How to Prepare Your Family & Home for an Earthquake

Melissa Matzenbacher-Galan | Jun 23, 2020 | minute read

We don’t know when it will happen, but it does: the ground rattles beneath your feet, family photos fall from the walls, and you brace yourself, not knowing when the earthquake will end. Earthquakes are increasingly becoming a routine occurrence in California, and the damage can be devastating.  

Just last week, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Southern California. Families were on edge as fires erupted in the small town of Ridgecrest, groceries crashed from store shelves, and roads closed. While no deaths were reported--this time--the financial damage was extensive and several people were injured. 

To safeguard yourself and your loved ones, you must understand how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do if one strikes. In this article, we provide helpful information that can help prevent or mitigate injuries if you ever find yourself with the ground shaking beneath you. 

What to Do to Prepare for an Earthquake

The most important thing that you can do to ensure safety during an earthquake is to plan ahead. Josh Rubenstein, the spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, has even said, “Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Arm yourself with knowledge and a plan. Talk about what you would do when a big one hits. I myself just did that with my daughter and my wife.” 

To properly prepare, you’ll want to check for hazards in your home, create an earthquake safety kit, and establish an emergency communication plan. 

Check for Hazards in Your Home

Earthquakes strike without warning. When it happens, you won’t have time to remove items from the walls or shelves to make sure that they don’t fall and break. By identifying potential hazards ahead of time, you can minimize the risk of injury or death to yourself and loved ones. 

To help safeguard your home during an earthquake, we recommend the following: 

  • Fasten all shelves, including dressers, securely to walls.
  • Place all breakable items, such as bottled foods, glass, and dishes in closed cabinets with latches
  • If you have large or heavy objects on your shelves or fireplace mantel, place those objects on the floor or on lower shelves
  • Place weed killers, pesticides, heavy cleaning supplies, and any flammable products securely in low, closed cabinets with latches
  • With heavy items like mirrors, photographs, and paintings, make sure that they’re securely fastened and, whenever possible, hang those items away from where people sit 
  • Ensure that all overhead light fixtures are securely braced. Whenever possible, avoid light fixtures with parts that could easily break off and shatter
  • Review your home’s electrical wiring and gas connections to make sure there are no defects
  • Make sure your home is structurally sound by repair any deep cracks in the ceiling or foundation

Create an Earthquake Safety Kit

Because of the intense damage earthquakes can cause, after one strikes, you may have limited access to food, water, and other life necessities. You can limit the impact on you and your family by having a disaster supply kit to meet you and your family’s basic needs for at least 72 hours. 

You’ll want to be sure your disaster supply kit includes the following: 

  • Nonperishable food to last you and your family for at least three days
  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days
  • A battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to filter contaminated air
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps marked for the nearest hospital and police station
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers
  • If you have a baby, infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • If you have a pet, pet food and enough water for your pet
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Personal hygiene items

To get the most out of your disaster kit, be sure to store it in a safe place that’s easily accessible during an emergency. Make sure that all of your family members know where the kit is located. 

Establish an Emergency Communication Plan

With the chaos that can ensue after a natural disaster, you’ll want to establish a plan with your family in the event that you’re separated from one another. Make a plan on where you’ll meet, including where you’ll meet if some family members are at work or school. You should also designate an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as a family contact. When a disaster hits your state, it can oftentimes be easier to call long distance. 

Purchase Earthquake Insurance

Immediately after an earthquake hits, insurance companies typically stop selling earthquake insurance. This period where they refuse to sell earthquake insurance--known as a moratorium--can last up to three months. When and for how long an insurance company will refuse to sell is specific to the insurer. What this means for you is that you should get earthquake insurance before or immediately once a moratorium period ends so that you can make sure you’re ready for the next time.

What to Do During an Earthquake

When preparing for an earthquake, it’s critical that you understand what to do if one hits. Make sure that you communicate what to do to the entire family. 

If you find yourself in the midst of a quake, remember to do the following: 

  • Minimize your movement and try to take only  a few steps to the closest safe space.
  • If you are indoors, you should drop, cover, and hold. This means that you should drop to the ground, find cover under a table or other sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on until the shaking stops. If you can’t find a table or other sturdy piece of furniture, you should move to the corner of a room, away from glass, and stay on the floor with your arms over your head.
  • If you’re outdoors, stay as far away from buildings as you can and move into an open space. 
  • Don’t exit the building or decide where to go until you’re positive it’s safe. Some earthquakes are actually foreshocks, and a larger earthquake could be coming next. 

Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency Can Help You and Your Family

Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency understands how difficult it is when a natural disaster hits your community and affects you and your loved ones. To protect yourself and your family, you should consider purchasing insurance that can help limit the financial damages you’ll face in the event of an earthquake.

Contact us today and one of our knowledgeable agents will help you understand your options.

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About The Author

Melissa specializes in auto insurance, flood insurance, homeowners insurance, special event insurance, renters insurance, and watercraft insurance. She prides herself on knowing our markets inside and out.

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