With September being National Preparedness Month, we thought it only fitting that for our Food Storage Friday posts, we focus on what each of us can do to better prepare ourselves for an emergency or natural disaster. What we found in the process was that, for many of us, preparation depends largely on what type of disasters we are most likely to face in the places that we reside.

Keeping this in mind, we decided that over the next few Food Storage Friday posts we would pick one natural disaster to focus on each week and talk about the steps those of us should take who live in areas more prone to that type of disaster. Today’s focus will be on earthquake preparation.

The Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety

In our preparation for today’s topic, we came across a great website on earthquake preparation and a seven step process to preparation for an earthquake that was created by the Emergency Survival Program (ESP). You can visit the Earthquake Country website for more information, but for today’s post we’ll focus on those seven steps and how they can help us be better prepared if an earthquake hits.

Step 1: Secure it now!

This may seem simple enough, but how many of us have taken the time to really look over our homes for unsecure items? That tall bookshelf next to our bed. That large mirror or 50 inch TV hanging on our wall or sitting on our dresser. What about those dishes or drinking glasses we keep on the top shelf in our kitchen cabinets? All of these things pose potential risks when the earth starts moving, but many of these things can be secured down or even moved to a safer location. Worried about your 50 gallon water heater? Strap it down. Have some heavier items on the top shelf of your pantry? Move them to the lower shelves. Simple steps like these not only help keep these items safe and protected, but also can mean the difference between being struck in the head with an object and simply feeling the earth shift and roll.

Step 2: Make a Plan

As with most emergency preparedness, this is a step we should all take, and perhaps should rank No. 1 in most of our books. For our earthquake preparations, try to map out a plan that includes escape routes in your home, school, and office, a central location where all family members can meet up following a disaster, the location of your food and emergency supplies, and even possible routes or evacuation plans if you need to leave the area. If you have kids, it is a good idea in your planning to create a list of close friends or family members that they could contact if they cannot get a hold of you. Perhaps even making a laminated 3×5 card with those phone numbers that they can connect to their backpacks with a key ring? They key is planning now instead of waiting for the disaster to hit.

Step 3: Make a Disaster Kit

We covered this more thoroughly in our 72-hour kit preparation post last month, but the two main points to remember when creating a disaster kit are 1) every family member will need their own kit and 2) 72-hour kit food typically doesn’t have the same shelf life as your Food Storage food, so rotate often. For more information, visit our 72-hour kit preparation post.

Step 4: Is your place safe?

Have you checked your home lately for any structural damage or areas that need improvement? A simple check like this can make the difference in a natural disaster, particularly an earthquake. Whether you are a homeowner or renter, you can always check and work to improve the integrity of your home and foundation. Look for crippled walls, soft first stories, vulnerable pipes or unreinforced masonry and contact a contractor or your landlord to make sure they are well repaired.

Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold on!

It’s a drill we all remember from grade school. The alarm rings and we all jump under our desks and stay there until we hear the principle come over the speaker and tell us it was just a practice. Well that practice could very well save your life. When things start shaking, your safest place is under a sturdy desk or table, keeping your head covered. It may seem simple, and even silly, but it is a lifesaving move for you and your family.

Step 6: Check it out!

When an earthquake hits, the first step we should all take it to check ourselves and our family members for any major injuries or damage that needs immediate attention. Once everyone is taken care of, check the area around you. If you’re at home, first check those things that could cause the most hazard or damage, such as gas and electrical lines as well as running water. Find out what damages, if any, can be taken care of right then and what needs attention from city workers or the utility companies.

Step 7: Communicate and recover!

I love watching old war movies and I’ve found that in those movies the soldiers, before beginning a big battle, are always working towards establishing communication with their leaders. It seems that the most important thing that we can have in a time of crisis is communication, Unfortunately, in a major disaster, such as an earthquake, communication is usually the first thing we lose. Or so we think. Having a battery powered or hand crank radio among your emergency supplies can help you stay in touch with what is occurring around you, even if phone and cable lines may be down. If phone lines are not damaged, keeping a charged cell phone close by can help you stay in contact with family members, friends, and local officials.

These are just a few steps that those of us living in or around areas that are or could potentially be affected by earthquakes can take. What are some steps you have taken to help better prepare for an earthquake? Let us know and tune in next week as we discuss another natural disaster.