Even though Melanie grew up in Southern California, when the shock hit, she didn’t know what to do first. And if you’ve ever gone through an earthquake you’ll know what she means. Our first “real” shaker was the Whittier quake and it was so strong it had me pinned to the bed. That’s why it’s so important to have the things you need at your fingertips, before the quake strikes.
One of the reasons 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 helplessly to remember the first item on your disaster checklist.
Which is why Melanie was running around, struggling to find “the right thing” to wear. Of course, a few minutes later she realized she didn’t even need to leave her house so her wardrobe ended up being a non-issue. What she was really looking for was a way to regain a sense of control. Her way of doing that just happened to be fashion!
As longtime residents of Southern California we know how hard people work to get their offices, their homes and their garages ready for an earthquake. Problem is, most earthquakes happen in the wee hours of the morning, which means that people don’t have their basic supplies where they need to be. Their bedroom.
So let’s take care of that right now.
How To Earthquake Proof Your Bedroom
There are two things to keep in mind while making your bedroom earthquake safe. Safety and Communication
Make your bedroom as safe as possible, during and after an earthquake, by storing earthquake and first aid supplies near your bed and anchoring items and furniture that might fall or break.
Your Emergency Kit
First, get a sturdy metal or heavy plastic box to hold your basic emergency supplies. Make sure that it closes well and is heavy enough to stay where you put it, even during intense shaking. Put it directly under your bed, so that you can grab it easily without having to get out of the bed.
In this box, place:
A whistle, a can opener that opens cans without leaving sharp edges, an extra charged cell phone battery, a few protein bars, a few bottles of water, a small flashlight, small emergency radio and a first aid kit. The rest of your supplies – whatever you feel would be necessary for you and your family – can go into the closet beneath your earthquake clothes.
Next to the box, place a pair of rubber-soled shoes for you and your spouse. If you have kids, their shoes and a small flashlight should go under their beds. The instant an earthquake wakes you – especially if it’s one that causes a lot of damage – put your shoes on before you get out of bed. There might be broken glass or debris on the floor. That goes double if you have to leave your home. Outside you could encounter rocks, pieces of brick from chimneys or downed power lines.
Choose a generic earthquake outfit. If it’s cold out, jeans and a sweatshirt or warm sweater, plus a warm jacket and socks. If it’s warmer, jeans, light layers and a light jacket and socks. If you have to leave your home, you won’t necessarily get back in for hours or days. Keep that outfit together at the end of your closet nearest to your bed, so you can grab the clothes and put them on without wasting time thinking about it. This is no time for high fashion.
Right below your earthquake clothes, place a small box with the rest of your earthquake supplies. This should include a hand-crank or battery powered radio, a larger flashlight, extra batteries, a few more bottles of water, high calorie or high protein food that will stay fresh for a year, a small stash of cash and if you have one, a portable television. Two other things to include are a small generator and a portable recharger that will give you extra battery life for radios and cell phones. If anyone in your family needs eyeglasses or prescription drugs, throw those in as well. If they need refrigerated insulin, consider buying a small portable refrigerator for your bedroom. Even if the electricity goes out, the refrigerator would remain cold enough for a few hours, until you would be able to get help. Then place a reminder on your calendar every few months, to recycle the perishable items in your kit with fresh items.
Make sure all of the cabinets, pictures, mirrors, televisions and anything else breakable in your bedroom are anchored down, so they don’t turn into earthquake driven torpedoes that can harm you or your family. Carol Burnett had a close call during the Northridge Quake when a television flew off her bookcase and landed on her bed. Thankfully that night she had trouble sleeping and switched to the other side of the bed. The best thing we’ve found to anchor furniture without harming it are Quakehold straps, which blend right into your decor without looking obvious.
Do you have breakable figurines, picture frames or glass keepsakes in bookcases or on dressers? If so, anchor the bottom of the keepsake to the surface with Quakehold Museum Wax. It holds items securely to a surface without harming either. And if it’s in a bookcase, be sure to affix the keepsake to the back of the bookcase as well for extra safety.
Move a heavy piece of furniture into your bedroom that you and your spouse can use for shelter during a quake. A heavy table or a desk you can both fit under is ideal.
You should be able to easily connect with the world around you, while sheltered in your room. Not only will you be able to take care of your basic needs, but it will calm you down until you can leave your room, your home or get back to sleep.
After an earthquake, if the electricity is still on, turn on the TV or radio, so you’ll have a friendly voice there in the room with you and you won’t feel isolated or alone. Besides true Angelenos always make bets on how big the earthquake was and never go back to bed until they hear Dr. Kate Hutton’s report on the preliminary magnitude from Cal Tech, so they can see who won the bet.
Keep one cell phone in the room with you at night, where you can easily reach it. And get into the habit of plugging it into the charger when you get home in the evening so it will always be ready to go whenever you need it.
You’re probably wondering why we advised you to put a whistle in your emergency kit. When the Northridge earthquake hit, many apartment residents were trapped in their bedrooms and had to be rescued. A whistle can help you communicate your location to rescue teams. That and a cell phone with GPS. Both are probably a good idea.
If you have a landline phone, keep it. Cell phones are great, but the chances of cell towers being down after an earthquake are much more likely than phone lines being inoperable. And even if they’re up and running, cell traffic, tweeting and data use can skyrocket after an earthquake, overwhelming the circuits. Give yourself as many alternate ways of communicating as possible. Preferably a mobile phone, smartphone, landline phone and a notebook, iPad, or tablet with Wi-Fi access.
Don’t forget, that if you need to check on local friends or relatives, it’s usually easier to call long distance numbers, than local numbers after an earthquake. It’s smart to appoint an out of town contact for all of your family members to check in with, until your communications within the quake zone return to normal.
For more information on making your family earthquake-ready, check out this post. And if you’re ready to take organizing to the next level, be sure to pick up a copy of our newest book slash program, The Backup Plan 3.0.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
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