Growing up in British Columbia you started being informed about what to do in an earthquake at a young age. I can recall doing earthquake drills in Kindergarten. For some, it makes them much more anxious, and for others it helps to prepare them for if something does happen. You hope that it also helps those that do worry about these types of situations.
Last night BC was hit with an earthquake. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt an earthquake, this definitely was not the first. It was reported to be around a 4.3 to 4.9 magnitude earthquake which is considered a light earthquake, and could potentially cause some property damage (everyone check your homes). I recall 2 other times in my life when I felt an earthquake: once in middle school while at school, the other when I was in grade 3 and at home. It is something that definitely startles you. In my neighbourhood there was a loud rumbling sound and I saw the windows tense. I then heard some creaking sounds while the ground began to shake.
Working for the school district I am used to doing earthquake preparedness drills. Having done them since I was in kindergarten to now – we are talking 23 years of practice – it is pretty much programmed into me what they teach us to do. I was reminded though thanks to this wake up call that we have some work to do. We need to finish getting our emergency kit together, and I want to make sure we start talking to our oldest about this. Below I’ve listed off some of the things we will be doing now in regards to making a family plan.
Do you know what to do in case of an earthquake, and do you have a family plan?
- Talk about what an earthquake is… We need to really simplify this for our oldest, she is only 3. We want what we say to be informative, but to also not terrify her. We plan to keep things basic by stating that everything will feel like it is shaking because the ground is moving, you may hear some loud noises like banging, or sounds like cracking. As she gets older we will add more details that are age appropriate like how it is caused by plates under the earth moving.
- What to do… talk about, show, and practice what to do in an earthquake. Kids learn so well by seeing and doing. Explain that they need to “STOP. COVER. HOLD ON.” and then show them what do, and also get them to try it. You should be counting through the duration of the earthquake, and once the shaking stops count to 60 for safety. Counting out loud during it helps keep you focused, and calm. It also helps you to identify how long the earthquake has lasted for. The longer the earthquake the more cautious you should be. When the shaking has stopped count to 60.
- Safe places… go over what are safe places to be in an earthquake in your home. You will want to point out exactly where safe spots are in each room of your home. These would be places like under a sturdy table or desk, or being beside an interior wall and covering. It is also important to explain which places are the most dangerous such as garages, and kitchens. These are places that tend to contain items that are dangerous, or can easily fall.
- Make a plan… this is something you should have that covers all emergency situations that explains what to do. Go over this as a family. It should include evacuation routes, meeting locations, and knowledge of where an emergency kit and needed items would be. I want to learn how to shut off our water and electricity if needed. Right now I don’t know where the water shut off valve is. I want these things labeled clearly for what is on, and off too. Who will be responsible for what task after an emergency like an earthquake?
- Emergency contact… We need to establish an out of town emergency family contact, someone who lives far enough away that they will not be impacted by the same emergency. We need to make sure that person also knows they’ve been selected as our family contact. Everyone is to be in contact with this person by phone or email so that person can in turn keep everyone up to date. This will be the person who relays information to others if needed.
- Emergency kit… We need to finish putting together an emergency kit that contains enough items for us to be self sufficient as a family for 72 hours. We need to consider the members of our family and all of their needs. For example we have a young baby right now who does require formula, which also needs water to make. We need to make sure these items are available. Do we have enough water? I would also like to put together a comfort kit for each of my children with items that I know would aid them in feeling safe in an emergency, something like a familiar object like a stuffed animal.
- What to do after… Be prepared for aftershocks. Check that you are alright, and not injured. Is it safe to move? Go over where to meet as a family.
- Safety items nearby… I’ve had it recommended to me to make sure I have shoes near my bed, and a working flashlight. I want to make sure there are a few other things easily accessible if we are woken by a bad earthquake. I also need to make sure that once our emergency kit is assembled that everyone in our family knows where it is located. I want to update my first aid and CPR training as these may be necessary skills to have.
- The community around you… I would like to find out if any of my neighbours have specific skills. Is there anyone in our area who has a skill that would be useful in an emergency situation? A doctor, nurse, or paramedic? Is there anyone in our area that we should be checking in on, such as elderly, young children, those with disabilities? If an emergency situation ever does occur we are going to need to come together as a community and help one another.
These are just some of the things that we will be going over when it comes to making a family plan to use in emergency situations like an earthquake. We have a lot to do, and honestly it should have all been done a long time ago. Last night was a scary, sobering reminder that here in the Lower Mainland we live in an earthquake zone and we could be hit by a large scale earthquake.
Are you prepared for an emergency?