As longtime residents of Southern California, we know how difficult it can be to spend the days and weeks after a quake, living in earthquake mode. The phenomenon isn’t really something you can explain to someone who hasn’t experience it personally. New Californians are always asking how they’ll know if what they feel is a quake, or just an especially loud garbage truck.
There’s only one answer to that question. You’ll know!
And sure enough when it happens, they’ll say, “you were absolutely right!” An earthquake combines two things that most humans hate– the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Feeling like the floor is going to crack open and swallow you, while listening to your house, cracking and groaning, while glass, bricks and your best china crashing to the ground around you, is a horrible sensation.
So what’s the best way to prepare for an earthquake?
Earthquakes are probably the most difficult type of disaster to prepare for, for two reasons. First, there is absolutely no warning when one is going to strike. Second, you never know how or where it’s going to strike. Two earthquakes of the same magnitude aren’t necessarily going to have the same destructive capability.
A shallow 5.0 quake, can potentially create more damages and injury than a 7.0 quake centered deep within the earth. Shallow earthquakes mean more shaking and more cracks and fissures in the earth, which in turn damages more buildings, streets and injures more people. You also have to factor in how close the earthquake is to your home and where your home is located. We once experienced a 1.5 quake that was centered very close to our home and knocked books off the shelves – while a 6.4 earthquake 30 or 40 miles away got us out of bed, but left our possessions exactly where the were the night before.
In earthquake country “location, location, location couldn’t be more true. Remember the parable of the man who built his house on the sand versus the man who built his on the rock? Those guys must have lived in earthquake country!
It’s called liquefaction. Especially in California, in areas where there are high concentrations of sand in the soil – aka high priced beach communities – the violent shaking of an earthquake causes water underground to rise up through the sandy soil, turning pseudo solid earth beneath homes to turn into liquid, swallowing anything above it – houses, stores, freeway on ramps. Making sure that your home is build on rock solid ground is a great first step to long term earthquake safety.
The final reason that earthquakes are so hard to prepare for, is that they tend to happen very early in the morning. Imagine being shaken out of a sound sleep, only to realize that your bed, your walls and your floor are all moving in opposite directions, while you try and remember the first item on your disaster checklist! Not going to happen!
Here’s how YOU can prepare.
The first step? Make sure that you have your earthquake survival gear and know how to secure your home and personal safety when an earthquake strikes.
The second, is to make sure that you’re able to grab everything you need – necessities, keepsakes, vital information – and leave for a safer location, in less than ten minutes. Which is a lot easier than it sounds.