STILLWATER, Okla. – While the recent rise in earthquakes may be as unsettling as the feeling of the ground rolling, shaking and buckling under foot, making emergency preparations before disaster strikes can go a long way toward calming frayed nerves.
“Earthquakes may surprise us, but there are lots of things we can and should do ahead of time so we’re in a better position to manage a potential emergency situation,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.
At a minimum, families should assemble an emergency kit and develop a family communications plan.
In the emergency kit, set aside enough provisions including food, water and clothes for at least three days. Along with the basics, include prescription medicines, hearing aid batteries, baby formula or other items required for special needs.
Do not forget food and water for pets.
“Since you can’t assume everyone will be together when an earthquake strikes, a communications plan will ensure everyone knows what to do and where to go in an emergency,” Peek said. “Be sure the plan includes the contact information of at least one friend or family member who lives outside the area.”
A complete list of emergency kit supplies and a free step-by-step guide to creating a communications plan is available at www.ready.gov.
Since earthquakes can occur at anytime, families should identify a safe space in each room in the house, and especially in areas where family members spend lots of time, Peek said.
“Look for sturdy pieces of furniture, such as tables and desks, that you can crawl under quickly, to at least protect your head, but preferably your whole body,” she said. “Once you’ve identified the best places in each room to take cover, keep these spaces and walkways to them clear of clutter and storage for quick and easy access during an emergency.”
In other preparations, keep a working flashlight and a pair of lace-up shoes near the bed. It also is a good idea to get a fire extinguisher for the home and ensure each family member knows its location and how to operate it.
Additionally, families should be aware of the location and how to properly operate shutoffs to utilities such as water and electricity.
“The gas should be shut off if you smell it or hear a blowing or hissing noise, but because shut-off procedures vary based on gas meter configurations, it is important to contact your local gas company for assistance,” Peek said.
For more information about how to safely shut off gas service in an emergency, visit www.ready.gov/utility-shut-safety.
Finally, check with neighbors and friends to determine who has special skills or resources that would be helpful in an emergency. Also, identify anyone who may need extra assistance, such as older adults or people with disabilities.