Emergency response: Tie a ribbon on your finger and your wrench to the gas meter

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, March 25 2012 7:11 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

When a hurricane approaches the United States, emergency managers and first responders begin prepositioning supplies that can be mobilized as soon as it’s safe to transport them to hard-hit areas.

Unfortunately, earthquakes strike without warning and could happen in Utah anywhere along any of the segments of the Wasatch Fault, which runs from Malad, Idaho, through Sanpete County. Utahns could be at home, work, church or school when an earthquake strikes. So, remembering what supplies to preposition can help them recover in a disaster.

Be Ready Utah is inviting the entire state to participate in the largest earthquake drill its ever held, the Great Utah ShakeOut, now with 785,000 Utahns who are planning to drop, cover and hold on for one minute and then review their emergency plans and supplies. Sign up by visiting ShakeOut.org/Utah. Then, tell your family, friends and co-workers.

Now that you’ve had a few weeks to begin putting your emergency kit together and gathering emergency supplies, it’s time to tie a ribbon on your finger to remember a few other items you can get in place before a major earthquake happens.

  • Start by attaching a wrench to your gas meter. Having a wrench already in place will allow you to shut off your gas if needed. It will also save you from scrambling to find one when your tools are scattered in an earthquake. Use a cord long enough to allow you to reach the valve. Remember to only turn off your gas if you smell it, hear it leaking or know of damage to your home’s gas line.
  • Make sure your grab-and-go kit is easily accessible: in a front closet, the trunk of your car or on the way out of your office.
  • Begin making copies of important documents, such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, car or home titles and store them in a waterproof container with your emergency kit. Also consider making electronic copies.
  • Want to keep items from falling off shelves? Consider adding a retaining lip or bungee cord across shelves.
  • A fire extinguisher should be located on each level of your home, in your kitchen and in your garage.
  • Do you commute to work? What kind of shoes will you be wearing when you have to walk home some day?
Take a few minutes each week to begin working on these steps. After you practice a few times, gathering what you need in an emergency will come automatically. When an emergency comes, your chances to prepare are gone.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and the spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Send your preparedness tips to jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips available at twitter.com/bereadyutah.

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