Wednesday marks this year's Great Utah ShakeOut, where almost 1 million Utah residents will pretend there's an earthquake at 10:15 a.m.
The Great Utah ShakeOut helps raise awareness about what should be done during an earthquake and serves as an emergency preparedness reminder. What will your family do in the event of an emergency? Where will you be? What supplies do you have on hand?
In the weeks leading up to the 2013 Great Utah ShakeOut, the Deseret News, Emergency Essentials, Utah Disaster Kleenup and Be Ready Utah have been putting together tips, reminders, tricks, and information Utahns and their families need to help prepare for disasters.
Read the full columns here.
An earthquake could happen any time without warning. You could be at work, home, school or shopping. Do you know what to do?
If you are in your car, it’s best to pull over to the side of the road away from bridges, overpasses and tunnels. Turn on your car’s radio to listen for emergency information.
If you are not driving, it’s best to drop to the ground when shaking starts. Otherwise, an earthquake can knock you to the ground. We often hear stories of people who are injured because they thought they could run to shelter in a quake. Drop to the ground and crawl to a safe location. It’s much easier than separating your shoulder when you fall down.
Take cover under something sturdy, such as a table or desk and hold on so it doesn’t shake away from you. If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head with pillows.
Statistically, you are much safer by following drop, cover, hold on than any other earthquake action. This method protects you from things, including non-structural parts of your home falling on you.
Remember to expect aftershocks, which can be nearly as large as the main quake.
It's important to know the hazards you may face as you put together an emergency preparedness plan.
The list for hazards in Utah is already extensive: fires, floods, tornadoes, other high winds, severe winter storms, landslide, lightning, earthquakes or pestilence. Elsewhere, the list gets even longer, including tsunamis, hurricanes, storm surges and volcanoes.
During the past year, the wildfire season was devastating for some communities, burning homes and grazing land. But in their scorched wake, wildfires leave behind another danger, currently buried under the snow.
Anyone who lives below an area scorched by wildfire should be aware he or she may be in the path of what we call a debris flow — a soggy hill of rock, mud and water rushing downhill toward a more stable location. Unfortunately, we saw what can happen in a debris flow in Saratoga Springs in the fall of 2012.
Grab-and-go emergency kits can be assembled from household items, such as a flashlight with extra working batteries, a first-aid kit, garbage sacks and work gloves.
Other kit essentials include:
— Emergency drinking water
— Food or MREs
— Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
— Hand-operated can opener
— Cash in small bills
— Waterproof matches
— Personal and/or feminine hygiene items
A more extensive checklist can be found at BeReadyUtah.gov.
Earthquake-proofing your house is an important consideration when aiming for safety. When preparing for an earthquake, keep your eyes peeled for the following:
Tall furniture — Secure both top corners of tall furniture into a wall stud, not just to the drywall, by using a bracket or flexible-mount fasteners, such as nylon straps. Nylon straps are also available for appliances and electronics.
Glassware, dishes and china — Use latches designed for child-proofing or earthquakes to help prevent contents from falling out of cupboards. Use caution when opening them after an earthquake. Use removable earthquake putty or other similar products for objects on open shelves and tabletops, such as your collection of blown-glass swans.
Art — Hang only soft art, such as unframed posters, rugs or tapestries, above beds or sofas. Mirrors, pictures and other hanging objects should be on closed hooks.
In the garage — Move flammable or hazardous materials to low areas that are secure. Ensure that items stored above or beside your car cannot fall, damaging or blocking it.
Stories from the 2012 Great Utah ShakeOut showed that some Utahns really took the activity to heart.
One woman described for us how she began looking through the family’s emergency supplies and found that the clothes she had packed for her toddler years ago would no longer fit her son, who is now 17. Some people found they were ready. Others have a long way to go.
Families that operate preschools out of their homes learned what it takes to corral four-year-olds under the same table.
Before the ShakeOut, many homeowners who live in unreinforced masonry buildings began learning about securing their homes to make them more survivable. Unreinforced masonry buildings, or URMs, are quite common in older neighborhoods. (Think bungalow-style brick homes in Sugar House or Ogden.) Utah has thousands of these homes, which were built before modern building codes. Some of the homes are not secured to the foundation. In others, the roof is not secured to the walls.
It would take some planning and cash to retrofit these homes, but if homeowners are planning to replace a roof, that is a good time to pay to brace the roof to the walls. Check with a seismic engineer before you proceed.
Who knows what challenges you may discover in this year's ShakeOut?
Our first responsibility is to prevent fires from starting. There are a variety of ways to do this:
— Take extreme care with campfires when conditions are dry. These conditions can exist during winter.
— Obey orders from the state forester limiting certain outdoor activities, such as target shooting in dry areas outside city limits.
— Don’t park your hot car over dry grasses.
— Don’t use fireworks near wildland areas.
If you live in wildland areas, protect your home in the following ways:
— Maintain a buffer between your home and wild areas by clearing brush and vegetation at least 75 feet around your home.
— Don’t stack firewood next to your home or under a deck.
— Clean your roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves.
If fire threatens your neighborhood, officials may ask you to evacuate.
— Don’t wait. Gather your grab-and-go kits and leave the area. If you feel threatened, you don’t have to wait for an official evacuation order. Take pets with you.
— Turn off your ventilation system and close vents, windows and your fireplace flue.
— Text loved ones instead of calling. Texting uses less bandwidth than a phone call.
— Tape a note to your door with names of all evacuees.
See more fire tips here.
Everybody has to heed Mother Nature's call, even in the midst of a disaster. Preparation can help keep things sanitary and healthy.
In case your toilet isn't working during a disaster, assembling your own requires just two parts: a 5-gallon bucket and a plastic toilet seat with a lid. I bought my seat from Emergency Essentials, which sells them for about $9. Group discounts on seats are available.
To make the most out of your toilet, gather the following items and keep them in your bucket until you need to use it:
— Several boxes of 8-gallon garbage bags. Use a garbage bag to line the bucket before use.
— Kitty litter. Store it in an empty two-liter bottle and shake it into the toilet after each use to reduce odors.
— Toilet paper. Put a roll into a plastic zippered baggie and squeeze the air out of the bag. This will protect your toilet paper and allow you to keep various rolls in the bucket.
— Disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer. Use these if you can’t wash your hands.
— Air freshener.
— One roll of paper towels.
After a few uses, tie off the bag and throw it in your garbage can.
Keeping things sanitary during a disaster goes beyond worrying about bathroom facilities. In a disaster that shuts down utilities, such as drinking and waste water, your task of staying healthy and germ-free rises to a new priority level.
When preparing for disasters, begin gathering an emergency stash of some of the supplies you normally use to stay clean. In a disaster, these items can be very hard to come by. Emergency Essentials suggests the following:
— Toilet paper (may also function like currency in your neighborhood during a disaster)
— Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer
— Bath soap, shampoo and deodorant
— Liquid dish soap and laundry soap
— Liquid bleach, powdered cleansers and ammonia
— Toothpaste and toothbrushes
— Feminine hygiene products
— Plastic bags (garbage-sized and smaller)
— Paper towels
— Baby products — diapers, wipes, bottles, etc.
— Consider whether a portable shower makes sense for your family.
Make sure you know the proper actions during a disaster. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before eating. Remember, water will be a precious resource, especially purified drinking water. That water will keep you alive as you use it for drinking, cooking or washing dishes.
Be prepared to sanitize any food preparation areas and make sure to get rid of table scraps by burying or burning them to keep rodents away. Wash dishes at some distance from your water source or your food preparation area.
Bathing may have to take place in a stream or river, or even in the rain if there is no running water.
If you work outside the home, a third or more of your life is spent at work. That means there’s a decent chance that disaster will strike when you’re not at home. Luckily, many of the steps to emergency preparedness at home still work at the office.
— Have an emergency kit that can sustain you for at least three days.
— Have a plan for communicating to loved ones and co-workers who are in and out of the office.
— Be familiar with building evacuation routes and employee meeting areas.
— Employers should prepare to house employees at the office for an extended period of time. That means food and water, first aid and sanitation needs.
— Run through regular fire drills and earthquake drills, such as the Great Utah ShakeOut on April 17.
— Understand who is in charge during an emergency. It may not be the CEO.
— Look around to find furniture or office supplies that could fall on you.
— Are critical computers or servers kept off the floor and out of basements that can flood?
Be Ready Utah offers training to businesses to help them prepare. The program, called Ready Your Business, takes you through 12 steps of preparedness.
Click here to read more about what to do and how to prepare in case disaster strikes while you're commuting to or from work.
The disorientation and challenges that a disaster brings are compounded when you have access and functional needs. Families should make contingency plans for loved ones who have these needs.
An emergency kit for someone with a disability or other functional need may include the following items:
— Copies of medical prescriptions, doctors’ orders, and the style and serial numbers of the assistive devices you use.
— At least a week’s supply of any medication or medical supplies you use regularly, or as much as you can keep on hand.
— Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, list of your allergies and health history.
— Extra eyeglasses or hearing aid batteries.
— Battery chargers for motorized wheelchairs.
— Supplies for your service animal.
— If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a lightweight manual chair available for emergencies.
— Consider putting important information on to a portable thumb drive for easy transport in an evacuation.
If you have a disability, planning for emergencies may involve family, friends, caregivers, neighbors, support services and faith-based or community groups. Other plans may include contacting your city or county government's emergency information management office and working with them to use their emergency planning resources.
People who are not fluent in English may not be able to access information they need.
First responders, though they may do heroic things, won’t be able to reach everyone during a disaster. There’s just too many of us.
Rescue efforts will feel tragically slow, if not for a group of well-prepared people who can augment rescuers’ abilities and resources. Those people are your neighbors.
With the right kind of training, neighbors can be well-equipped to take on emergency roles as members of a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.
A CERT is a group of residents in a city or neighborhood who are organized and understand disasters, what to expect when they happen and know how to respond. The Whittier Narrows Earthquake in California in 1987 highlighted the need to have trained residents who could help out with emergency response.
In Utah, we have 70 CERT programs where residents are getting trained in the following areas:
— Disaster preparedness.
— Disaster fire suppression.
— Disaster medical operations.
— Light search and rescue.
— Disaster psychology.
Training classes consist of a total of 24 hours of instruction, usually taught over eight weeks, with the ability to take refresher courses if needed. Join a class. It may just save a life.