What to Do Before, During and After an Earthquake

Great information on earthquake preparation from the FEMA National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)…

While most of this weekend’s attention has been focused on Hurricane Irene, the FEMA National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) has not forgotten last week’s East Coast earthquake.  This event gave us an important reminder that we live on a restless planet.  But there are many important things we can do to protect ourselves, our homes, and our families.

The M 5.8 earthquake centered in Mineral, VA was felt from Georgia all the way to Canada. Earthquakes do happen on the East Coast and they can cause serious life safety and economic losses for those in the impacted area. Because of the stable soils we have in the east, earthquakes tend to impact a much larger area than they do out west.  Because earthquakes can happen here, and since we will be experiencing aftershocks in the coming weeks, it is important to remember that there are several things you can do before, during and after an earthquake to better protect yourself.

Before an earthquake, it is important for individuals, families, organizations, and communities to identify their risk, make a plan, create a disaster kit, and remove, relocate, or secure anything that can:

  • Fall and hurt someone
  • Fall and block an exit
  • Fall and start a fire
  • Require a lengthy or costly clean-up

During an earthquake, DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.  DO NOT RUN out of the building during the shaking as objects may be falling off the building and cause serious injuries or death.  For more information on what to do during an earthquake, visit www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/eq_during.shtm and www.shakeout.org.

After an earthquake, safely evacuate.  Please note that aftershocks could happen.  These additional shaking events can be strong enough to do additional damage to already weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the main earthquake.  Have a professional engineer or local building official inspect the structural integrity of your home and/or building for potential damages.  This should also include:

  •  Inspecting chimney for unnoticed damage that could lead to fires.  Even a few cracks that are not obvious at first glance can create an unsafe condition the next time the fireplace is used; and
  •  Checking for gas, electrical, sewer, and water line damages to avoid fire and hazardous leaks.

For more information on what individuals need to do before, during, and after an earthquake, visit FEMA 530 Earthquake Safety Guide for Homeowners at and the FEMA Earthquake Homepage at www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake.

Don’t Wait Until the Next Hurricane is Imminent: Plan, Prepare, Inspect Now

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As the northeast deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and all eyes are on Tropical Storm Katia, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH®) recommends everyone at risk for hurricanes and floods consider the following tips to prepare now for what the remainder of hurricane season may bring:

  • Make a plan for what your family will do if you have to evacuate from your home. Know your evacuation routes, plan for your pets and be sure to review your insurance coverage including flood insurance.
  • Ensure your family has an emergency kitT.S. Katia Track that will sustain each member for at least 72 hours after a storm has passed.  Following Hurricane Irene, many families in Vermont found themselves cut off from necessary services.  That’s why it’s important that your emergency kit include non-perishable food, water, medication, a first-aid kit, a weather radio and other supplies necessary to the basic survival and comfort of you and your family during a storm.
  • Prepare your home for hurricane-force winds and rain.  Visit www.flash.org and perform a Do-it-Yourself wind inspection to find out what repairs or enhancements your home requires in order to be storm-ready.  Take the time now to make any fixes that you’ve identified using the Protect Your Home in a FLASH resource guide.

“It’s important that families remain diligent about their hurricane season plans and preparations,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO of FLASH.  “We are only just now entering the most active period of hurricane season.  We all need to make sure we are prepared as there is a long way to go before the season ends.”

Learn even more about proven hurricane preparedness tools such as family plans, hurricane emergency kits, and tips for making structurally stronger homes by visiting the 2011 Great Hurricane Blowout (Blowout) on Facebook.  “Like” the Blowout and become eligible for weekly Home Depot gift card giveaways and enter the Kohler Home Generator Sweepstakes.  More details on Blowout events and other campaign components in the coming days and weeks can be found at www.greathurricaneblowout.org.  Also, follow the Blowout on Twitter (@ghblowout).

Hurricane Irene Power Outage Tips

As power outages continue to have wide-ranging impacts on hundreds of thousands of people in areas affected by Hurricane Irene, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH®) offers consumers these important safety tips:

  •  Keep extra cash on hand since an extended power outage may prevent you from withdrawing money from an automatic teller machines or banks.
  • Turn off any electrical equipment that was in use prior to the power outage.
  • Turn off all lights but one (to alert you when power resumes).
  • Keep a supply of flashlights, batteries, and a battery-powered radio on hand.  Do not use candles as they pose a fire hazard.
  • Resist the temptation to call 9-1-1 for information.  That’s what your battery-powered radio is for.
  • Keep a supply of non-perishable foods, medicine, baby supplies and pet food as appropriate on hand.  Allow one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Avoid opening the fridge or freezer. Food should be safe as long as the outage lasts no more than 4-6 hours.
  • Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed; in a half-full freezer for about one day.
  • Have one or more coolers for cold food storage in case power outage is prolonged.
  • It’s important to be aware that food that has not been refrigerated can cause severe health problems. Remember:
  • Discard perishable foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
  • Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Best rule to follow:  “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Have an emergency power supply for anyone dependent on medical equipment requiring electricity.
  • Connect only individual appliances to portable generators.
  • Never plug an emergency generator into wall outlets or hook them directly to your home’s electrical system.  They can feed electricity back into the power lines putting you and line workers in danger.
  • Use gas-powered generators only in well-ventilated outdoor areas.
  • When driving, be careful at intersections.  Traffic lights may be out creating a dangerous situation.
  • Check on elderly neighbors, friends or relatives who may need assistance if weather is severe during the outage.
  • Keep your car fuel tank at least half-full (gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps).
  • When power is restored, wait a few minutes before turning on major appliances to help eliminate further problems caused by a sharp increase in demand.

Hurricane Irene Flood Cleanup Tips

In response to ongoing flooding from Hurricane Irene, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) offers the following cleanup and safety tips for families returning to flooded homes:

Insurance Tips

  • Damage from floods is typically only covered by flood insurance.
  • Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims.
  • If you need evidence of damaged items, remove them from the home and save swatches (carpet, curtains, etc.) for your insurance adjuster.

Structural Considerations

  • Check for building stability before entry; sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
  • Take pictures of damage throughout the building and around the property. Assess stability of plaster and drywall. Bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be re-nailed but can be saved.
  • Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.
  • Empty basement water at a rate of about one-third per day to avoid structural damage to foundation by rapid pressure change.
  • To avoid warping, dry all wood doors by removing from hinges, lying flat with wood shims between and allowing to air dry completely. Remove all knobs and hardware first and disinfect.
  • Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high water mark.

Home Air Quality Considerations and Mold Prevention

  • Clean and disinfect heating, air conditioning and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.
  • Use fans and sunlight to dry out interior spaces.
  • Remove all wet carpets, curtains and fabrics. Allow to air dry completely.
  • Wash and disinfect all surfaces including cupboard interiors, doors, walls, window sills and tracks with a solution of one-half cup of bleach or bleach alternative to two gallons of water. Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfecting the sliders and the tracks.
  • Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix according to manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.
  • Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.

Cleanup Tips

  • Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach or bleach alternative if item is safe for bleach.
  • To avoid growth of microorganisms, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back into the house. Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home’s air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry such as upholstered furniture and carpets.
  • The National Archives Website has information on how to clean your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can’t clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage.