Are you ready for the 'Big One?'

Sunday, July 1, 2018by  PEMCO Insurance

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cracked roadway.It's been three years since an article in New Yorker magazine rattled nerves across the Northwest with dire predictions about a Cascadia subduction zone megaquake – a shaker and accompanying tsunami big enough to leave 2.5 million people without access to food or water, 1 million without shelter, and thousands injured or killed. The "Very Big One" it said, has about a 10% chance of happening within the next 50 years.

The question is, have you taken steps to prepare since then?

In a PEMCO Poll taken a year after the article, two out of five of us admit we aren't prepared at all and about half consider ourselves "somewhat prepared." Renters, according to the Poll, are the least prepared.

Six practical ways you can get ready

While talk of a megaquake can feel almost paralyzing, experts say you're better off to focus on preparing for a smaller, more likely earthquake, similar to the 2001 Nisqually temblor in Washington that many of us still remember. Any of these are a good place to start:

  1. Consider buying earthquake insurance. Although PEMCO doesn't sell earthquake insurance, we can help you find coverage through insurers that specialize in earthquake policies. Call PEMCO Insurance Agency at 1-800-467-3626, ext.4007, or email us. Remember, homeowners policies typically don't cover most damage caused by earthquakes.
  2. Make sure your home is bolted to its foundation. While that's a requirement for newer construction, many homes older than 30 years may need retrofitting.
  3. Keep a "bug out" kit of emergency supplies to last three days. Why just three days? Realistically, that's about all most of us have room to store and can grab at a moment's notice. At a minimum, it should include food, water, blankets, prescription medicine, and some cash (if power is out, ATMs and credit card terminals won't work). Earlier this year, PEMCO teamed with Q13 News to offer advice on how to build a kit yourself. Or, you can get a jumpstart with prepacked supplies available from the Red Cross Store or (who knew?) Costco.
  4. Build a "bug in" kit to use if your home is safe after a quake, but without utilities. Include an additional week's supply of nonperishable food, water purification supplies, and other essentials (think backcountry hiking trip, minus the tent). See the Red Cross's list of emergency supplies.
  5. Create a family disaster plan. Know safe spots in every room (under desks, against inside walls) where you can take refuge if the shaking starts. Also, agree on a place where your family will reunite if separated, and choose an out-of-state friend whom family members can call after an earthquake to report they're OK.
  6. Make an "earthquake sweep" through your house, including the:
    • Kitchen. Install childproof latches on cupboard doors to keep them closed. In homes without small children, move cleaners and chemicals to lower shelves so they can't tumble out and spill.
    • Bedrooms. Scoot your bed away from the window and remove pictures hanging over the headboard. Keep a pair of sturdy shoes and a flashlight under the bed – both can help you safely navigate in the dark if fallen items are strewn around.
    • Living and family rooms. Apply safety film to sliding glass doors and picture windows. Add ledge barriers to display shelves and move heavy items to lower shelves.
    • Home office. Anchor file cabinets and bookshelves to the wall with sturdy straps. Ditto for display cases and grandfather clocks.
    • Garage, basement or utility room. Post signs showing where and how to shut off utilities, like natural gas, and make sure you have the tools needed to do the job (a special wrench, for example). Strap your water heater to the wall.

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