The recent fires in Northern California and hurricanes and floods in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico are a wake-up call reminding homeowners that it will take time for help to arrive in the wake of a major disaster.
Electricity, water, gas and telephones may not work after a fire, flood or natural disaster like an earthquake. The police and fire departments are likely to be tied up, so individuals and families should be prepared to rely on themselves for at least one week.
Homeowners can protect their families and reduce the risk of destruction by following the guidelines recommended by the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors from information provided by the California Department of Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Identify and fix hazards
• Move heavy furniture away from where people sit or sleep. Remove clutter from exit paths. Secure hanging objects, cabinet doors and appliances with safety straps, fasteners and adhesives.
• Replace rigid gas connections to water heaters and other gas appliances with flexible (corrugated) stainless-steel gas connectors. Excess-flow gas-shutoff valves for individual appliances will stop gas flow in case of a catastrophic leak.
• Move flammable or hazardous materials stored in garages and utility rooms to low areas that are secure.
Create a disaster kit
Create a household disaster kit and place items in a large, watertight container that can be easily moved, in an easily accessible location, within easy reach. The disaster kit should hold at least a one-week supply of the following items. Replace perishable items such as water, food, medications and batteries on a yearly basis.
• Drinking water (minimum one gallon per person per day)
• First aid supplies, medications, spare glasses and essential hygiene items, such as soap, toothpaste and toilet paper
• Emergency lighting – light sticks and/or a working flashlight with extra batteries
• A hand-cranked or battery-operated radio with spare batteries
• Canned and packaged foods, snack foods high in calories and cooking utensils, including a manual can opener
• Warm clothing, sturdy shoes, extra socks, blankets and perhaps even a tent
• Heavy-duty plastic bags for waste and other uses, such as tarps and rain ponchos
• Work gloves and protective goggles
• Comfort items for children, such as games, crayons, writing materials and teddy bears
• Pet food and pet restraints
• Copies of vital documents, such as insurance policies, medical consent forms for dependents, personal identification and a list of emergency contact numbers
• Cash in small bills (ATMs may not work)
• Pipe wrench to turn off gas or water
Decide beforehand how and where your family will reunite if separated during a calamity.
Discuss fire, flood and earthquake insurance with your agent. Depending on your financial situation and the value of your home, it may be worthwhile.
For more information on earthquake safety, visit conservation.ca.gov/index/Earthquakes/qh_earthquakes_what.htm, fema.gov/areyouready/emergency_planning.shtm or earthquake.usgs.gov/prepare.