• How to be Safe During an Earthquake While Driving

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    California Highway CollapseOn October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake jolted the north-central coast of California. It caused $1.8 billion in damage to the transportation system. A landslide closed State Highway 17, a 26-mile parkway between San Jose and Santa Cruz. In the San Francisco Bay area, a 1.25-mile section of the double-decker Cypress Street Viaduct, part of Interstate 880, collapsed, killing 42. An upper deck section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. Every airport in the area closed overnight. All cable cars, electric trains and buses – half of the Bay area’s mass transit – halted when they lost power.

    Whether traveling or just commuting to work, you can take steps before, during and after an earthquake to be safe while on the road.

    Before an earthquake, keep your car in good condition, make a car emergency kit and make a family communication plan.

    Gas GagueTo keep your car in good condition, keep your gas tank more than half full and perform seasonal checkups, according to ready.gov. A full gas tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Check all fluid levels, filters, tires, brakes, and lights. Watch for leaks in the exhaust system. Make sure the defroster and windshield wipers work.

    We have both a car emergency kit as well as an earthquake emergency kit, so you can check those out as somewhere to start. We’re even giving an earthquake emergency kit away (see the bottom of this post to enter)!

    If you want to make your own, use this list from ready.gov:

    • Car maintenance supplies: basic tools, jumper cables and flares or a reflective triangle.
    • Winter equipment: cat litter or sand for traction, a shovel, and an ice scraper.
    • Food: canned goods – don’t forget a can opener – and protein-rich food like nuts. Also remember baby formula and pet food, if applicable.
    • Water: one gallon per person per day.
    • Powered devices: flashlight with extra batteries, radio and cell phone car charger.
    • Warm clothes and blankets or sleeping bags.

    A communication plan includes information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. FEMA and Red Cross have blank contact cards. Everyone should have an out-of-town emergency contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to ready.gov.

    During an earthquake, a car will be harder to control, according to the Red Cross. As quickly as possible, pull over to a clear location, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid bridges, overpasses, trees, and power lines. If you’re in the mountains, watch for falling rocks and debris.

    Most importantly, stay in your vehicle with your seat belt buckled. If you leave your vehicle, it will block the road so emergency crews will have a harder time getting where they need to be. If a power line falls on your vehicle, staying inside it will prevent electrocution.

    Cracked road after earthquake at Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

    After an earthquake, the Red Cross suggests you be cautious when you start driving and have alternate routes. A pedestrian overpass, for example, can rapidly become a crosswalk that will block the whole road. Stay out of damaged areas as much as possible. Avoid bridges and ramps that the earthquake may have damaged, according to ready.gov. Watch for fallen power lines. Broken water mains can create sinkholes. Look for those and other signs like large cracks and squirts of sand that suggest the surface beneath the road might be unstable. Assume traffic lights won’t work.

    The nice thing about preparing your vehicle for an earthquake is that same effort helps if your vehicle breaks down. Seasonal checkups will also keep your car running longer. So aren’t a few minutes for preparation worth the time and money?

    - Melissa


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    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: vehicle, auto, road, earthquake kit, great shakeout, Earthquake Emergency Kit, Shake Out, ShakeOut, car, Earthquake

  • The World Series Earthquake of 1989

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    “We could have had a real catastrophe here!”

    Ballpark - World Series EarthquakeSo exclaimed a freshly frazzled Will Clark, first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, in his distinctive Lousiana drawl about an hour after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Called the “World Series Quake,” the 6.9 magnitude quake happened on live television before millions of national viewers as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s were warming up for Game 3 in Candlestick Park. Clark was noting that among the 50,000 fans, concessionaires, staff, umpires, two teams and their entourages, no one was killed—not even seriously injured.

    The rest of the Bay Area did not fare as well. The 15 second quake (formally called the La Prieta Earthquake after its epicenter 60 miles south of San Francisco) caused over $7 billion in damage and claimed over 60 lives.

    San Fran Infastructure Damage - World Series EarthquakeOctober 17th will mark the 26th anniversary of the infamous event, yet the images can be vividly recalled in the minds of those who were there, or viewed the extraordinary live news reports. Images like the Oakland Bay Bridge collapse, where the top westbound lanes fell onto the lower eastbound lanes, killing one driver. Much worse was the mile-and-a-quarter-long section of the elevated Nimitz Freeway that likewise collapsed. Forty-two died there. The rubble of burning homes in the Marina District, live television going black, people in offices, malls, and city streets going from complete calm to total panic in seconds—it’s all too easy to recall.


    Damaged Home - World Series EarthquakeIn the aftermath of the La Prieta quake, a long list of emergency protocols and civil ordinances were enacted to help guard against the next big shake-up. Community alert systems, including tsunami warning “amber alerts,” are a growing part of the Bay Area culture. Parking garages, apartment buildings and masonry construction standards have all been stiffened to do the same for these types of structures. Whole sections of the Bay Bridge and adjoining freeways have been renovated, or entirely replaced, as well.

    But such precautions will have relatively small benefit when the next one hits if individual households neglect preparing in simple, yet essential ways. In a History Channel video short, James Dalessandro, author and 1906 San Francisco earthquake expert, boldly asserts that the city, as a whole, is not ready.

    “One of the greatest problems is the apathy of the people in San Francisco and Northern California,” Dalessandro asserts. “Probably 99% don’t have water supply and a food supply. It could be a week or more before anybody could possibly get to you.” He further advises, “The more self reliant, the more prepared you are, the greater your chances of survival.”

    Of particular note, in news footage video, a San Francisco Police Officer is seen standing in the street directing emergency efforts at a crumbled row of formerly elegant and expensive homes. Yelling to the crowd of people with nowhere to go, he directs them to fill their bathtubs, collect canned foods, and know that it will be “at least 72-hours before help will arrive.”

    Map - World Series EarthquakeThe entire western third of the US is seconds away from a similar scene, as well as most the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Every citizen of large western cities know first-hand the feel of a mild rumble. A section of the Mississippi Valley called New Madrid is also highly prone to the occasional shake. And over the last 5 years, believe it or not, Oklahoma has evolved into the most earthquake-prone state in the country. With every occasional little tremor, everyone is asking themselves…”Is this it?”

    Quake 101 - World Series EarthquakeThe irony in all this is that, despite the broad knowledge of the impending danger, few living in these regions are ready…or even know how to get that way. Perhaps it’s time to change all that.


    At the 25th anniversary of the World Series Earthquake, the San Francisco Examiner asked Will Clark about that historic day at the ballpark.

    “Oh my goodness, that was pretty traumatic,” he remembers. “Any disaster like this, everybody's affected in some way," Clark said. "You know somebody, or a friend's friend. It kind of sits with you, and you take it with you wherever you go."

    You can be sure, among the millions affected that October evening in 1989, getting ready for the “Big One” is a daily thought. Hopefully, for their sakes, it’s also a deliberate action.


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    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: Earthquake Emergency Kit, Catastrophe, World Series Quake, World Series, 1989, San Fransisco Earthquake, Earthquake

  • Why You Should Join the ShakeOut

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    On October 15, more than 19 million people across the globe are signed up to drop to the floor, duck under a solid object, and hang on in the world’s largest earthquake drill.

    Drop Cover HOLD ON, NELLY!

    The Great ShakeOut can be a yearly reminder to prepare for an earthquake – a natural disaster that affects all 50 states, according to ready.gov. The same preparations you make for earthquakes can also help you prepare for other types of natural disasters.

    Here are stories of three people who participated in ShakeOuts where they lived.

    Luke was a student at a community college. His school sent him an e-mail saying it was participating in the ShakeOut about a week before the event. He forgot about it. The next week, while he was walking to class, he received a text message saying the event was beginning.

    “I was already outside, so I didn’t do anything,” he said.

    In fact, from his perspective, the event was a dud. When he arrived at his class, only one classmate even knew about the ShakeOut.

    Now he wants to be more prepared for an earthquake. He and his wife, Stephanie, live on the third floor of a building. So they joke their preparation may need to include rappelling gear. More seriously, he said his water heater is free standing and he probably should bolt it down.

    Stephanie has more ideas, including keeping breakables off high shelves and securing bookcases to the wall. She’s from California, so she did an earthquake drill every year.

    Sarah hiding under a deskShe also participated in ShakeOut events in offices where she worked. At one, everyone had to practice crawling under their desks. Several of her coworkers had limited mobility and couldn’t get under, or got stuck under, their desks.

    “They realized, ‘I need to make some serious accommodations for me to be safe,’” she said.

    She thinks ShakeOut-style earthquake drills are useful for several reasons.

    First, they make her aware of hazards she might not otherwise consider. Like obstacles. Her current job is in a building with labs, glass equipment, and chemicals. When coworkers have sturdy furniture, like lab benches, they’ve often stuffed things under them. In an earthquake, those areas would be inaccessible as cover.

    “I think we’d be pretty much doomed,” she joked. “We have a sturdy enough building, but man, it would be scary.”

    Second, drills remind her of emergency procedures. She and her coworkers get trained every year on the individual to call if there’s a chemical spill or other accident.

    “How are we going to remember it if we don’t practice it?” she asked.

    Third, drills help her update her knowledge. For example, she was raised believing she should stand under a door frame during an earthquake. That isn’t recommended anymore.

    “In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. You are safer under a table,” according to earthquakecountry.org.

    Fourth, the drills remind her to think more about emergency preparedness at home. She believes it’s especially important to rehearse emergency meeting places and contact information. When a major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, she was working for an organization that recruited people to teach there. They had to scramble to find all their teachers so they could let their families know they were safe.

    Next up: Judy. Judy is a budget officer for her state’s highway patrol. She has participated in four ShakeOut drills in her office. No one took the first one seriously, but each year they got a little more conscientious.

    For example, because people in her office with limited mobility couldn’t get under their desks, her office bought hardhats. Another year they bought flashlights that clip onto the hardhats so they can keep their hands free if they need to evacuate over debris.

    Each earthquake drill teaches her little ways to improve her preparation at home, too. Like this tip she shared: keep shoes by or under the bed. That way, if there’s an earthquake and there’s broken glass around, they’ll be easy to reach.

    She keeps a 72-hour emergency kit at her desk and another in her front closet at home. She also keeps blankets and a first aid kit in her car. Her emergency training taught her that, logistically, it’s impossible for outside help to arrive sooner than three days.

    “I always hear people say, ‘I get all this [emergency kits] together and never need it. Well, count yourself [lucky] that you never need it. Sometimes things happen and so many people don’t have it,” she said.



    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: Shake Out, ShakeOut, Earthquake, preparedness

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