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On Shaky Ground

On Shaky Ground
Installation Safety Office
Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif.

When folks think of hazardous weather during wintertime, they probably envision snow and ice-related storms. That’s not the case for my family and me. We witnessed a very different type of weather phenomenon in December 2003 — the San Simeon earthquake.

My son and I were on an afternoon motorcycle ride on the back roads to Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., just north of Paso Robles. We were following each other and had just gone into a right-hand sweeper when my motorcycle inexplicably jumped off the road. I was able to maintain control, but it felt like the bike had two flat tires. I pulled off to the shoulder to check on my son and was relieved to see him safe about 500 yards behind me. Like I, he was checking over his bike, trying to determine what had happened. Nothing appeared to be wrong with either motorcycle, so we decided to continue our ride.

We saw a lot of debris along the road, and I deduced that we had experienced an earthquake. At Fort Hunter Liggett, the gate guards confirmed my theory. (We’d later learn that the 6.5-magnitude quake caused major damage throughout the central coast of California and killed two people.) We made our way to my wife’s office and, thankfully, she was OK. I then tried to call my father, who was at home when the earthquake hit, but the lines were busy. As I drove to his house, I feared the worst.

The outside of the house seemed fine; however, as I walked through the front door, everything wasn’t as rosy. My father was safe, but the interior of the house was in shambles. I immediately turned off the gas and water. Surveying the house, I saw an array of broken televisions, dishes and wall decorations. Luckily, the house didn’t sustain any major structural damage and, best of all, my family was safe.

Afterward, I realized how ill prepared we were for an earthquake. If we lost electricity, heat and water, what would we have done? How would we keep food cold? What if we’d been injured?

Hazards are all around us and come in many forms. Mother Nature has a whole slew of natural disasters she can throw at us, from earthquakes and hurricanes to tornadoes and floods. While there is no preventing these disasters, we can somewhat minimize the after effects by being prepared. The following actions, courtesy of ready.gov, can help protect you, your family and your property in the event of an earthquake.

• Build an emergency kit and make a family communication plan.

• Fasten shelves securely to walls.

• Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.

• Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.

• Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.

• Brace overhead light fixtures and top-heavy objects.

• Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.

• Install flexible pipe to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible pipes are more resistant to breakage.

• Secure your water heater, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shutoff valve that is triggered by strong vibrations installed.

• Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.

• Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.

• Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.

• Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.

• Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.

All 50 states and five U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year. My experience put things into perspective. I decided I would be prepared for the next disaster. How about you?


For more information on earthquake preparedness, visit http://www.ready.gov/earthquakes.

  • 1 December 2013
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13153
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