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Life Kit: Preparing for an earthquake

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

Earthquakes are what experts refer to as no-notice events. Earthquake alert systems can only give people seconds of warning, which is significant if you're a bus driver pulling over the bus or a surgeon putting down the scalpel. Beyond that, earthquake prep needs to happen in advance if you live in an area that's prone to them. Life Kit's Clare Marie Schneider has tips from experts on how you can prepare for an earthquake.

CLARE MARIE SCHNEIDER, BYLINE: Let's start with what not to do during an earthquake.

FLORIDO: A lot of people believe that you can go stand in the doorway, and that's actually not correct.

SCHNEIDER: That's Crisanta Gonzalez. She's an emergency management coordinator for the city of Los Angeles. She says if you feel the ground start to shake, don't run to a doorway. That guidance is outdated. According to the Earthquake Country Alliance, in many modern homes, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house and will not protect you. So what should you do?

CRISANTA GONZALEZ: Get under the desk, and drop, cover and hold.

SCHNEIDER: Drop, cover and hold on. Immediately, find a stable piece of furniture and get underneath it in the event of an earthquake. Hold on to the leg of the table or desk if you can, and use your other hand to cover the back of your head and neck. Of course, we're not always going to be near a desk or a table or maybe you physically can't get underneath one because, for instance, you use a wheelchair. Regardless of your individual needs or where you are when an earthquake happens, if you can, cover your head and neck to prevent injury from flying objects or debris. But there's also lots you can do before an actual earthquake hits to prepare as well.

ALYSSA PROVENCIO: One of the best things that you can do is to make a plan for yourself or your family because it doesn't cost any money.

SCHNEIDER: That's Alyssa Provencio. She teaches emergency management at the University of Central Oklahoma.

PROVENCIO: Even if you live alone, talking to your friends or your neighbors about what is it you're going to do, how are you going to communicate, where are you going to go, what kind of backups do you have.

SCHNEIDER: What if you wake up in the middle of the night to an earthquake, and your house gets damaged? Who will you stay with? Or what happens if you're at work and your kids are at school? Alyssa says to create a meeting point.

PROVENCIO: The more complex a plan is, the more likely it's going to fail. So keep it simple, and make sure everybody can remember it.

SCHNEIDER: Think the post office by your house, the McDonald's down the street. Your phone might not be working after an earthquake, so a meeting point is key. You also might have to evacuate if an earthquake happens. Maybe your home is damaged to the point it's not safe to be in, in which case you'll want to gather supplies for a go bag. Everyone in your household should have one, and go bags should have enough food, clothing and supplies to last at least three days.

MARK BENTHIEN: Almost think about like, what would I need if I was going camping for a weekend where I wasn't going to have water and power, just everything that I would need to really survive that weekend.

SCHNEIDER: That's Mark Benthien at the Southern California Earthquake Center. Benthien and other experts I talked to recommended keeping closed-toed shoes under your bed, heavy duty gloves to pick up debris, a flashlight in case the power goes out and maybe a hand-crank radio to make sure you're getting local updates in case your phone isn't working. You also want to think about items that are specific to you. Think about medications you'll need, pet food for any pets. And if you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. But be wary of weight.

PROVENCIO: I've heard of people making these very elaborate go bags, but then they can't carry it. And it sort of doesn't do you any good to have all of that if you can't even walk 10 feet out of your door.

SCHNEIDER: So make sure that your go bag is actually a go bag. For NPR's Life Kit, I'm Clare Marie Schneider.

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FLORIDO: For more Life Kit, go to npr.org/lifekit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Clare Marie Schneider
Clare Marie Schneider is an associate producer for Life Kit.