With two major earthquakes occurring in such a short span of time (in Haiti and Chile), you'd think that the citizens of California would be (pardon the pun) quaking in their boots in anticipation of the next Big One. But just today, the State of California released findings from their California Earthquake Preparedness Survey, and the results suggest that Californians may not be as prepared as they ought to be:
* Fewer than 20 percent of households have structurally reinforced their homes or had their homes inspected for earthquake resistance.
* Only 40 percent keep the recommended minimum of three gallons of water stored per person.
* Fewer than 20 percent of California households have purchased earthquake insurance.
* More than 80 percent of households have first aid kits, flashlights and batteries in their house but only 40 percent of Californians have made family disaster plans.
Yikes! When I read that, I immediately thought about how my family's preparations match up to those bullet points:
* When we remodeled our home five years ago, we were required to reinforce our foundations and all our walls in order to bring them up to the latest seismic safety standards, so I'm fairly sure we've secured our house about as much as we can.
* Thanks to the California Volunteers, I was given a Disaster Survival Kit which I store in a storage shed at the side of our house. It contains packs of water -- but I'm not sure whether we have 3 gallons per person. I guess I'd better check that and add a couple of cases of water to our stash.
* We're actually one of the 20% of Californians who do purchase earthquake insurance. The premium skyrocketed this year, but we gritted our teeth and bit the bullet because our home is our most significant financial investment, and if we lose it in an earthquake, we have nothing.
* Our Disaster Survival Kit contains a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, food, water, and personal hygiene items -- but we don't really have a Disaster Survival Plan.
There it is, our Achilles Heel, a Disaster Survival Plan. Okay, Alfie and I have decided on several locations to meet at in case of a disaster, and the kids know how to get out of the house in case of a fire, but I get the feeling we should be doing more. We need to formalize our plan of action and maybe even rehearse it a couple of times.
Sound like overkill? Last month a small plane crash left our city and several neighboring cities without power for about 9 hours, and it really brought home the fact that in a natural disaster, you're on your own. Phone lines to the city utilities and services were hopelessly busy, and we couldn't log on to our computers, so we had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, we still had cellphones so we weren't totally isolated; and it wasn't really a disaster, so we could just go about our lives and wait for the power to come back. But in a real disaster, I can see how fear and panic could close your mind down and cause you to lose your ability to think.
Think about it: your world is crumbling around you, there's no one to turn to. Your kids are scared, and so are you, but you don't want to let them know. How do you get everyone to safety? That's where a predetermined plan of action, with contingencies all mapped out for different situations, will prove invaluable. You've rehearsed it before, so you already know what to do, and even if that tree that almost fell on you has turned your brain into mush, it doesn't matter because you've got it all written down in a notebook, so you just open it up and read it.
Oh, hang on, we don't have one of those.
Okay, we'd better get cracking on that disaster plan. And so should you!
Click here for more information about the California Earthquake Preparedness study and the findings.
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