This post isn’t just about getting ready for disasters — it’s about getting back to LIFE after a disaster.
That’s something very few people talk about. Yet millions upon millions of people are facing that question right this moment. How do we get back to our normal lives after this magnitude of disaster. It’s the third piece in a series and you’ll find the links to the other two parts below.
Not only does the series tell you how to prepare for an earthquake, but it gives you tips on being prepared for ANY disaster — the right way! In case you didn’t see part one and two, you’ll find the links at the end of the post.
Facing a disaster without giving yourself a plan to recover from it, is like trying to build a house with no blueprint and no tools!
Having two plans can make all the difference, in getting you through those first few days and weeks after a disaster strikes. What are the plans? They are our Evacuation Plan and the Get Back To Life Plan — the same plans that we’ve built into our new program Ready. Theevacuation planis pretty simple. It all comes from one question… If you were at home or at work and suddenly had to evacuate your home, or your general area, where would you go?
As you think about thelocationsyou’ll use for your evacuation, consider, the people travelling with you, how you’ll get there (car, bus, plane), any pets travelling with you and whether those locations will actually work for you – for instance are they close to stores or services your family might need, like pharmacies, clothing, banks and doctors.
We suggest that people have three different locations in mind, to give you different types of locations and choices depending on the circumstances. As you create your plan, write everything down in detail. If you have to use this plan, you and the people you love are probably going to be in panic mode and following an easy to understand plan, will help calm and focus you.
Write down the people who will be travelling with you, and any special instructions you’ll need to gather everyone together, in case a disaster or emergency occurs while you’re all away from home. Name the location that you and your family will use to meet up with each other and the location you will be evacuating to, if you cannot live in your home, but your immediate area is still safe. Include the address of the location, contact phone, email address and directions.
Next choose a location (writing down the details, address and contact information) that your family will use if you not only need to evacuate your home, but your immediate area or city. This might happen during a moderate hurricane or a tornado. Your third location is out of state, for a serious, widely destructive emergency like Hurricane Katrina, the Iceland Volcano, or other disaster that will make your entire region uninhabitable.
You will also include these locations in your family’sICE Contactsand emergency wallet cards. Now, no matter what the disaster, even a fire or local emergency, you and your family will now know where and how to gather, and who will be responsible for what, so you can quickly reunite and travel on to your emergency location together. If you like, you can also give a card to the person you chose to be your out-of-area contact as well. Will you have any pets travelling with you? Be sure to fill out the pet section, so that you will have all the information you need for them, like the name and numbers for the veterinarian, their licenses, and names/numbers of kennels in the location you are evacuating to and any prescriptions or special instructions you’ll need until you return home.
So are YOU prepared to deal with an earthquake? Let’s see how Victoria Beckham dealt with an “earthquake” when they moved to LA. Okay it was a simulator, but you’ll get the idea… And so did she 🙂
Your Get Back To Life Plan
The worst part of any disaster, short of losing a loved one, is the possibility that the home you love and care for and everything in it would be damaged beyond repair. That is what your Get Back To Life Plan is all about.
Imagine that you and your family have survived an earthquake, but had to leave your area because it is uninhabitable. You’re in your evacuation location two days after the hurricane subsides. The phone rings. It’s a good friend of yours, who has just toured your neighborhood and is calling to tell you that your home is badly damaged and he doubts that you will be able to live in it for several months, if ever again. After you and your family hold each other for a while and talk, you finally feel strong enough to open your Backup Plan 3.0 Notebook. There you find your Get Back To Life Plan and begin making calls to your insurance agent, your contractor and your boss. You call the local real estate agent in your evacuation city and ask her to begin looking for temporary housing, register your children in the local school, and begin calling the contacts you need (that you jotted down just in case), to help you settle in. Getting settled is easier than you thought, since you have copies of all of the vital documents you need, like your birth certificates and property deeds in a safe deposit box at the local bank. It takes some time, but with hard work and a lot of courage, you and your family are back to living in a matter of weeks.
Now imagine the same scenario, the same phone call, holding your family, talking and then realizing that you have no plan and no clue how to get back to living your life. It’s CNN coverage all over again. The best part of this little scenario is that it hasn’t happened to you and that you have time right now, to make sure no matter what ever occurs in your area, you and your family will be prepared.
Either download ourGet Back To Life Plan, or grab a piece of paper. Take a few minutes to answer the following questions:
How will we handle our bank accounts, paying our monthly bills and receiving our paychecks? How much emergency cash do we need to have, while traveling?
What are our credit card limits and toll free numbers for emergency increases?
How will we work? Will we work remotely or have to look for new positions? What people or contacts can we call about temporary or permanent jobs?
How will we handle our medical, dental and prescription needs while in the new location? What doctors and dentists can we use while there?
How long can we stay in our evacuation location? If we need to remain evacuated longer, where will we go/stay? Who will our real estate contacts be, if we need to find new permanent or temporary housing?
How are we going to secure the property or vehicles we had to leave behind?
How will we take care of our pets, during the evacuation and until we find new permanent housing?
How will we handle our transportation needs? What contacts will we need to purchase or lease vehicles?
How will we handle our daycare needs? How will we handle getting our children into school if necessary? What schools or contacts will we need, to enroll them in a new school in a temporary or new location?
How will we handle any special needs in our family?
Once you’ve answered the questions, get your family together to work out any potential problems you have uncovered and then draft your plan. And don’t forget to compile a list of real estate agents, financial contacts and jobs, schools, doctors and other professionals or information that you might need to establish yourself in the new city temporarily or permanently.
Starting over is never easy, especially when it happens because of a disaster or other life changing emergency. But taking a few hours now to think through and draft a plan, will give you and your family the direction, information and support that you need, to get through not only the first hours and days after a disaster, but the first steps back to living the life you’ve worked so hard to build.
In case you missed any parts of the series, here are the links to the first two posts…
If you and your family had to evacuate your home because of a tornado, an earthquake or wildfire, where would you go?
There’s a lot to consider. “Location A is close enough to home to check on the house if we had to, but what if the entire city is affected? But if we went to Location B, how would I ever get to work?”
Is your head hurting yet?
Not to worry. A – That’s exactly why we want you to go through this exercise now and not when a firefighter is knocking at the door. And B – That’s also why we suggest that you choose three locations and opt for the one that fits your needs if an emergency ever rears its ugly head.
A great #EvacuationPlan has two objectives:
1) To figure out the best location for your evacuation
2) To help you gather your family and get you safely to your location
First we’ll walk you through choosing your locations and sketching out a plan. Once the plans are set, put the details on your family’s emergency wallet cards. If you want, you can also give a card to the person you chose to be your out-of-area contact. And if you don’t have emergency wallet cards, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!
How To Choose The Perfect Locations
Location One: A location Near Your Home, that you can use if you cannot stay in your home, but the area around it is still safe and secure.
Location Two: A location Outside of Your Immediate Area, that you can use if you cannot stay in your area, but the cities around you are still safe and secure.
Location Three: A location Out of State, if your own state is uninhabitable.
With three locations you’ll be prepared no matter what the emergency. You’ll just go down your list, choose the location you need, and be on your way. You and the members of your immediate family will know where to gather and what to do, even if everyone is away from home in the middle of a busy day.
Before you try to zero in on a perfect location, come up with as many different locations as you can that you and your family would be able to use for evacuation.
As you consider each location, think about:
The needs of the people traveling with you
How you’ll get there (car, bus, plane)
Any pets that will be traveling with you
Does It Have What You Need?
Once you’re pretty certain you have the right places, consider whether this location has what you and your family would actually need.
For instance if would need to stay in that location for two or three weeks, would it be close enough to the stores or services your family might need, like pharmacies, clothing, banks and doctors?
Would you be able to get to work from that location, or are you able to work from home?
Does it have the furniture and supplies necessary for two or three weeks?
We Have A Winner! Make That Three Winners!
No location is perfect, so if you came up with one or two things your location would be lacking, be sure to note them on your Family Evacuation Plan, so that you can take care of it before you get there.
The Staging Area
Now that you’ve chosen your locations, choose two places for you and your family to gather during an emergency, so that you can travel to your evacuation location together. One place should be near your home or work and the other farther from your home in case your area is completely inaccessible.
Put the addresses and phone numbers of these two meeting places on your family’s emergency cards.
Appoint An Out Of Town Contact
It’s also a good idea to appoint an out of town contact to help you while your family deals with the aftermath of an emergency.
Even though you might not be able to call people right in your own area after an emergency, you can often call long distance. A distant friend can be a touch point for the entire family until communication is restored.
Once you choose an out of town relative or friend as a contact, check with them to make sure that they’re willing to help. If so, give them a copy of your emergency plan and wallet card, so they’ll be able to help, if the need ever arises.
Creating Your Plan
Grab a copy of ourFamily Evacuation Plan, or if you have our book Get Your Stuff Together, you’ll find a copy in the back of the book. Here are a few questions to answer before you draft your plan:
Who Is Evacuating With You?
Who Will Do What?
Transportation Plans/Travel Information
Out of State and Local Contacts
Contact Information For Everyone Who Will Be Evacuating With You As Well As Your Out of Town Contact.
Their cell phone/school/office numbers
Twitter and Facebook account names.
Any other information that can put you in immediate touch with them, even if one or two modes of communication are down.
Making Your Plan Easy To Access
Review the plans with your spouse and adult family members. Once they’re set, put that information on your family’semergency wallet cards. If you don’t already have your own, click the link to download ours. It might be a good idea to give a card to the person you chose to be your out of area contact, too.
And while you’re at it, store a copy in your family’s cell phones as well, in case an emergency occurs while you’re away from home.
Print, scan or make three copies of the Evacuation Plan, and store it in at least three secure, damage-proof locations. That way if one or two of the locations are inaccessible, you’ll still be able to grab the information you need.
If your Plan is on paper, you can place it:
In your watertight Plastic Evacuation Bin. Only place the documents that you actually need in this bin. If you’ll also have access to copies of your vital documents in your safe deposit box, then don’t take anything with you that you would worry about if it were lost.
In a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
With your emergency contacts or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
If your Plan is on computer, you can place it:
On a password-protected flash drive or portable hard drive, and take them with you during evacuation on a key ring or in your evacuation bin.
On a password-protected online file repository or even the file directory of your family’s personal web site. This way if you need a copy of your information or forms quickly, you can retrieve them from any Internet-enabled computer.
Save a link to the Plan on you and your family’s smartphones, so that you can all instantly access and use the plan whenever you need it.
Anything Else To Add?
Is there any other information you need, to deal with a medical emergency while evacuated or away from home? If so, scan or make copies of that information and place it in the same folder as your completed medical history forms.
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. Like the recent 4th of July Ridgecrest Earthquake for example.
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 pulling thing after thing out of her closet yelling, “Where are my earthquake clothes!!!”
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!
Which is why Melanie was running around pulling thing after thing out of her closet yelling, “WHERE ARE MY EARTHQUAKE CLOTHES???!!!”
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 very cool 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 charger that will give you extra battery life for 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 Ready.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
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.