Diane Blum

Freelance Writer

"Earthquake Preparedness"
Part 1 of a 4 part (published) series, as seen in The Evergreen Times
Our Geology Says It All – Get Prepared!
As we watch the earthquake disaster unfold in Japan, we are left wondering, “What can we do?” The answer to that is three-fold. Send your thoughts and prayers. Donate money to an organization such as the Red Cross. And lastly, think about what you can do – today - to help your own family and community better survive a major earthquake here.
Much like in Japan, our geology assures us of a large earthquake in our future. There are at least eight faults in the Bay Area (Evergreen sits between several of these) capable of producing earthquakes in the magnitude of 6.7 or larger. According to the USGS (US Geological Survey) there is a 62% probability for one or more magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes to occur in the Bay Area before 2032.
There are limited emergency personnel in San Jose and over a million people in the San Jose area most days. Help will initially be deployed in high-density areas (downtown, hospitals, high-density apartments, major campuses, etc). So every resident should be prepared to live on their own for 3 days.
So as we watch the horrible tragedy in Japan, let’s get ourselves to think about our own “Big One”. Not to frighten ourselves, but to enlighten ourselves and prepare. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. Let’s work on it together over the next few months. A little bit of effort by everyone will make our overall community better able to last those 3 days. Let’s start with some basics, just two things for you to do this week.
Water – a simple purchase to start with
After a major quake, water may be tainted. You should store at least one gallon of water, per person, per day for a minimum of 3 days worth. You may need water for drinking, cooking and also for sanitary purposes; and for pets, too. Just buy gallon jugs. These will need to be rotated after about 6 months. Mark it on your calendar (combine this “to do” with changing your clocks each spring and fall). While you are at it, throw a few bottles or a jug in your car.
Know how to turn-off utilities to prevent further damage to your home: Shutting off the water
Broken pipes can cause significant water damage; broken lines can contaminate the water supply coming into your home. You need to know where your water main meter at the street is to turn it off. You’ll have to lift or even pry off the lid. You may need a water key. Some water main valves turn off with a quarter turn, some with 180 degree turn. Learn how now!
Shutting off the gas and electricity
Leaking gas can cause fires or even explosions. Keep a gas turn-off wrench near your gas meter. Turn your gas off if you suspect a gas leak, such as if your house is severely damaged in an earthquake and you smell gas (smells like rotten eggs). NOTE, though, that if you turn your gas off, you should NOT turn it back on yourself. Certified technicians have the equipment needed to ensure you do not have a leak. If you were to turn the gas back on by lighting the pilot, and there was a leak, you could blow up your house!
Although you shouldn’t practice turning off the gas completely, you can try moving the gas valve just a bit to ensure it will in fact move. Some turn-off valves sit there for years and get so tight or old that it becomes almost impossible to turn them. Carefully turn the gas just an eighth of a turn or less just to ensure it will move. If it won’t, call PG & E to come loosen the valve for you.
In an emergency, in order to actually turn off the gas, you will turn the valve 90 degrees, or a quarter turn. If you suspect a gas leak, never light a match, or use electrical switches, appliances or telephones as it could create a spark. Once off, leave it off.
If the power goes out, you may also want to turn off your electricity at the breakers or unplug major appliances and computers so that you don’t get power surges frying these when the electricity comes back on.
Want more info?
Next time, we’ll talk about important supplies needed for your disaster kit. We’ll take it real slow. If you want to learn even more, check out San Jose Prepared or the USGS websites.
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