Learn what's shaking now before the Big One hits, and you'll be ready to cope with the first few days that follow it.
Knowledge and preparation are the keys to earthquake survival, the experts say, and the ultimate responsibility for survival lies with you.
Knowing what to do during a temblor is paramount, Peggy Brutsche, coordinator of earthquake preparedness for the Los Angeles County chapter of the Red Cross, said. "Basically it's 'duck and cover': Stay in a doorway or under a heavy table or desk if you are indoors; if you are outside, stay out in the open, away from power lines."
In the meantime, make preparations at home and at work by acquiring survival items.
"A lot of these things most people already have, but they should get the rest and stash them away. They should be stored in inside closets, those away from exterior walls where the most extensive damage occurs. You can spread your earthquake materials around--you don't have to keep a kit. Just know where everything is."
Free brochures on "Safety and Survival in an Earthquake" and "Family Disaster Plan and Personal Survival Guide" may be obtained by writing the American Red Cross at 2700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90057. Handbooks are available in English and Spanish for $3 each, plus $1 for postage, on "Safety and Survival in an Earthquake," "Disaster Preparedness for Diabled and Elderly People" and "Assisting the Disabled and Elderly People in Disaster."
Following are 10 tips for preparing yourself before the disaster strikes. Items listed here are easy to find and inexpensive to buy. Use it as a checklist at home and at work.
First-aid kit--Brutsche recommends a homemade unit, because most ready-made kits won't be sufficient. "You may need lots of heavy bandages to treat bleeding and materials to make splints for fractures. Those are the two most common types of injuries in an earthquake," she said. A tool box ($4 and up) makes an excellent case. Add an instant cold pack ($5 to $6) or two to your kit. Keep copies of prescriptions in it too, in case pharmacies are badly damaged as in the 1983 Coalinga quake, Brutsche said. Keep prescription medicines for several days in the kit, and cycle the pills through the kit to ensure potency. Contact-lens wearers should stow a pair of glasses. "There is a lot of dust and smoke in the air after a large quake, making contacts impossible to wear," Brutsche said.
Water--Strap or anchor your hot-water heater to the wall now; it may be your primary water supply later if water mains break. Water stored in one-gallon plastic bottles (less than $1) should be cycled every six months; a plastic five-gallon bottle ($6 to $10) will last five years if the seal is not broken. A three-day supply is recommended.
Fire-fighting materials--Keep an extra box of baking soda (less than $1) and an extinguisher ($25 and up) handy; extinguishers should be refilled every two or three years. "Leaking gas is not the only danger," Brutsche said. "If you are cooking or have a fire in your fireplace when the quake hits, you will need something on hand to put out a small fire. The fire department won't be able to get to every fire. . . . We learned in the 1984 Morgan Hill quake that there still are problems even when the phones do work: Everyone was calling everyone else to talk about the quake, and people with emergencies couldn't get through. One man even drove to the fire department to say his house was on fire."
Work gloves and heavy shoes--Keep a pair of each (gloves, $2; shoes, $15 and up) near your bed and maybe a second set in the trunk of your car. A lot of broken glass may mean cuts on the feet, especially if the quake hits at night.
Flashlight and extra batteries--Have a heavy-duty model ($4 to $20) near your bed and a second at work--especially if your workplace has no windows. "When the power goes out, it gets mighty dark in those office buildings," Brutsche said. Batteries keep their power longer if stored in a refrigerator. Leaking gas would make matches, candles, lamps or an open flame too dangerous.
Battery-powered radio--Stay in touch with the outside world with a radio ($5 and up). Listen for bulletins on where to go for assistance--and where to avoid danger.
Blankets and heavy clothing--"We usually have nice weather out here, but it can get cold at night--especially if you have to sleep out in your yard for a few days," Brutsche said. Space/emergency blankets ($2.50 at camping or sporting-supplies stores) are lightweight and store in 2x3-inch packages.