Mother Nature Reminds us to Be Prepared

Mother Nature Reminds us to Be Prepared Tuesday morning’s earthquake is a great reminder of where we live – Earthquake Country! A 4.1 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Fremont shook the Bay Area – the Mid-Peninsula even – at 2:41 a.m., waking some of us from a sound sleep and further reminding us that we should be prepared for big temblors.

Believe it or not, the earthquakes we experience here in Northern California don’t scare many. When we surveyed home prices after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that collapsed a freeway, stilted foundations, and brought San Francisco’s Marina to blaze, among other things, we see that although many renters fled the area, home sales prices didn’t see merely a hiccup. There was a bit of market paralysis because no one knew what to expect, but once homes were back on the market, prices mirrored their pre-quake rates.

From a market standpoint, it’s nice to know that Mother Nature’s impact on us hasn’t historically impacted our largest asset – our homes! But it’s these small quakes that encourage us to prepare for the littlest amount of damage, should ‘The Big One’ strike. Retrofitting before an earthquake is relatively cheap, however structural repairs you might need to make following a quake can be very expensive.

For instance, one of the most damaging (and yet highest known weaknesses, according to FEMA) is the water heater not being braced correctly. A very cheap solution is to buy and install a strap kit or bracing system from a local hardware store. The entire process can take as little as an hour!

As a homeowner, you can significantly reduce damage to your home by securing common weaknesses that can result in your home being drastically damaged by an earthquake. And since every day is Earthquake Season here in Northern California, here are some everyday steps you can take to secure your home and your family’s safety in the aftermath of a sizable quake.

  1. Secure your Space: Identify interior hazards and make sure items are secured. It’s a good idea to bolt dressers and hutches to the wall and have some tacky materials holding down loose vases and decorative items overhead. Make sure that the items near your bed (pictures, lamps, ceiling fans) are securely fasted, as an earthquake can unpredictably strike, day or night.
  2. Identify External Weaknesses: Make sure that your water heater is securely bolted, that your foundation is anchored, ensure your crawl space walls are strong and can withstand sizable movement. Check for unreinforced masonry in the following places: outside of the house, interior walls, chimneys. Also examine all natural gas appliances (water heaters, dryers, stoves, ovens and furnaces) to ensure they are anchored to the floor or walls and have flexible pipe connections.
  3. Make a Family Plan: Create a disaster plan for how you’ll communicate with your family in an emergency. This could include a meeting point, as phone lines could be down in the event of a big quake. Create one meeting spot directly outside of your home and one outside of your neighborhood, should disaster shut down access streets to your home. Discuss with your children what they should do if they are at school – make sure they know the school’s plan for getting the kids to their parents.
  4. Keep Disaster Supplies: Organize your supplies and make sure the entire family is aware of where they are located. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, First-Aid kit, flashlights with extra bulbs and batteries, crescent and pipe wrenches handy for turning off water and gas, matches, a barbecue or outdoor stove and canned and packaged food and water for at least three days. (allow at least 1 gallon per person). Also be sure to have any items your family needs particularly – infant formula, diapers, allergy meds, contact lenses, etc.
  5. Discuss with your family what to do during an earthquake. The American Red Cross suggests people Drop, Cover and Hold On during a quake. This means to get low on the floor underneath something sturdy and wait it out. Watch for falling objects until the earthquake is over. Then creep out cautiously.
  6. After a large earthquake, be sure to first check for injuries, next for hazards. Be sure to check for fires or fire potential, gas leaks, damaged electrical wiring, downed power lines, damaged chimneys and fallen items.

While we hope we have a ways to go before experiencing a real shaker, by following these six easy steps, you are preparing yourself to be empowered following a quake, rather than powerless.