State seismologists reported that the Bay Area could experience an increase in the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes within the next five-year period. Earthquakes are a fact of life -- although we like to think that we will continue to dodge the bullet and avoid the “big one”. Odds are, that sooner or later, we will experience a violent shaker. Many of us still remember Loma Prieta very clearly, and many thought the world was coming to an end! Even though in Larkspur, damage caused by this quake was extremely minor, it was still a frightening experience. When the shaking starts, you're going to be scared but there are really two basic, easy to remember rules to keep in mind:
1. Duck and Cover. Typically the building you are in is not going to collapse. However, things such as ceiling tiles, light fixtures, shelving units or anything else placed high, could strike you on the head. This type of injury could really be serious. The last thing you’ll want to seek out after a major quake is medical assistance. These services will be overwhelmed! You must get through the shaking uninjured!
2. If you’re in stay in; if you’re out stay out. Most serious injuries and deaths occur when people flee a building during an earthquake. Exterior wall areas pose a significant threat – stay well away from buildings during a quake. If you’re inside, stay there until it’s safe to leave.
Since Loma Prieta, a new kind of shopping experience has evolved. Bulk storage/big box stores, such as Home Depot and Costco are now very popular. With stock piled on portable metal racks, up to the ceiling (nearly three stories high), there is the need to have a personal earthquake plan ready to implement. It simply involves recognizing the need to know where “areas of refuge” are located, and if shaking starts, get to one as fast as possible. In each bulk storage store there are usually several locations in which to seek cover. Here are three options - get to one quick:
A. The middle of the store. Often, these areas are absent of high piled racks. If shaking starts, sprint to an open area of the store, then duck and cover - under a table if possible. In Costco, this is the area where the books and clothing are located. In Home Depot, this area of refuge is near the kitchen/bath-remodeling center.
B. Perimeter walls. Often there are doorways or arches to duck into, such as passages to restrooms or offices. Doorways are excellent safety zones. In fact, this will usually be near an exit to use after the shaking stops, so it’s a good place to ride out a quake.
C. Into a high piled rack. If you can’t get away from the racks, climb into one and duck and cover. This will get you out of the way of falling objects. The rack most likely will not collapse because its load will be lightened when articles at the top spill off. Just be sure to get away from glass or other objects that can cut you. In other words, don’t jump into the light bulb rack!
When arriving at an area of refuge, remember then to utilize Rule 1 (duck and cover) and Rule 2 (If you’re in…). Don’t leave the store until it is safe to do so, and be extremely careful of stock broken on the floor, or items ready to tip over in subsequent aftershocks. Take your time to leave and don’t panic. The worst is now behind you. Get out safely and then see what you can do to help others who weren’t as prepared as you.