Hope for the Best, But Plan for the Worst: Disaster Preparedness

Preparing for a disaster that may never occur is rarely at the top of my to do lists, and yet, at some point, it should be. Since September is National Preparedness Month, this seems like as good a time as any. And if you ask the folks in Napa who recently felt the jolt of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake, I bet they would tell you a little preparedness goes a long way.

In early August, just a couple weeks before that earthquake, I wrote a column recommending that folks make note of where to find essential features like shut off valves for gas and water, the electrical panel box, cable TV hookup, Internet connection, septic tank and leach field or the cleanout for the sewer lateral to the street, hose bibs, and sprinkler valves. When an earthquake knocks your house off its foundation and you don’t want your house to blow up, you don’t want to waste time looking for the gas shut off valve.

In a town like Ukiah, we have some old buildings. If you work, live, or otherwise spend time in an unreinforced masonry building, you should be aware that these are not safe in an earthquake. Generally, there is a sign stating as much near the entrance, but we often ignore these signs until the tremors begin. Of course, it’s fine to spend time in these buildings, but I would recommend figuring out where all the exits are.

At home, you may have a structurally safe house but you probably still have shelves with things that can fall off them, tall furniture that can fall on you, and glass that can pop out of window frames and cause injury. When loading shelves, resist the urge to put heavy, sharp objects overhead, especially shelves above your bed where you spend a lot of time in an unaware state.

Tall furniture should be secured to the wall in some matter. It doesn’t have to withstand huge force, just prevent the thing from tipping over. This is true whether the tipping results from an earthquake or a toddler climbing up to reach something interesting.

Once your structure is as safe as you can make it, you may want to consider rations. While old canned food may not sound appetizing right now, if you have nothing else to eat, it’ll probably sound scrumptious. Survival companies sell food kits with 20-year shelf lives. With those kits and some water, you won’t go hungry.

And how about a good first aid kit? I mean more than just Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment. I’m talking about bandages, gauze, gloves, cold compresses, scissors, antiseptic wipes, thermometer, a temporary sling, and more. A good first aid kit can make the difference between discomfort and a health disaster. I recommend a kit for your house and  smaller ones for each vehicle.

Since I can’t possibly think of everything to help you prepare, I asked Tami Bartolomei at the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services for her recommendations. She shared this website:  community.fema.gov/connect.ti/cfghome/grouphome. Another good website is: redcross.org/prepare.

She also said this:

In the event of a large-scale disaster such as one involving the Cascadia Subduction Zone in which a 9.1 earthquake could shake for five minutes, emergency personnel will be overwhelmed. It could be weeks before outside resources arrive to help people in our county, so it’s important to prepare yourself, your family and your work place. Have a plan: do you know where you would meet your family after a disaster? Join us for 30days/30ways activities to learn more. Follow us on Twitter @mendo30days30ways or on Facebook at the Mendocino Sheriff’s page. Do your share and be prepared!

If you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.