Could recent mini-quakes around the Northwest foreshadow the 'Big One?' The short answer: No one knows for sure. Geologists call the phenomenon "episodic tremor and slip," a near-annual event that's produced rattlers near Monroe, Wash., and off the coast of Oregon. While some believe it increases stress on locked faults, where tectonic plates can't move past each other, the mini-quakes are likely more cause for preparation than panic. A good first step: Participate in a Great ShakeOut earthquake drill, slated for Oct. 20 in Washington and Oregon.
Five things you can do now to get earthquake-ready
- Teach everyone in your family to "drop, cover and hold on." At home, it's best to get under a sturdy table, away from outside walls, windows and anything that could fall. Hang on with one hand and cover your neck and head with the other. Find your "safe spot" in every room. Here's what to do if you're caught at a movie theater, store, beach or even asleep in bed.
- 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 nonperishable food, water, blankets, prescription medicine, and some cash (if power is out, ATMs and credit card terminals won't work). If you're short on time, you can jumpstart your kit by buying prepacked, shelf-stable food and emergency supplies. If you have enough storage space, include an extra week's supply to use if your home is safe after a quake (or windstorm), but without utilities. Use and replace supplies every six months to keep them fresh.
- Secure your home. If your house was built more than 30 years ago, check to make sure it's been bolted to the foundation. Install straps to keep bookcases, water heaters, grandfather clocks and armoires from toppling. Don't hang pictures over your bed. Rearrange cabinets to put heavy items on the bottom shelves.
- Know how to shut off gas, water and electricity to your home in case pipes or wires get damaged. (Only shut off the gas if you smell or hear leaking gas, since the gas company will have to turn it back on.)
- Consider earthquake insurance. Homeowners policies typically don't cover most damage caused by earthquakes. Although PEMCO doesn't sell earthquake insurance, we can help you find coverage through insurers that specialize in it. Recently, we added a new partner that structures policies so they're a little more budget-friendly. You may want to check it out if price has been an obstacle in the past. Call your local PEMCO agent or PEMCO Insurance Agency at 1-800-GO-PEMCO, ext.4007, to get connected. (Don't wait until another shaker hits. Most companies temporarily suspend sales after local seismic activity.)
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