It has recently been made apparent that one does not need to live on a fault line in order to be subjected to an earthquake, so it’s best to be prepared.1
So today we’ll follow the Sufi phrase: “Trust in Allah, and tie up your camel.” Or in this case: your furniture.
Step one: walk into your child’s room and think “hey, if my child were to climb that, will it fall over in a manner that is decidedly squashing?” If the answer is yes, hoof it to your local hardware store (or Target or the internet) and pick up furniture anchors. They’re inexpensive and easy to install – and you can rest easy knowing that if a 5+ earthquake comes rattling in the night, your furniture will stay upright ad your little one will be able to safely stay in (or leave, if so desired) the room.
Step Two: same basic principle as step one, but with things like vases and lamps and other things that normally sit on shelves and look pretty, but which could become dangerous if knocked from their perches. The solution here is equally easy to obtain: museum putty. It’s sold right next to the anchors and is reminiscent of the blue putty we used to hang our posters with in college.
Those two basic steps will make any bedroom safe against your basic earthquake. BUT, you ask, what should we do, you know, while the shaking is happening? Let me tell you that answer is not PANIC. It’s the first instinct, particularly if you grew up in a place where the ground only moves if someone is blasting. (I speak from experience, here.)
According to FEMA, you should stay where you are, unless something heavy may fall on you, in which case you should move.2 Assume it’s the middle of the night when the shaking starts. Stay where you are. Most injuries occur when people who are inside try to go out and vice-versa. If you can, get under something protective: a table or a desk. Cover your face and head to protect it. Tell your little one to stay in bed and put their pillow over their heads (but not their faces – practice this) and tell them YOU will go to THEM. If there’s a desk in the room – practice crawling underneath it. Maybe stock a flashlight within easy reach. Everything is less scary when you can shine some light on it!
Candles, while useful when the power has simply gone out, aren’t always a good idea after a major earthquake, which can break open gas lines. Make sure you’ve got a flashlight with plenty of good batteries.
When it’s finally calm, assess the damage, and re-group. If you’re me, you’ll also fire up the internet and check the USGS site.3 Most of the time, it’ll be a case of calming nerves and straightening photos. But you’ll be glad you tied up your camel anyway.
For general preparedness: A 72 Hour Emergency Kit never hurt anybody. (And hey, if the stuff inside looks like it will expire before it’s needed – as we all hope will be the case – you’re set for a weekend camping trip!)
For more Safe Sleep help, see our NPN Resources.