How To Prepare Your Family For An Earthquake

So much about life and human nature is second chances. We love do-overs and gimmes. We love to hint and help. We love to forgive and to be forgiven. We love mercy.

But sometimes, it’s possible to be too late, to miss the boat or the plane, to show up a day late and a dollar short. Sometimes, you are caught unprepared. And you have to suffer.

Unfortunately, it’s so easy to put off emergency preparedness. The warnings seem like they are for someone else, someone in tornado alley. They should have known a tornado could slice through their community, right?

No matter where you live, Mother Nature has the ability to disrupt our peaceful, serene lives:

Blizzards in the north, tornadoes through our nation’s midsection, hurricanes in the Gulf (or along the east coast as we’ve seen the past two years), Nor’easters in New England, earthquakes on the West Coast. Wildfires everywhere, floods everywhere.

Preparing for these events means your family, your work, your community have a better chance at survival and recovery.

That means knowing what your hazards are and creating written plans, building emergency kits and learning how to help those around you.

Salt Lake City Skyline At Night

At Be Ready Utah, we have a common saying that encompasses these four tenets: Make a Plan, Get a Kit, Be Informed, Get Involved.

You can take steps to make sure your family and home are ready for a major earthquake.

ShakeOut_Utah_NoDate_GetReady_300x250The ShakeOut happens each year in April at 10:15 a.m. Register for the ShakeOut to be counted among more than 800,000 Utahns who will drop, cover and hold on at the same time and then take the next week to conduct a home hazard hunt with your family.

Look for things around the home that can fall from shelves, walls, tables and cabinets. Some of the things we store as mementos can cause serious cranial damage. Other items, such as water heaters, can topple during shaking, causing a fire or spilling precious drinking water.

Make a game with your family and see how many items you can find that could land on you while you sleep, work at your desk, eat breakfast or work in the garage.

What chemicals do you keep in the laundry room?

If you need some ideas, check out the “Learn and Play” portion of the ShakeOut website and try to beat the quake.

After you survey your home and mark your hazards, it’s time to set about fixing them so they are safer for you and your loved ones.

Your options are plentiful. Home improvement stores and warehouses sell metal straps for securing your water heater to wall studs, museum putty or gel to keep knickknacks and mementos on shelves, “closed” picture hooks to keep art on the walls and nylon furniture straps to keep furniture from toppling.

The following actions will also keep you safer:

  • Move heavy items to lower shelves.
  • Place a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.
  • Practice the correct earthquake actions of drop, cover and hold on. These are statistically much more likely to keep you safe from falling or flying objects than any other action.
  • Keep shoes under or by your bed in case of broken glass.
  • Consider installing child-resistant latches on cupboards to keep dishes and food inside.

Once you have these tasks done, congratulations! You are on your way to a safer home. It’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of things they can do to prepare. But if you just take one thing and do it today, consider it to be more than you did yesterday.

Then move on to another step. If you’re looking for more ideas, head over to for all of your preparedness needs.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Follow Be Ready Utah on Twitter at @BeReadyUtah.