California. Always unique in many ways and last week was no exception. As the headlines will tell you, we celebrated the fourth of July with a 6.4 Earthquake Rocks Los Angeles Area on Fourth of July and of course, that was upstaged by No deaths reported after 7.1 earthquake rocks Ridgecrest and California soon after. When the ground shook near Ridgecrest in San Bernardino County it created an expected reaction from the media and the public of reminding everyone that we live in earthquake country and that means we need to be prepared for the big one which WILL happen at any time, any day any night, either a Monday or a Sunday or even during a World Series game. So let this be yet another awake up call for those of you who just keep putting off getting that “To-Go” bag and/or survival kit assembled.
This is why I’m concerned, not enough of us are prepared and ready for that coming catastrophe. Now would be the best time to put together that kit while it’s fresh on your mind and with the kids home from school on vacation you can make it a family project and include items that’ll keep everyone happy. If you don’t have the time to put a kit together then sit down right now, go online and purchase a “ToGo” bag now!
Some believe the aftermath will only be a slight inconvenience and that calling 911 will take care of it all your issues, that’s why we pay taxes right? Sorry to tell you that a lot of cities, of all sizes, struggle daily with their budgets and juggling the cost of firefighters, police, infrastructure repair & maintenance, parks, and recreation, public transit, administrative staffing, courts, pensions, and lawsuits. The level of city services is not what they once were while some large cities like NYC have fabulous central commands staffed with well-trained people directing other well trained, dedicated folks, ready and able to respond to any emergency, smaller cities do not have that luxury and even with the heroic efforts of first responders, emergency services can be quickly overwhelmed. Immediately after a large-sized earthquake, they would be immediately tied up responding to the hundreds of calls they would receive in the first few hours. During Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area alone, they had over 75,000 emergency calls in the first four days.
In my town with a population of 122,105 living within 49.5 sq. miles, on any given shift there are only 21 firefighters on duty. That’s 21 to safely handle house fires including multi-level homes, car crashes and related injuries, medical emergencies, grass fires, hazardous material spills, and other assorted emergencies. Throw in an earthquake and now you have 21 firefighters resorting to triage to handle the hundreds of calls that will pour into 911 making severe trauma and heavy bleeding priority and those with minor injuries will have to wait or treat themselves. What’s worse is they can’t count on backup from the other shifts reporting in due to the possible poor conditions of the roads, bridges, and fires as many firefighters live out of town. Mutual aid will not arrive as they’ll be too busy with their own town’s emergencies.
That’s why you need to put an emergency kit together. Until the utilities get back online and first responders can get to you, you are on your own. This is not just for the home but your place of work should also have an emergency kit that everyone in the facility knows about. Earthquakes have no clock. Stock it well and keep an eye on expiration dates. FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) website says you should have enough food and water for each person for at least 3 days, but one to two weeks is advised. So please, don’t just nod your head in agreement. DO IT! If you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask, or reach out to other experts or to the FEMA website. Oh, and by the way, as a side note, when was the last time you changed the batteries in your smoke/carbon detector?
My Survival Chest – This is what I used and put together for our home of two adults and one dog. I was able to purchase just about everything on Amazon.com. Use your imagination when it comes to the container and what you want to stash for an emergency. The Rubbermaid 50 gallon capacity container, waterproof and made of sturdy plastic, it’s durable and on wheels, in case you have to move. Yellow so it can easily be seen. Now, what items and how much of each do you need to put into your survival chest? Base the amounts to store on a worst-case scenario for your location and take into consideration how isolated your location is. Are you within city limits or an unincorporated area and are there bridges or tunnels to cross? I have items for 7 days. Next, how many people and pets are you planning for? ie: Two adults and one dog?
WATER – Plan on 2 gallons per person per day. One gallon for drinking and one gallon for hygiene, sanitation and other. Multiply 2 gallons with the number of people in the home and don’t forget to include water for your pets. I have a mixture of bottled water and packaged sterilized water. I would also add one or two of the straw water filter tools just in case things take longer to get back to normal and you begin to run low on bottled water. Water can be boiled to sterilize it and if a fire isn’t possible to accomplish this, keep a small bottle of bleach in your kit. It can be used for purifying water for drinking, 8 drops for a gallon of water, shake and wait thirty minutes.
FOOD – Any combination of prepared camping meals that you enjoy, freeze-dried fruits and canned goods (make sure to include a can opener) as well as some of your favorite snacks, power bars and chocolate which will come in handy to help with the stress. Don’t forget to store food for your pets as well and some of their favorite snacks.
RADIO/CHARGER/BATTERIES – There are several radio choices but my favorite are the ones that have multiple ways to recharge the battery either with a hand crank and solar-powered. You can leave it in the sun all day to charge or use the hand crank and it also can be used to charge your phone. The radio is both AM and FM as well as shortwave so you can listen to the latest updates.
Flashlights/batteries/Candles and matches/fire starter – With no electricity, you’ll have to rely on flashlights, candles, and lanterns to illuminate the area. This is very important for everyone’s safety especially if there is debris on the ground. Don’t use candles until you know the area is free of gas or other combustibles and never leave candles unattended. Check your equipment now for the battery size requirements of all your items and store extra batteries in your kit.
First aid kit/nonlatex gloves – A first aid kit is a must and can help you greatly for treating minor injuries of family members or neighbors. If you are trained in first aid then you know gloves are for your protection when treating others.
Latrine/Outhouse – Chances are you may not have running water after an earthquake and not just due to water main breaks but the pump station may have lost power or been damaged and they will also take time to check infrastructure before turning the water back on. One item that can help is the Backpack John which I recently added to my emergency kit. It takes up little space and is easy to use to all ages and sizes.
Sleeping bags/tents – It is possible that your home may not be safe for occupancy after a large earthquake. If you have a large yard in the front or back you may want to set up a tent for protection from the elements. Our tent can sleep 8. Even if you can stay in your home, it would help get the kids through this by setting the tent up inside and pretend you’re on a family camping trip. Sleeping bags to keep warm and comfy. A tarp in your kit can help protect from rain or use to keep you off the ground or help move someone who can’t get around on their own.
Blankets/warm clothes – Natural disasters don’t care what time of year it is so be prepared and keep some extra sweatshirts, jackets in the kit along with blankets for those chilly nights. Other items to include, nylon rope, duct tape, plastic garbage bags.
Important documents/passports/other valuables – You should already have these documents in a safe secure place but if evacuations are a possibility gather them up and place them in plastic bags to protect them and make sure to take them with you along with needed medications.
Make sure to keep an inventory of what’s in your emergency kit along with the expiration dates of those items so you can replace them when needed. Designate a meet area so you know everyone who was in the house or apartment is out. Phone traffic will be crazy as people call 911 for assistance, family members calling to tell others they’re fine and family members calling to find out if loved ones are fine along with the possibility of downed cell towers. I suggest you designate a family member who lives in another state as the contact person you can call to say you are fine and then let them contact everyone else about your status.
You can get more information about how to prepare for a natural disaster or other emergencies by going to the FEMA web site at fema.gov and get stuff like an Earthquake Safety Checklist and other great information. Check it out but don’t wait too long as it’ll be hard to research and prepare when you’re in the middle of a disaster. Really, do it now!