The Annual Great Shake Out

The annual Great Shakeout will be observed in earthquake prone regions on October 18th..  The Great Shakeout was developed to give you and your community an opportunity to review and practice your emergency preparedness plans.  It is also a reminder to take the time to secure hazards in your space to prevent damage and injuries.

Nevada ranks third in the nation for earthquake activity.  Since the 1850s, Nevada has experienced 76 potentially damaging earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.5 or larger.  The last large earthquake occurred in 1954 east of Fallon. Two earthquakes hit just 4 minutes apart.  The first earthquake measured 7.3 on the Richter scale.  The second earthquake measured 6.9. Due to the sparse population in that area, damage to structures were minimal; however, you can still view the fault scarp located just off US Highway 50 and the mountain range in the area was lifted six feet.  

Historically, Nevada has been sparsely populated but as the population of Nevada grows, the risks become greater. The greatest danger in an earthquake is the unprepared community.  Most newer residents do not recognize Nevada as such a high-risk earthquake state, therefore; they are not thinking about being prepared for an earthquake.  Additionally, many of the new residents come from California, a state that is very earthquake conscious and far more prepared than Nevada, leaving these new residents underestimating the earthquake risks here in Nevada. Many of Nevada’s buildings are not built for earthquakes. Building codes with stricter earthquake enforcement did not get implemented until the early 2000s.  

The most common injuries come after the shaking stops – lacerations to hands and feet from broken glass, puncture wounds from nails, collapse of unsteady structures and  other injuries sustained in the immediate clearing of debris and damage. Deaths are attributed mostly to the non-structural elements getting tossed around during the shaking – large entertainment centers, bookcases, TVs, dressers and china cabinets falling over onto people as wells as from the collapse of buildings.  Carbon monoxide leaks from a tipped water heater are a hidden danger after a quake.

The annual Great Shakeout drill was developed to bring awareness and to help communities prepare for the aftermath of a significant earthquake.  Take some time this month to walk around your home and take some preventative measures and make your home more resilient. Secure large furniture and strap the hot water heater.  Remove large wall decorations from over the bed and couches. Use museum quality putty or velcro to better secure vases and knick knacks to shelves and use child proof locks to secure cabinet doors.  Check your fire extinguishers and replace the batteries in your smoke detector and install a carbon monoxide detector if you do not already have one. Perform an exterior check also. Be aware of where overhead power lines, gas line and water/sewer lines are located.  Are there certain nearby trees that could cause heavy damage? Perhaps now is a good time to have branches and limbs trimmed back.

Assemble your 72 hour kits and/or bug out bags for you and your family members.  This is an activity that can be done by simply rounding up some basic supplies that you already have in your home and placing in a easy to access location in your home and maybe a quick shopping trip for some supplementary items.  There are many resources and guides available on the internet but to get started, is a good place to start.  Having the supplies you need in the event of an emergency helps to ease the stress of recovering after the event.  There is a sense of security and peace knowing that you have some fresh clothes, a bit of food and water, basic gear to help with day-to-day life until normal systems of support are back online.  By having a plan already thought out in advance, this gives you the opportunity to respond in a more effective and efficient manner. You’ve already given your family the best chances of surviving an earthquake by securing hazardous items in your home, developing a plan and having supplies ready.  If you have pets, make sure to develop a plan for them as well and pack a kit for them.

Now that you have taken preventative measures around the home and assembled your 72 hour kits, let’s  use this as an opportunity to practice your plan and simulate a shelter in place drill. Create a scenario for a significant damaging earthquake that has disrupted infrastructure and services to your community.  Click on this link for a generic scenario plan. Turn off your water and electricity.  If you cannot turn them off, then tape over the faucets, strap the toilet lid down and tape over all light switched.  The idea is to simulate no power and no water. Pull out your 72 hour kit and try to live in your home under these conditions with your plan and take note of how things go.   Take note of how many times you reach for the faucet or to flush the toilet. This simple exercise will make you stop and evaluate your water storage plans. When did the kids start to get restless?  Do you need to add some games or activities in your kit for the kids? When I did this drill, I learned that my initial food plan was sorely lacking. My food plan switched to easy to prepare with minimal clean-up and high in calories.  This exercise will quickly reveal just how dependent we have become on running water and electricity on demand. This can be a fun exercise for the family. Make it adventurous and playful so that the whole family can enjoy it and learn from the experience.  There’s a lot of flexibility with this drill. You can do it for 8 hours, 12 hours or 72 hours. You can keep as simple and fun as possible or you can try to endure an extreme and see you can handle it. This drill is meant as a learning opportunity.

Once you have practiced the basics at home, expand to other areas in your life.  Disasters can happen at any time and you can be anywhere – home, school, work, shopping or in your car.  Perform this exercise at your workplace. You don’t need to get everyone involved, but take some time to evaluate your risks at work.  Assess your surroundings immediately around your work station. Identify non-structural elements near your work station that pose a risk and find the best spot to duck, cover and hold.  Locate the closest emergency exits near your work station as well as along the paths you walk while at work. Take into consideration co-workers with limited mobility that may need assistance.  Create a small emergency kit for work and develop your own plan for how you will get home after an earthquake.

 If your child is in school, check with their teacher.  Ask if they have an emergency and what those plans are for an earthquake.  I asked my daughter’s teacher about what type of emergency supplies are available in the classroom and where the evacuation location is should the students need to be evacuated.  My daughter’s teacher answered all my questions. She was only taken back because I was the first parent to ever inquire about the school’s emergency plans. I added some additional supplies to my daughter’s backpack that were also compliant with the school regulations. I would also advise developing a reunification plan as well.  In the event an earthquake happens while you are at work and your child is at school, having a plan already in place beforehand helps you think clearer and stay more calm in such stressful situations. Your child will also be less stressed, reassured by the knowing that mom and dad already have a plan.

If you have not practiced this drill, I highly recommend doing it.  I learned a lot from my own drill and realized that my initial plans were drastically under-prepared despite having trained with my CERT teams and been studying disaster preparedness for several years.  I truly thought that I had a comprehensive plan and idea of how well I would perform after an earthquake.  I did plan a more extreme scenario with the intent to push myself out of my comfort zones. I planned a 24 hour drill.  I did not make it the full 24 hours. The heat of the summer affected me, the lack of proper calories left me exhausted, my energy was spent quickly.  I wrote a report about my drill for the Northern Nevada Preppers Group. You can read that report here.  It’s an depth look at my planned drill and all the mistakes and lessons I learned.

This year,  I will not be running a full-scale drill like I did in 2015.  My plans are to finish the rebuild of my kits, get better organized and develop a checklist for after-earthquake response.  I hope my post has inspired you to perform some sort of drill. Even if you are not in earthquake country, use this time to prepare a 72 hour kit and simply become more natural disaster aware for your area.  Make a plan and get started. Here’s a couple more resources to get you started:

Family Emergency Preparedness and Family Response Plan

Disaster Supplies Kit

Until next time – 73 everyone!!


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