Earthquakes: 3 Steps to Prepare Now, Before it’s Too Late

July 2016 has been an earthquake-heavy month in California, with at least 18 small earthquakes hitting California’s Central Valley in the days leading up to the 20th – as well as a few more with epicenters in Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California’s service area. This seismic swarm, defined by the USGS as “a series of minor earthquakes occurring in the same area and time”, so far hasn’t caused damage. However, with recent reports from seismologists warning that the “big one” could be coming at any time, this recent flurry of earthquake activity serves as an important reminder that everyone should be prepared for a quake of any size – and the sooner the better.

Earthquakes are a staple of California, and played an important role in shaping San Francisco, and the Bay Area’s, history. San Francisco’s catastrophic 1906 earthquake was felt even in Eureka, almost 300 miles away. That quake was a result of a rupture along the San Andreas Fault, which runs 800 miles along the California coast. The 2014 South Napa earthquake, which caused estimated damages of up to a billion and injured 200 people, was centered on the West Napa Fault.  The Hayward Fault line runs through the East Bay, from north of San Jose all the way to Pinole. The Bay Area is fraught with Faults, and a major quake could affect a huge amount of people.

Seismologists can use past data to calculate the probabilities of potential quakes in the future. However, unlike a tornado or tsunami, earthquakes can’t be predicted more than a few seconds in advance. This underscores the importance of always being prepared. A few minutes of planning now could save you vast amounts of time, money, and grief in the future.

Getting ready for a possible earthquake can be complex. Luckily, there are many resources available to you, like Humboldt State’s “Living on Shaky Ground” guide to preparing for earthquakes in Northern California, so fear not!

From how to prepare your home to what supplies you should stock up on, BBB offers the following advice to prepare yourself and your household for a big quake:

  1. Assess your home’s risk, and take the necessary measures to prepare it. Check with your local building-regulatory agency to see when your home was constructed, what codes were in place at the time, and if you’re at risk of possible structural vulnerabilities. Inside your home, assess the earthquake safety of your utility systems and architectural elements (such as windows and lights). Nonstructural elements, like heavy furniture, are just as important to secure and can sometimes cause the most damage. Anchor, brace, and reinforce anything that could be affected or moved by an earthquake. For a guide on identifying home hazards, click here. Some of this work can be done on your own, but you may also need professional help. If you need to hire a contractor, follow these tips. Preparing your home incrementally can be more affordable and less disruptive. Secure important documents and make sure everything is backed-up – preferably to a server in a region that isn’t in earthquake danger. Contact your home insurance provider to discuss coverage options. Put together an emergency kit – suggested supplies can be found here.
  2. Practice what to do if an earthquake hits. Put together a detailed plan with roles for all members of the household. Run through earthquake drills until they’re second nature – this can help reduce fear in children. Discuss what items are most important to save, and consider putting together a family emergency communication plan. Learn exactly what do during the shaking here, and be prepared for aftershocks.
  3. Know what happens after. Once safe, have a battery-operated news source available to learn emergency information and instructions. Be aware of any state or local plan in place, and know your deadline for filing insurance claims.

An earthquake is a scary prospect, but being fully prepared can mitigate a lot of the risk. Planning, preparing, and practicing is the best way to ensure you, and your household, survive a disaster. For a complete guide on earthquake preparedness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.

Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Consumer Tips, Consumer/Business Services

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