By Karen Kim, Public Relations, American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter
On the ten year anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake, the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter encourages local residents to evaluate their own personal earthquake preparedness plans and to take steps to plan for future emergencies.
On February 28, 2001, a magnitude 6.8 Nisqually Earthquake struck the Puget Sound region. Although this was the second strongest earthquake in Washington State history, we were extremely fortunate, in that its depth prevented extensive damage and serious injuries. The epicenter of the earthquake was between Olympia and Tacoma.
Following the quake, American Red Cross chapters throughout Western Washington immediately responded and provided assistance to approximately 200 families in the Puget Sound region. Locally, the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter opened an emergency shelter for residents of a downtown apartment building who were forced to evacuate their homes.
The anniversary of the Nisqually quake and the recent New Zealand earthquake serve as reminders about the unpredictability of not only earthquakes but most disasters. The key lesson to be learned is to not wait until a disaster strikes, but to make the time and take the actions to prepare ourselves and our families for the unexpected.
“It is important to find the time now before a disaster strikes to develop a family emergency plan, create an evacuation plan, choose an out-of-state emergency contact, and build a disaster supplies kit,” said Karen Kim, Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter. “You never know when a disaster will strike and any preparedness you do now will help you during an emergency.”
Our lives can be very busy with work and family obligations, but taking the time to discuss your family’s plans prior to an emergency will be well worth the time spent and help alleviate your anxiety following a disaster. Results of a National American Red Cross Preparedness Poll conducted in 2007 found that only 28% of the public have made efforts to either select an out-of-town contact or assemble their emergency supplies kit. The survey revealed that three in four parents with children under the age of 18 do have disaster kits and nearly half do not have an evacuation plan.
Making a plan is the first and perhaps the most important part of a family’s emergency preparedness plans. As a family, determine what disasters may occur in your community and how you may be impacted. Use the information to plan how you would contact each other if at home, work or school. Identify an out-of-town relative or friend to serve as the family’s emergency contact. One of the most stressful times following a disaster is not being able to contact loved ones.
“After a disaster, local telephone lines may be busy and overloaded. It’s often easier to call out of the affected area,” Kim explained. “The role of the family’s out-of-state contact is to collect and communicate the safety and status of an individual to friends and family. Then, when conditions allow,” she added, “they help families reconnect. After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance, text via cell phone, or send an e-mail via the internet if available because often times local and cell phone lines became overloaded.”
In case family members are separated during a disaster, a real possibility in this day and age, have a designated meeting location and plans for reunification. Identify two meeting locations — right outside the home and outside the neighborhood — in case you cannot return home to meet after a disaster.
Next time during dinner, gather your family together and discuss your emergency plans. Practice evacuating from your home and establishing a meeting spot once everyone is safely outside. Consider getting trained in Red Cross first aid and CPR. Build a disaster supplies kit with non-perishable food, water, a first aid kit, important documents, and other essential items that you will need for a minimum of three to seven days.
Being prepared does not have to be complicated or take a lot of time. While these recommendations won’t stop the shaking, they can help you prevent injuries and ease some of your worries. For more information and additional resources, please contact your American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter or visit our web site at www.rainier-redcross.org.
Be Red Cross Ready
Make a Plan: Create an evacuation plan for your family and pets. Together plan how you are going to evacuate your home in case of an emergency, where you are going to meet outside of the household, and who your emergency contacts are going to be. Develop a check list with all this information. This is a great step to becoming prepared for an emergency.
Get a Kit: The Red Cross has pre-assembled kits available for purchase to the public, but you also can assemble your own kit that will be personalized to your family and their needs. If you are going to create your own emergency preparedness kit, remember to include enough water, food, medicine, clothing and other miscellaneous items to last for a minimum of three to seven days. Visit our web site at www.rainier-redcross.org.
Be Informed: Being informed about what type of natural disasters affect your geographical area will help prepare your family for any emergencies that come your way. Also, listening to the radio or watching the local news stations to see what local authorities are telling you to do in case of an emergency will help keep your family safe and calm. The more clear-headed you are, the easier it will be for you to focus and get the help you need.
In Pierce, Thurston, Mason, Lewis, and Grays Harbor Counties contact –
American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter
- (253) 474-0400 Pierce County
- (360) 352-8575 Thurston-Mason Counties
- (360) 748-4607 Lewis County
- (360) 249-2341 Grays Harbor County
Red Cross Earthquake Preparedness Tips:
How Can You Be Better Prepared?
- Did you know doorways are no stronger than any other part of a building?
- Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
- Practice drop, cover and hold on in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.
- Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
- Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
- Brace overhead light fixtures.
- Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
- Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets.
- Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
- Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
- Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
- Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
- Learn about your area’s seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction.
- Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location.
- Identify an out-of-area emergency contact as local calls on landlines and cell phones can be difficult to access during a disaster. During a disaster, family members should call the out-of-area emergency contact to report their status and check on others. SMS text messages from a wireless communication device will also often work if when cellular signals are not strong enough to make a voice call.
What to Do During an Earthquake?
- During an earthquake, remember to Drop – Cover – Hold On underneath a sturdy piece of furniture such as a desk or table. Move as little as possible.
- If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on. Protect your head with a pillow from falling objects.
- Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages, or other damage.
- If you are outside when the shaking starts, find a clear spot and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops away from building, power lines, trees, and streetlights.
- If you are in a vehicle during an earthquake, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses, and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged.
- If a power line falls on your vehicle, DO NOT get out! Wait for assistance.
- If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes.
What to Do After an Earthquake?
- After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks, landslides or even a tsunami. Tsunamis are often generated by earthquakes.
- Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on. Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks and even months following an earthquake.
- Check yourself for injuries and get first aid, if necessary, before helping injured or trapped persons.
- Put on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.
- Look quickly for damage in and around your home and get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
- Listen to a portable, battery-operated or hand-crank radio for updated emergency information and instructions.
- Check the telephones in your home or workplace to see if you can get a dial tone.
- Make brief calls to report life-threatening emergencies.
- Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is the most common hazard after an earthquake.
- Clean up spilled medications, bleach, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
- Open closet and cabinet doors carefully as contents may have shifted.
- Help people who require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.
- Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas.
- Keep animals under your direct control.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- If you were away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Use extreme caution and examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows to check for damage.
- Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.