Noe Valley Voice April 2000


By Bill Yard

Although memories of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake are fading, it still behooves us to make sure we're ready for the next Big One. Here are some suggestions:

- Secure your water heater. The greatest risk in a quake is from fire, and the greatest domestic fire risk is a gas water heater falling over and sparking a conflagration. If you haven't strapped yours to the nearest wall, do it today.

- Stabilize your foundation. You or your contractor should make liberal use of plywood, bolts, and straps to prevent your walls from hopping around or becoming parallelograms during the next quake.

- Bolt furniture. Bookshelves, dressers, and other tall objects can topple during a quake. Bolt them securely to a wall.

- Secure cabinet doors. Tumbling dishes and glasses create piles of dangerous shards. Install childproof latches.

- Check your fire extinguisher. Buy one of the multipurpose variety, keep it accessible, know how to use it, and check it yearly to make sure it's in good shape.

- Organize your neighbors. Plan ahead: Will someone with a disability need help? Do any doctors or nurses live on your block?

- Keep a stocked first-aid kit. And, if you have time, take a CPR class.

- Stash a wrench. Keep it near your main gas valve, and know how to shut off both your gas and water, but do so only if your house has sustained major damage or if you smell gas.

- Maintain flashlights and batteries. It's a good idea to keep flashlights in several locations (including your car).

- Store water, food, and medicine. Keep three gallons for each person, plus disinfectant tablets or bleach in case your supply runs out. Store plenty of nonperishable food (one week's worth per person) and a can opener, utensils, paper plates, etc.

- Remember your pets. Keep an extra supply of pet food, water, and medicines. A leash for the dog and a cardboard carrier for the cat are also good ideas.

- Remember your kids. Babies need diapers, and older kids will appreciate toys, games, books, and so forth.

- Keep a portable radio and batteries. You'll want the latest in disaster news, and it may be your only entertainment for a while.

- Get a cell phone. Consider getting one of those for-emergencies-only varieties for the glove box in your car.

- Buy a small barbeque or camp stove. Remember to include some charcoal or gas, plus matches and lighter fluid. However, don't use the stove indoors.

- Buy duct tape and heavy work gloves. You may need these to tape up windows and pick up the pieces.

- Store extra clothes, blankets, and sneakers. Actually, the best place for the sneakers is beside your bed, so you can find them in the dark before you step on any broken glass or pottery.

- Keep some cash handy. An assortment of bills and a roll of quarters will come in handy if service is interrupted to ATMs or credit-card scanners.