Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

Most of us have heard “it takes a village” to do something. That hits home hard when it comes to surviving natural disasters. It takes you, your neighbors, your subdivision, your condo or homeowners association, and your town to prepare to survive.

September 1 marked the beginning of National Preparedness Month, a month-long campaign to raise awareness about disaster preparedness and inspire people to take action before a disaster strikes. The campaign culminates on September 30 with America’s PrepareAthon!, a day for “the village” to come together to practice preparedness through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service in Lititz, Pa., knows all too well the importance of taking action to be disaster aware ahead of time, and the dangers that follow when you don’t. “If we try to do it on our own, we lose energy and focus,” says King, who offers recovery services nationwide and in Canada. “People say, ‘What’s the big deal? Why develop a disaster plan?’”

Then, in the aftermath, he hears, “If only I prepared.”

King offers the following preparation tips for your family and town to heed. We’ve suggested a few, as well.

  • Communications plan: Businesses, houses of worship, schools, homeowner associations – any operation that involves numerous people who may scatter before or after a disaster – should have a list of everyone’s cell phone numbers, where they would go if they leave, and emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers.
  • Inventory: Whether it’s your home or business, document what you have. Take photos, make lists. Scan these to your computer or a flash drive that can be stored in a safe deposit box, use cloud storage sites, or simply email the images to yourself so you can access them from any computer.
  • Copy important documents: Also scan and/or email to yourself insurance policies and cards, car titles, loan and mortgage paperwork, passports, driver’s licenses, prescriptions, and a list of medications you need. For good measure, consider carrying hard copies with you.
  • Pack a survival kit: Include water, non-perishable food, medications, documents, cell phone charger, blankets, maps, multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, and cash (ATMs won’t work during power outages).
  • Gas up the car: Unless a station has a generator, pumps won’t work during power outages.
  • Plan for your pets: Find out ahead of time which shelters allow pets. And bring water and food for them, too.
  • Practice your plan: “It’s even more important than having a plan on the shelf,” King says. Would your house of worship or school know how to get everyone to the basement if a tornado threatens? Who decides how it’s handled?
  • Know what’s coming: Whether you use a weather radio or your smartphone, know the status of approaching trouble. Last year, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes released a Weather Radio smartphone app that provides alerts for up to 100 types of events. The app also includes safety and preparedness tips.
  • Take time to clean up outside: Remove debris, dead grass, leaves, and twigs, and cut back hanging tree branches. Clean out gutters to help move rain water from the home.
  • Strengthen your home: Visit flash.org to learn simple, affordable ways to mitigate damage from hazards of all kinds.

Finally, register for America’s PrepareAthon! and pledge to prepare your family and community before it’s too late.

As King and Benjamin Franklin put it, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

QuakeSmart Now—Earthquake Safe Later: California Employers Lead the Way

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck picturesque Napa Valley on August 24 was Northern California’s strongest since Loma Prieta 25 years earlier. And if there is anything positive to come from it, it’s that it likely shook awareness into people about the need to prepare.

That’s where QuakeSmart™ comes in.

QuakeSmart is a mitigation program for businesses launched in 2008 by FEMA and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. The goal is to guide business owners in protecting their buildings, employees, and equipment with non-structural and structural reinforcements.

That’s how Becky Pereira and Tom Spada, both in San Jose, California, discovered what they’d need to do for their homes or office buildings. They learned that mitigation efforts can be as simple or complex as you want to make them — including projects like anchoring office and kitchen appliances and securing cabinet doors, desks, file cabinets, computers, TVs, and racks.

Becky’s in charge of health and safety coordination as a vendor for a Silicon Valley technology company in three high-rise office buildings totaling 54 floors. Each floor has a break room with a refrigerator, beverage cooler, and countertop appliances like microwaves and coffeemakers. Labs for software testing have numerous equipment racks, and their café has larger kitchen appliances and equipment.

Her experience in the Quake Cottage™ simulator of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake during a Building Owners and Managers Association presentation helped convince her that mitigation was needed. As a result, she made sure that anything that could move or fall was anchored by a contractor’s crew who spent several nights doing the work.

Even more, employees were receptive to retrofitting their own homes after a few seconds of simulated shaking in the Quake Cottage which the company brought to its offices for employees to experience.

Tom is the facilities maintenance administrator for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. He oversees maintenance of an administrative campus that includes six office buildings, a yard, two warehouses, four water treatment plants, three pump stations, and a water quality lab where one piece of equipment alone costs $500,000.

Bearing in mind that Santa Clara County sits atop three major fault lines, Tom brought in a contractor who provided anchoring kits and trained and certified Tom’s staff so that everyone knows how to use the tie-downs. So far, the project has cost about $7,300 for the lab.

Tom’s unsure how much the overall cost will be, but he is sure of an earthquake’s toll. A prior water treatment plant was destroyed in the 1989 magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that decimated the San Francisco-Oakland area.   

Nothing is foolproof, of course. But, as Becky says, “It’s not if another quake will hit. It’s when.”

Find out more about QuakeSmart and what you can do at flash.org/quakesmart, and consider joining FLASH and QuakeSmart for a free Earthquake 2014 Summit on Sept. 18 in Riverside, California or Oct. 30 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit www.earthquake2014summit.com for more information.