Note: This series of stories, based on the Earthquake Country Alliance Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety (En español) will help you learn how to plan and prepare for the possibility of a major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction zone, which could strike western Oregon, Washington and California. Get prepared, then practice your efforts during the Great Oregon ShakeOut, the third Thursday of every October. This year it is on October 15.
You may need to leave your home quickly if there's an earthquake, a fire, a flood or other emergency. Make sure you have the important information you will need to more quickly recover once the immediate threat has passed and you have prepared your house to weather disaster. You may also want to consider earthquake or flood insurance, to further protect your investment in your home and belongings.
Organize important documents
Designate a "go bag or backpack" (see Step 3). Include what documents you will need if you are away from home during an extended time away from home. Put all of these important documents in a sealed plastic bag, then place them in your "grab-and-go" back. Leave your go bag somewhere you can get to easily.
Examples of documents you might need:
- Copies of identification
- Copies of insurance cards
- List of emergency contact numbers
- Photos of belongings in your home
Strengthen your home or building
If your home or commercial building is more than 30 years old, chances are it's not as safe as it could be.
Building codes have been improved over time, but few codes require older buildings to be fixed. You can take steps to improve the structural integrity of your building or home. Here are some examples:
Inadequate foundations. Look under your house at your foundation. If it is damaged or built in the "pier and post" style, consult a contractor or engineer about replacing it with a continuous perimeter foundation. Also, look for bolts and square washers in the mudsills (a connection between the base of the home's wood frame and the poured concrete foundation. They should be no more than 6 feet apart in a single-story house and 4 feet apart in a multistory house. Adding bolts to unsecured houses is one of the most important steps toward earthquake safety.
Unbraced cripple walls. Homes with a crawl space should have panels of plywood connecting the studs of the short "cripple" walls.
Soft first stories. Look for larger openings in the lower floor, such as a garage door or a hillside house built on stilts. Consult a professional to determine if your building is adequately braced.
Unreinforced masonry. All masonry (brick or block walls) should be reinforced. If your house has masonry as a structural element, consult a structural engineer to find what can be done. Inadequately braced chimneys are a more common problem. Consult a professional to determine if your chimney is safe.
Find more specific details of financial preparedness at https://www.earthquakecountry.org/step4/
Red Cross Preparedness Guide
If you need a little more help organizing your readiness efforts, sign up for weekly reminders from #2WeeksReady. Find out how easy it can be to build a readiness kit over 24 weekends. Sign up now.
NEXT: Drop, Cover and Hold On
Previous stories in this series:
Are You Ready? Test Yourself with the Great Oregon ShakeOut
Are You Ready? Step 2: Plan to be Safe
Are You Ready? Step 3: Organize Disaster Supplies