I feel like the luckiest girl in the world (aside from FBC, of course).
One of the reasons that I feel so fortunate is that I live in Santa Barbara, one of the most beautiful places on earth. When I say beautiful, I mean spectacular. It is a community perfectly situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains.
However, it is a fire zone. And an earthquake zone. There is a 100% guarantee of fires. And a 97% chance that we will have a 6.0 – 7.0 magnitude earthquake the next 25 years. GULP. It’s the reality.
Ok, full disclosure (not to totally freak you out): we live a region that is part of something awful called the “Ring of Fire”. The Pacific Ring of fire is a region of high volcanic and seismic activity that surrounds the majority of the Pacific Ocean Basin. This region is essentially a horsehoe of geologic activity that includes volcanoes, earthquakes, deep see trenches, and major fault zones. The Ring of Fire is over 40,000 km long and touches 4 of the world’s continents as well as major island chains.
People always ask: “How can you live in a fire zone AND an earthquake zone?” I wondered the same thing prior to moving to California, from my perch in the tornado and flood-ridden Midwest.
My answer is simple: Living in a spectacularly beautiful community (both outside and inside) is worth the risk, especially if we are prepared.
Besides, all we have to do is watch a nanosecond of the news to know that natural disasters are omnipresent. There are monumental tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, tsunami’s and fires everywhere in the world, everyday. Oh and that’s not counting the threat of terrorism (but that’s a whole other topic!). It’s not as if living outside of California is going to guarantee safety and security. I’m just sayin’…it’s the reality.
Prior to moving to Santa Barbara I felt paralyzed by fear of fires and earthquakes. Two years ago there were 3 really big (even by local standards) fires within about a 9 month period. We were evacuated for one of them. After packing our most prized possessions, our car was half full.
You know what that said to me? Despite having a marked affinity for Bergdorf Goodman, things are just things. At the end of the day, the most important things in the world are health and relationships (Silver Lining).
Go figure that it takes the threat of a forest fire…and now FBC to learn this valuable lesson.
My philosophy, as you know, is:
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.
So, the HOTY and I met with the Chief Information Officer of Santa Barbara County to discuss preparation for the worst (though I hope that our dialogue was ONLY for the purpose of a Brookside Buzz blog topic!).
The Chief Information Officer is a wonderful woman from our local fire department who, among other things, educates the public on disaster preparedness. She said that in general (whether it is a forest fire in California or a tornado in Alabama), the more that people understand about the threats and how to prepare for them, the more likely people will be to survive.
During widespread disasters, she informed us, aid from neighboring cities, counties and states may not be available, leaving people on their own. This is why we need to be prepared.
There are two key elements of disasters:
- They are relatively unexpected.
- Emergency personnel may be overwhelmed, especially when hundreds of people are calling 911.
Tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes have effects on infrastructure. Examples include:
Damage to structure
- Collapsed buildings
- Structural instability
- Damaged hospitals and care facilities unable to function normally
- Increased risk of damage from falling debris
Damage to transportation
- Inability to assess damage accurately
- Ambulances prevented from reaching victims
- Police prevented from reaching areas of civil unrest
- Fire departments prevented from getting to fires or other requests for services
- Interruption to the flow of needed supplies
- Victims unable to call for help
- Coordination of services hampered
Damage to utilities
- Loss of power
- Increased risk of fire or electrical shock
- Loss of contact between victims and service providers
- Inadequate or no water supply
- Broken sewer lines
- Increased risk to public health
Damage to fuel supplies
- Increased risk of fire or explosion from fuel line rupture
- Supplies damaged or unavailable
Safety doesn’t happen by accident.
Steps to Disaster Safety
Identify potential hazards and fix them
- Move heavy furniture away from beds, sofas or other places people sit or sleep
- Secure bookshelves, heavy furniture and water heaters
- Move beds away from windows
- Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves
- Install flexible pipes
- Secure cabinet doors to prevent glassware and dishes from falling out (L brackets are best for shelves within a cabinet. Straps are better for securing actual furniture). Though I thought that after Finally Five was finally Five, we were done with having to baby-proof our home. Not so.
- Secure loose breakable items with earthquake putty/gel or wax
- Secure or move hanging objects
- Secure electronics with straps
- In the garage, store flammable/hazardous materials on lower shelves or on the floor.
Create a disaster preparedness plan
Plan NOW torespond after a disaster…
- Keep shoes and flashlight under each bed
- Get a fire extinguisher….& learn how to use it
- Teach family to use whistles or knock 3 times if trapped
- Identify special needs
- Learn CPR/First Aid
- Know utility shut off locations
- Install and test smoke detectors
- Work with neighbors
- Consider attaching the appropriate tool to your gas meter so that it is available if you need it (i.e., would you be able to get to your tools to find one quickly if you needed one?)
- During an earthquake by: practicing drop, cover & hold on and by identifying safe spots in every room.
Plan NOW to communicate and recover after an disaster…
- Identifying a safe meeting place outside and designating an out of area person (e.g., a friend or relative out of state).
- Provide ALL family members with contact information (phone and SMS)
- Think ahead of hwere you would go if your home is unlivable
- Know your children’s school’s plan
- Keep your disaster kit accessible
- As soon as your children are old enough (as in Finally Five), share with them the importance of knowing your meeting place and out of area contact information.
Prepare disaster supplies kits BEFORE a disaster
- Medications, prescription list, copies of medical cards, doctor’s name and contact information
- Medical consent forms for dependents
- First aid kit and handbook
- Examination gloves (non-latex)
- Dust mask
- Unpowered phone. Remember the ones like we had in the old days…that just plugged into a wall.
- Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses and cleaning solution
- Bottled water
- Whistle to alert rescuers to our location
- Sturdy shoes
- Comfortable, warm clothing including extra socks
- Emergency cash (in the form of $1/$5/$10 bills). If there is a run on a convenience store, for example, it’s highly unlikely that they would have change for a $100 bill.
- Road maps
- List of emergency out-of-area contact phone numbers
- Snack foods, high in water and calories
- Working flashlight with extra batteries and light bulbs, or light sticks
- Personal hygiene supplies
- Portable radio
- Comfort items for Finally Five (that don’t require electricity) such as games, crayons, writing materials, teddy bears
- Toiletries and special provisions you need for yourself and others in your family including elderly, disabled, small children and animals
- Copies of personal identification, including:
- Drivers license
- Insurance paperwork
- Work ID card
- Medical consent forms
- Home inventory. Take photos of everything we own (because it will be helpful for insurance purposes).
Household Supplies. It is important to store the household disaster supplies kit in an easiy accessible location (in a large watertight container that can be easily moved), with a supply of the following items to last at least 3 days and ideally for 2 weeks.
- Water. Consider a minimum of one gallon a day for each person and pet, for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. We should have a minimum amount for 3 days, but ideally have more.
- Water purification tablets.
- Wrenches to turn off gas and water supplies
- Pry Bar to leverage/lift heavy items
- Work gloves and protective goggles
- Heavy duty plastic bags for waste, and to sere as tarps, rain ponchos, and other uses
- Portable radio with extra batteries (hand crank for charging)
- Canned and packaged goods
- Charcoal, grill or single burner stove
- Waterproof matches
- Cooking utensils, including a manual can opener
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- A tent
Perishable items like water, food, medications and batteries should be replaced on a yearly basis.
And we musn’t forget our beloved dog, Buzz. In addition to food and water for him, we were advised to make a “lost dog” sign ahead of time and keeping it in our kit with your other “vital” documents. We should, she said, also include a photo of Buzz with us. This way if Buzz is lost (the thought gives me palpitations, but again, it’s the reality!), we are ready to distribute the information. It’s important to have us in the photo so that we can prove he is our pet. She also suggests having a crate/carrier because pets are usually not allowed in evacuation centers.
Something else to do before a disaster happens is to address building weaknesses (e.g., inadequate foundations, unbraced cripple walls, unreinforced masonry).
To protect ourselves during an earthquake
- Drop, cover and hold
- Protect our head and neck with our arms
- Exterior walls
- Hanging objects
- Large furniture
- Large appliances
- Kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass
- Move to a clear area
- Find a spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, power lines, and overpasses
- If in a vehicle, drive to a clear spot and stop. Set the parking break and stay inside the vehicle until the shaking stops.
Near a Shore
- Drop, cover and hold on
- If shaking lasts more than 20 seconds, immediately evacuate to higher ground – at least 2 miles in – because it is an indication of a tsunami
- The warning of a tsunami includes: strong ground shaking, a loud ocean roar and water receding unusually far exposing the sea floor
In no way did I intend to freak you out, dear readers. Not at all. Rather, I am choosing to learn from both the disaster that is happening right now in my life (in the form of FBC) as well as what may happen. We certainly cannot prepare for every challenge that life throws our way, but knowledge is definitely power…and could potentially save lives (Silver Lining).