Emergency Information

Earthquake Preparations for the Home

It’s no secret - we live in a geographical area that is seismically more active than many other locations around the country. The San Andreas, Hayward, Calaveras fault lines and many other smaller fault lines are all near by. As might be expected, we experience many small earth movements in this area – most of which we don’t even feel. And, yes, occasionally we DO feel larger magnitude earth movements or quakes. Some are “rollers” and some are “jolts”. Some are single events, and others involve a series of follow-on events. All are potentially dangerous.  Confidence and peace of mind comes with being prepared for such events.

Can we accurately PREDICT earthquakes?

No. Neither the USGS, Caltech or any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. However, based on scientific data, probabilities can be calculated for potential future earthquakes. For example, scientists estimate that over the next 30 years the probability of a major earthquake occurring in the San Francisco Bay area is 67% and 60% for Southern California. The USGS focuses their efforts on the long-term mitigation of earthquake hazards by helping to improve the safety of structures, rather than by trying to accomplish short-term predictions.

How can we PREPARE for an earthquake?

  1. Develop a “FAMILY PLAN” and train your family members on what to do in case of an emergency. In any emergency we all think of “family first”…make sure everyone in the family is well prepared.
  2. Make sure each member of your family knows what to do no matter where they are when an earthquake occurs:.
    • Establish a meeting place where you can all reunite afterward 
    • Find out about earthquake plans developed by children's schools or day care
    • Develop a communications plan including emergency phone numbers that all family members are aware of.
    • Make sure everyone knows who to “tag up” with and how to contact them. 
  3. Remember transportation may be disrupted, so keep some emergency supplies - food,liquids, and comfortable shoes – at work, at home and in the trunk of your car. 
  4. Know where your gas, electric and water main shutoffs are and how to turn them off if there is a leak or electrical short. 
  5. Locate your nearest fire / police stations and emergency medical facilities. 
  6. Talk with your neighbors – how can you help each other after an earthquake, including   caring for children and any persons who may need extra help in case of an emergency. 

Emergency Supplies –

First Aid – Bandages, antibiotic ointment, latex gloves, pain relievers, diarrhea medication, any prescribed medications, an adequate supply of toilet tissue.

Equipment – Flashlights, extra batteries, portable radios, heavy gloves, blankets or sleeping bags, shovel, camp stove, basic eating utensils including a can opener, dry chemical fire extinguisher, an adjustable wrench for turning off utilities, a garden hose for siphoning and fire fighting, at least one change of clothes and a pair of sturdy shoes or boots.Food Supplies – Water (1 gallon per person per day), water purification tablets or chlorine bleach, non-perishable food items high in calories and nutrition, canned water packed meats, granola bars, dehydrated foods, canned or dried fruit, canned or powdered milk; and extra food for pets if necessary.

With all food items – periodically check on the expiration dates on the containers and replace those with short or near term expirations.

Baby Supplies – Special child care needs, formula, bottles, pacifiers, soap and baby wipes, diapers, canned food and juices, extra clothing and blankets…and toys.

What should I do DURING an earthquake?    DON’T panic and run!

  1. If you are INDOORS - STAY THERE! Get under a desk or table and hang on to it, or move into a hallway or get against an inside wall. STAY CLEAR of windows, fireplaces, and heavy furniture or appliances. GET OUT of the kitchen, which is a dangerous place (things can fall on you). DON'T run downstairs or rush outside while the building is shaking or while there is danger of falling and hurting yourself or being hit by falling glass or debris. 
  2. If you are OUTSIDE - get into the OPEN, away from buildings, power lines, chimneys, and anything else that might fall on you.
  3. If you are DRIVING - stop carefully. Move your vehicle as far out of traffic as possible.  Stay there with your seat belt fastened. DO NOT stop on or under a bridge or overpass or under trees, light posts, power lines, or signs. STAY INSIDE your vehicle until the shaking stops. When you RESUME driving, watch for breaks in the pavement, broken water mains, fallen rocks, and bumps in the road at bridge approaches. 
  4. If you are in a MOUNTAINOUS AREA - watch out for falling rock, landslides, trees, and other debris that could be loosened by quakes.
  5. Be alert for AFTERSHOCKS - proceed carefully. 

Things NOT to do during an earthquake

  1. DO NOT turn on the gas again if you turned it off; let the gas company do it 
  2. DO NOT use matches, lighters, camp stoves or barbecues, electrical equipment, appliances UNTIL YOU ARE SURE THERE ARE NO GAS LEAKS. They may create a spark that could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion and fire. 
  3. DO NOT use your telephone, EXCEPT for a medical or fire emergency. You could tie upthe lines needed for emergency response. If the phone doesn't work send someone for help 

Don’t expect firefighters, police or paramedics to be immediatly available to help you. They will most likely be very busy with the most urgent needs and just not be available. Help will get to you as soon as possible.

During an earthquake should you head for the doorway?

Only if you live in an old, unreinforced adobe house. In modern homes and buildings, doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the house and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you. YOU ARE SAFER PRACTICING THE DUCK, COVER, AND 

HOLD under a sturdy piece of furniture.

Don’t assume that you should immediately evacuate the building. You may be safer right where you are. If you are instructed to evacuate - do so, quickly, but don’t run! Make sure you are accounted for and report in to whoever is responsible for knowing your whereabouts.What can I expect in my house or on the job when an earthquake occurs? How do I identify it? What can be done?

The contents of your home, office or worksite may be damaged and can be dangerous: 

  1. Shaking can make light fixtures fall, refrigerators and other large items move across the floor, and bookcases and television sets topple over. Look around your location for things that could fall or move 
  2. Ask yourself what may have happened behind closed doors that might allow things to fall if doors are opened – think ahead, and prepare accordingly. Is your TV and stereo fastened down and are shelves fastened to the wall? Do you have hanging plants, light fixtures, heavy pictures or mirrors that might fall?   

What do I do AFTER an earthquake?

  1. WEAR STURDY SHOES to avoid injury from broken glass and debris.   Expect aftershocks – be ready for them. 
  2. CHECK FOR INJURIES - If a person is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound, using clean gauze or cloth, if available. If a person is not breathing, administer CPR. DO NOT attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger of injury. COVER injured persons with blankets to keep them warm. SEEK medical help for serious injuries. 911 call Operators will be overloaded, but try anyway!

CHECK FOR HAZARDS - Fire hazards - put out fires in your home or neighborhood immediately, call for help. Gas leaks - shut off main gas valve ONLY if you suspect a leak because of broken pipes or odor. Damaged electrical wiring - Shut off power at the control box if there is any danger to house wiring. Downed or damaged utilitylines - do not touch downed power lines or any objects in contact with them;

SPILLS - Clean up any spilled medicines, drugs, or other harmful materials such as bleach,    lye, gasoline.

DOWNED OR DAMAGED CHIMNEYS - Approach with caution - don't use a damaged chimney (it could start fire or let poisonous gases into your house.

FALLEN ITEMS - beware of items tumbling off shelves when you open doors of closets and cupboards.

CHECK FOOD AND WATER SUPPLIES - Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass. If the power is off, plan meals to use up foods that will spoil quickly or frozen foods (food in the freezer should be good for at least a couple of days. Don't light your kitchen stove if you suspect a gas leak. Use BBQ or camp stoves, outdoors only for emergency cooking. If your water is off you can drink supplies from water heaters, melted ice cubes or canned vegetables. Avoid drinking water from swimming pools because of the chemicals.

Shutting off utilities…  

Don’t turn off your utilities unless you need to or are ordered to.

Gas – If you smell gas after an earthquake, shut off the main gas valve. Use a wrench to turn the valve either way until the valve is perpendicular to the pipe. Attach a suitable wrench to the gas pipe with a wire so it will be there when needed. 

Water – Shut off the water if a quake causes a leak in the house or building. In most cases, the water shutoff valve is the first valve in the line after it comes out of the ground before it enters the house. If you have trouble finding this valve, you can shut off the water at the meter using a special key you an buy at a hardware store.

Electricity – To shut off the electricity, turn off the single breakers first, then switch off the main breaker. In older panels, pull the main fuse blocks.

Take a look around and SECURE your house ahead of time…

Secure appliances – secure appliances and tall furniture to the wall studs, not just the wallboard. Appliances can move during an earthquake and rupture gas or electric lines. 

Furniture can topple over causing damages or injuries. Strap the water heater to studs in the wall using a thick metal strap.

Place beds away from windows or glass skylights, which could shatter. Keep a flashlight, spare batteries, and sturdy footwear under the bed. Shoes will protect you from broken glass on the floor.  

Mirrors, pictures, picture frames – Stow breakable items on the floor or against the wall until the quake is over and they can be safely re-hung.

Secure cabinet doors – Use latches to secure cabinet doors. During an earthquake, doors of kitchen cabinets typically shake open and contents tumble to the floor. Keep heavier objects on the lower shelves.

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Closed blinds can prevent broken glass from flying into the room.

PREPARE WELL… ahead of time!


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Mary E. Silveira Elementary School
Dixie School District

375 Blackstone Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-3741

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