Here are some easy and affordable ways to prepare for an earthquake:
Our favorite first steps, in order of best “bang for the buck”
If you have $0 and only 2 minutes, choose one of these and do it:
- Write down on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet: the cell phone numbers of your spouse/children/parents and the phone numbers of the school/workplaces where they are during the day.
- Put shoes next to your bed. Then you won’t accidentally step on broken glass.
- Teach your children how to dial 911.
If you have $0 and only 10 minutes, choose one of these and do it:
- Go meet one of your neighbors – you might need to rely on each other.
- Remove any heavy items hanging above your bed.
- Move flammable or poisonous products like propane, wood stain, or pesticide to the bottom shelf of a closed cabinet. This prevents fire or hazardous waste in your home.
If you have a little bit of money, but no time:
- When you’re out shopping, pick up a solar charger. If the power is out, your phone will be an essential lifeline.
- Consider parametric earthquake insurance which provides a lump-sum of money as soon as the next day, which you can use however you need. It’s a budget-friendly first step to get financially prepared. Jumpstart is one example.
If you have half a day, choose one of these and do it:
- If you have a gas water heater, brace it or make sure it’s braced. This prevents it from toppling, which could start a fire.
- Secure heavy items, especially tall shelves so they don’t fall on you. Here are some detailed instructions.
If you can allocate some savings and some time:
- Remove your brick chimney and replace it with a lightweight alternative. This is really important because the most earthquake deaths come from falling bricks.
Conventional advice that we believe is less important:
- Storing lots of food and water – rely on your pantry and your water heater.
- Making a comprehensive plan – you can’t plan for every circumstance, better to have a few key pieces of information and emergency savings.
What about seismic retrofit?
Bolting your foundation and bracing your crawl space is a big commitment of time and money. It will prevent your house from sliding off its foundation, but that probably won’t kill you. However, a retrofit will prevent your house from becoming a total loss.