Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3:42 PM
This post may seem a little off-topic, but taken in the context of over-all family health and well-being, then I think it works.

As all of us who live in the SF Bay Area know, the occurrence of the next big earthquake is a matter of when, not if. Specifically, models predict that there is a 62% chance that an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater will occur in the Bay Area within the next 30 years. My house is only about 0.5 miles from the San Andreas Fault trace. That fact, coupled with my academic training in geology (I am a Certified Professional Geologist), makes me hyper-aware of this issue. I have probably felt about five earthquakes so far in my life, and am always left with an eerie and sort of sick to my stomach feeling after the event. 

After feeling two smallish (but nerve-rattling nonetheless) tremors within a few months of my son's birth last year I decided to put "Build Earthquake Emergency Kit / Go Bag" on my Maternity Leave To Do List. I also developed an emergency response plan with my husband, and double checked the emergency response plans at my children's daycare and preschool facilities. Based on my research (the FEMA, the American Red Cross and the USGS are amazing resources), and anticipated conditions, here is what I did to prepare myself and my family to manage through a major earthquake event.

Our Emergency Response Plan
There are great resources out there to help you make an emergency response plan (see this template). Our plan assumes that the earthquake happens during the day when both my husband and I are at work, and the kids are at their respective schools. Obviously there will be outlier conditions (i.e., we are at work meetings or at our gyms, which are farther away), but statistically speaking we are most often either at home or at work, and so have based our plan around those conditions.  Also, for perspective, I work about 3 miles from where my kids go to daycare/preschool and about 10 miles from home (where my husband works).
  • The equipment: 
    • I have a pair of running shoes stashed in my office desk, and always have a second pair of running shoes and a stroller in the trunk of my car. 
    • My husband has his bike / bike trailer and running shoes / stroller at our house.
    • Cell phones for texting (best way to communicate during a major event).
  • The plan (which assumes that the roads will be impassable for cars):
    • I run with the stroller to my daughter's preschool, put her in the stroller and then run to my son's daycare.
    • My husbands bikes/runs to my son's daycare.
    • Together we all bike/run home (or to another safe place).
The Go Bag
Our Emergency Response Kit / Go Bag
Immediately inside the downstairs back door of our house we have a large storage bin that is filled with, among other things, the following items:
  • A pre-packed survival kit
  • Water
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Toiletries (including spare contacts)
  • Flashlights
  • Cell phone charger
  • Changes of clothes (including a jacket) for everyone
  • Photocopies of key documents
  • Cash
  • Durable food items (including food for the dog)
Preparing Our Kids
Twice this year I have taken my kids to the California Academy of Sciences, and as part of our visit we have gone through the earthquake exhibit there. This venue has been a great way to introduce the topic of earthquakes to my four year old and to give her a preview of the sensation of an earthquake. I am hoping that this exposure will help create some context and lessen her potential trauma when she does experience the real thing. My son has been along both times but it is really unclear what, if anything, he got from the experience.
A Little Scary, Right?

The other valuable exercise that has occurred recently through my daughter's preschool is that they visited their local fire department and got to experience what a first-responder looks like in full gear. I never fully appreciated how scary a fire fighter dressed up in a fire suit and respirator would look and sound to an already-terrified child in an emergency scenario. By giving the kids this exposure in a super non-threatening environment, the hope is that they will go to, not hide from, such a first-responder in the event of an actual emergency.

Overall, I would say that our efforts to become more prepared in the event of an emergency have met with limited success. For example, after our most recent small groundshake event my husband did immediately contact me - but it was with the question "what is our plan again?". Thankfully, that was a dry run that allowed us to test the robustness (or lack thereof) of our system. Also, writing this post has prompted me to revisit our Survival Storage Bin, refresh some items, and add others.

We definitely are not even close to being part of the Prepper Movement which has attracted so many people, especially in the wake of recent events. The reality is, it is hard to keep things like emergency planning front and center when the immediate fires we are all fighting necessarily take priority over the abstract. That being said, I do feel strongly that there is value in the exercise of getting more prepared and building awareness so that when the big event does happen (think Loma Prieta, Katrina or Hurricane Sandy), we are more prepared - for ourselves and for our kids.

I should also note that carrying around a pair of running shoes in ones car does allow some runs to be shoehorned in now and again when it otherwise wouldn't happen. Also, being fit will definitely help if you do have to go all renegade to protect your family when the world does go to hell in a hand-basket. I'm just sayin'....

Please contact me at mommytasker@gmail.com, MommyTasker.com, or connect with me on Facebook. 


  1. This was so useful, thank you! I've been meaning to get a go bag together for a long time...thank you for prompting me to do it this week!

  2. Here are a couple more resources / tips...

    Also, this has a template that could serve as a reminder for everyone if/when something should happen http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/Family_Emegency_Plan.pdf