Quake, flooding provide warning to 'be prepared'

Posted: Friday, November 08, 2002

Sunday's 7.9 earthquake and recent flooding should have Kenai Peninsula residents asking themselves: Are we ready for a major disaster?

How many people looked at each other Sunday when the shaking began and wondered aloud, "What should we do?" Luckily, the shaking stopped right about the time many people realized they were ill-prepared to handle a repeat of the Good Friday earthquake of 1964. That quake and the tsunami that followed took the lives of 131 people and altered a land mass of about 100,000 square miles.

Certainly the recent flood damage that briefly disconnected the southern peninsula from the road system was a good reminder we should not take anything for granted -- including our ability to drive from Point A to Point B. Once an emergency happens it's too late to stock up on the supplies we might need.

Living in a place where floods, wildfires, earthquakes and volcanoes -- not to mention the potential for human-caused disaster -- are all part of the fabric of life, "be prepared" becomes a great maxim to follow.

Unfortunately, most people live by wishfully thinking "It will never happen to me."

The more individuals, families and businesses are prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, however, the better the community will weather any disaster. The recent quake and flooding should serve as good catalysts for all of us to assess our disaster readiness.

We don't want to sound like doom-sayers, but we do believe emergency officials when they tell us: "It's not a matter of if, but when" a major disaster will strike.

So, the next time a quake rattles your thoughts on a lazy Sunday, you can know what to do with confidence by following these tips from the American Red Cross:

Just as you should have a fire plan for your home and business, you also should have an earthquake plan.

Choose a safe place in every room -- under a sturdy table or desk or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you. Practice drop-cover-and-hold-on drills at least twice a year. In the event of a quake, drop under a sturdy desk or table, hold on and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm. If there's no table or desk, sit on the floor against an interior wall, away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.

Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. If you are indoors, stay there until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to leave the building. If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees and power lines and drop to the ground.

Eliminate hazards in your home or office by bolting bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs; installing strong latches on cupboards; and strapping the water heater to wall studs. Computers also can be strapped down so they don't become flying projectiles in the event of a strong quake.

For any emergency, prepare a disaster supplies kit for your home and car -- remember, it needs to be ready before the disaster hits. At the least, it should include a first aid kit and essential medications; canned food and an opener; at least three gallons of water per person; rain gear; bedding or sleeping bags; and a battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. It's a good idea to keep essentials, such as a flashlight and sturdy shoes, by the bedside.

While we all hope for the best, when you live in the "Ring of Fire," as we do on the peninsula, it's foolish to think something won't happen.

And wise to prepare for the worst.

Personal preparation will help minimize damage to people and property. It also will free disaster-response workers to concentrate their efforts where they are most needed.

While there is a cost attached to prevention measures, the after-the-fact costs of dealing with a disaster are much higher. It's not enough to think government will step in to help when disaster strikes; individuals, families and businesses need to identify and be prepared for the risks they face living here.

Failure to do so truly invites disaster.

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