We had another earthquake last night in Los Angeles, this time a 5.1, and it came less than two weeks after a 4.4 earthquake. I don't mind the little earthquakes, but when we start getting up into 5s, I get a litlte nervous. (Side note: I held the belief that the smaller earthquakes relieve the tension along a fault line and reduce the likelihood of a larger event. The super useful and sometimes perception shattering earthquake.usgs.gov just told me that was untrue.) I actually didn't feel the 5.1 earthquake last night, but I jumped out of bed for the 4.4 and ran to a doorway. Then I thought, "Am I supposed to be standing in a doorway?"
Turns out, no, not so much. Doorways in modern buildings are generally not built super strongly, so unless you know it is a load-bearing doorway (and I would have no clue which doorway that was), standing under one isn't going to offer you much protection. The best thing to do is drop, cover, and hold on wherever you are.
If you can get under a heavy desk or table, make yourself as small as you can under that sturdy piece of furniture. Or you can crouch in an inside corner, covering your face and head with your arms. If you're outside, get into an open area, making sure to stay away from power lines, trees, streetlights, and buildings. If you're in a high-rise building, stay away from windows and elevators. If you're driving, as I was last night, stop as soon as you can without causing an accident, and stay in your car until the shaking stops. Do your best to stop in an area free of power lines, overpasses, trees, etc - basically, keep clear of anything that might fall on you if it were to collapse in an earthquake.
If you do get trapped under something, don't use matches or move around too much. Also, don't shout unless it's a last resort. Instead cover your mouth (to prevent inhaling dust and whatever other nastiness may be in the air) and tap on a pipe or wall so that people can hear you.
All this earthquake activity reminds me that I need to update my earthquake kit. I did this a number of years ago, but I'm pretty sure the batteries have expired and the water now tastes like death by plastic. Here's a handy PDF of all the extra supplies we should have in our emergency earthquake kits, including lots of things I would never have thought of (waterproof matches anyone?). But the basics include:
- canned and/or non-perishable food (3 days worth)
- water (at least 1 gallon per person per day x 3 days = 3 gallons per person)
- first aid kit
- whistle (to call for help if you need it)
- hand-crank radio or battery-powered radio
- local maps
- cell phone and chargers
- manual can opener (so you can actually eat all that canned food)
- dust mask
- moist towlettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (ie. bathroom supplies)
- some kind of box or plastic container to hold all the supplies
I'm going to add my own item to this list: a paper list of all the phone numbers I might need (parents, children, friends, etc). Sadly, I don't know anyone's phone number anymore because everything is stored in my cell phone. But if my cell phone dies or, god forbid, I'm separated from it, I wouldn't know what number to call to reach anyone, even if it was to tell them I was OK. I should probably start memorizing some phone numbers too...
Getting all these supplies and thinking about earthquake safety can either be boring or scary, depending on your perspective, but it's also incredibly necessary, especially for those of us who live in California. Do it with a friend, or better yet, a group of friends. Go to Target or Home Depot or your local hardware store or wherever and start getting the supplies. (If you really want to be a preparedness superstar, make two boxes: one for your home and one for your car.) Then go have a cocktail with your friends and feel incredibly proud of yourselves and hope you never have to use the kits.