simply surviving the quake, and likely anything you do to your home could be in vain. However, putting in an ounce of earthquake preparedness preparation and following some tips to protect yourself, your family, and your home could be worth many pounds of cure. Let’s dive in.
Protect Your Family
I think the psychological impact of the recent quake was likely the largest ‘scar’ that was left behind for our family. We have elementary school aged children who have sustained some lasting fear about what I feel was a huge missed opportunity on my part to prepare them for what could happen. We didn’t talk about the potential for earthquakes, we didn’t go through the house to ensure they could be safe, we didn’t talk about what to do during the earthquake, and we didn’t talk about how to protect themselves. For many, including those living in my home, the word to describe how this event was for them would be ‘TERRIFYING!’
Talk about earthquakes with your families. Read about what to do during an earthquake and what to do after the shaking stops. At a bare minimum, arm yourself with some knowledge that might, at the very least, allow you to walk away from a disaster like this walking upright and intact. Talking about it before it happens can significantly reduce the fear of the event happening, especially in small children. Involve the entire family in the preparation process, the purchasing of gear, and the planning of your families strategy.
Ensure your workplace and your children’s schools know about earthquake preparedness and ensure both children and adults alike are performing earthquake drills. Earthquakes don’t give anyone a pass. This kind of practice is for everyone. For practice in the home, walk through various rooms in your house, especially each room a child sleeps in, and discuss what’s overhead, what could fall over, and where a child should be at for the ‘DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON’ technique detailed in the links above.
Regarding earthquake preparedness, we don’t know how bad one could be, so preparing for a worst-case scenario could mean legitimately years worth of gathering preparations for any conceivable situation that mother nature might throw our way. For many, this kind of prepping isn’t feasible financially, geographically, or for a myriad of other reasons. I think the best way to view a proper preparation in this scenario, at a minimum, is that you need to have the gear necessary for your family to endure a weeks worth of winter camping. Alaskan’s know cold, and we should be prepared to essentially have no power, no heat, no anything except for what you could have if you went on a week-long winter camping trip. Pretend you’re recreating in the middle of nowhere, in Alaska, in January, and you’ve got a weeks worth of supplies.
So what kind of things would you need for such a trip? Let’s break your earthquake preparedness gear essentials down for you.
Shelter – You’ll need some sort of shelter in case your home cant provide shelter for you. You need to be able to protect yourself from potentially falling snow, rain (like we saw after this last quake), wind, and the general elements. This could mean a sturdy tent, an ice-fishing shack, or anything else you deem acceptable for your family to ‘live in’ for a week. This means eating in, sleeping in, being in for 7 days. Ensure your space is adequate to ‘house’ everyone. Teepee tents like this one, offer surprisingly large interior floor space to sleep people. With adequate tie-downs, a shelter like this could sustain some pretty decent winds and offer you some respite from the elements. Budget dictates what you can afford to spend on an emergency shelter, but do your research and talk to people, especially hunters, about what designs work best, especially in high winds. Another great option are geodesic style tents like the Cabelas Guide Model tent.
Clothing – You need to be prepared to be outside, in below zero temperatures, for a week. This means top to bottom insulation. Layering is the key to success when it comes to dressing properly, so make sure you have adequate clothing set aside for every member of your family. Quality outerwear parkas (preferably with a hood) along with thick bibs or pants to match are likely what’s needed to stay warm, especially if you are sedentary in those temperatures. Thick, heavy socks inside thick, heavy boots to keep your feet warm are a must as well. Anybody who has been ice fishing knows that just sitting there in below zero temperatures means more clothing than you likely thought you needed.
Side Note: If we are camping in the winter, it’s going to be dark most of the day, so invest in good, quality headlamps for every member of the family, along with a quality LED lantern. Buying quality headlamps means you’ll be able to function to feed yourself, get your shelter prepared, search for others, or whatever else you might have to do. Lighting is critical. Make sure your batteries are current as well. We have been using the LED lantern pictured below for several years while hunting and with four removable panels, this lantern offers great flexibility, portability, and brightness! Highly recommended.
Sleeping Bags/Pads – Having quality sleeping bags and pads to sleep on is key as well. Invest in quality sleeping bags with an appropriate (and real world) rating. That Walmart sleeping bag that says its rated to -20? Not likely. Quality sleeping bags aren’t cheap, and this is again where you should talk to hunters. Hunters spend many days per year in the field sleeping in all sorts of inclement weather. Ask what works for them and what they might recommend for a quality winter sleeping bag. For a pad to sleep on, don’t rely on blow-up pads and steer more toward closed-cell foam pads to insulate your body from the frozen ground.
Food and Water – Surprisingly, this might be one of the easier things to have ready to go. Freeze dried food like Mountain House meals (again, thank your neighborhood hunter for more information on this topic) and even ready to go 30-day emergency food buckets have been created by companies for just this purpose. They are relatively lightweight, offer the caloric intake needed, and are easy to prepare. How are you going to boil the water necessary to prepare many of these pre-packaged emergency rations? Utilizing a stove like a jet-boil or other stove would be the lightweight and easy solution here. Looking for other recommendations for stoves and fuel options? You guessed it…talk to a hunter about this. Regarding water, you need to know how much water per person, per day you would need. The general rule of thumb would be one gallon of water per day, per person. If we are talking a true emergency scenario like our week-long winter camping trip, this may be a bit overkill but when it comes to water, having too much is always better than not enough. The other consideration is how are you going to keep this water from freezing? If you can’t how are you going to remove it from its container, frozen, and thaw it. This will require much more fuel to melt ice and then boil water, so plan accordingly.
Communication – Though emergency communication might not be necessary on a regular camping trip, it likely is for earthquake preparedness. At a minimum you should have a hand-crank or battery powered radio in case all forms of cellular communication aren’t available. Find an online NOAA radio station for your area and see if you can gather more information about the disaster where you are at. This in itself could be a lifesaving tool. To really up your game, consider getting into the HAM radio world, get your license (it’s cheap), and have the ability to talk to and listen to people literally hundreds of miles from your location.
First Aid – The chances of someone becoming injured during the intense shaking of a massive quake is quite high. At a minimum, you should have on hand a basic first aid-kit, and better yet a more robust first-aid kit. Having a first-aid kid is really no benefit to you unless you know how to utilize the contents in the kit, so arming yourself with basic first-aid knowledge and skills by taking a class, watching videos online, or going to a class on the subject is how you’d best set yourself up for success in this area of your preparations. The CDC has a good primer on different items you could have for kits utilized in different scenarios as well.
I can tell you now that if you have the basics available to you as detailed above, you are going to be heads and shoulders above the general population regarding earthquake preparedness in a cold environment. It will certainly require a decent financial investment as quality gear doesn’t come cheap in most cases, but starting to gather gear slowly over time is better than not getting it at all because you didn’t want to spend a few thousand dollars all at once.
Protect Your Home
Now that you’ve completed your earthquake preparedness preparations to ensure your family will be taken care of in the event of a serious earthquake, its time to focus on what you can do to minimize the damage to your home.
Much of the earthquake preparedness preparations for ensuring your home for a quake are going to be taking the time to walk through your house and look at it through the eyes of ‘what would happen to THAT, if an earthquake hit’. This means:
-Don’t hang large photos, mirrors, clocks or anything near or above a bed that could fall onto someone.
-Anchor top-heavy items to a wall utilizing a strong fastener into a stud, if possible. This includes bookcases, armoires, etc.
-Ensure your overhead lighting fixtures and ceiling fans are secured to joists
-In your storage areas, store large, heavy, and breakable items as low to the ground as possible
-Bolt and secure your houses large utility components (furnaces, water heaters, boilers, gas appliances, etc.) to wall studs
-Utilize ‘earthquake putty‘ on the items hanging on your wall to prevent them from falling
Taking care of those items above could minimize damage to your household goods and also reduce the hazards looming overhead during a quake as well. While we covered some of the following information regarding what to do in an earthquake and after it’s over, knowing how to shut off your homes utilities is important as well.
Natural Gas Supply – Installing automatic shutoff valves on your gas supply line or at least knowing how to manually turn off the gas supply to your home is a very important bit of safety to be familiar with. If you’re renting, ask your landlord where the shut-off valve is. Once you find it, the best strategy would be to tie or wire a tool near or on this valve so you aren’t searching for a wrench in this chaos!
Electrical Supply – Knowing how to shut off your homes electricity at your main electrical panel is good to know. If you cannot access the inside of your home or want to shut off power at your main feed, shutting off the power at the main disconnect is also an option.
Water Supply – While water leaking into your house likely poses less of an immediate hazard than leaking gas and damaged electrical wiring, it is a good idea to know how to turn off the water supplying your home as well. If you are on a well, turning the power off to your home will also shut off your well pump, but for those on a city water system, you will need to find the supply valve before damaged water lines stop filling your home with water. Please note that each area/city/water utility company might have a slightly different situation for shutting off a main water supply line, so do your due diligence and learn how to do this for your specific home. This valve may be located inside, outside, in your crawlspace, or even underground near the street in some cases.
In all reality the earthquake preparedness preparations detailed above do not require an insurmountable amount of effort or finances to set yourself up for success. Like other things in life, if it matters to you, you’ll figure it out. I think that the latest wake up call that we got was reason enough for me to circle back with my family and involve everyone in a plan to get prepared, and also execute on that plan. Talking about it doesn’t do much, but taking action is what matters in your earthquake preparedness preparations. Now, not later.