Are you and your family prepared for the next earthquake? Some things to consider

by Katherine Turkle on October 14, 2015

Do you ever go to make a call or send a text on your mobile phone and it doesn’t work? Some glitch in your phone or the fact that you’re in an out-of-service area renders you unable to complete the call. Even just a few minutes of this is really frustrating.

The next time this happens to you, please pause for a moment and imagine this type of communication shutdown lasting weeks. This is what we could face with the next major earthquake in the Bay Area. When our usual modes of communicating, getting water, food, and medical care are not working, what will you do? What will your family do? Having an earthquake plan is the best solution to this concern.

On October 15th, we’ll have the Great California ShakeOut drill. To date over 129,000 people are participating in San Mateo County ShakeOut. And on October 17th, we mark the 26th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Hopefully, these events can be a catalyst for you to block out a few weekends on your schedule and sit down to do what you know should have been done years ago — make an earthquake plan!

liquidification map_earthquake story

To help get you started, I have put together an outline of earthquake hazards for various neighborhoods in Menlo Park and Atherton.

  • Belle Haven’s main hazard is liquefaction (soil becomes like quicksand during an earthquake) and amplified shaking. This is caused by the soft soil and being so close to the bay.
  • Liquefaction and minor landslide are also a concern for properties near San Francisquito Creek, especially in the Allied Arts neighborhood as the creek banks are steeper in this area and more prone to fail during an earthquake.
  • For the Willows and Lindenwood, there are major gas lines under Middlefield Rd., Ringwood Ave., and Bay Rd. If you smell gas or hear the hissing sound of gas leaking avoid these roads as much as possible.
  • For Sharon Heights residents, the safest way in and out of the neighborhood are roads near Alameda de Las Pulgas. This will move you away from the Alquist-Priolo fault zone located just west of 280 and the large gas lines that run under Sand Hill and Walsh Rd.
  • Central Menlo Park and Atherton are on some of the most stable soil in the area; it is also away from bodies of water and hills. Therefore, the fire and police stations may be some of the least affected structures, allowing for better emergency response times.

Here are three things you can do to prepare today. They are fast, easy, and free.

  • Select an out-of-state emergency contact person for your family. Long distance calls are more likely than local calls to connect successfully. Make sure your whole family knows this communication plan and has the number saved in their phone (better yet, memorize the number).
  • Choose an emergency meeting location for your family. This could be your home, a park, school, etc. Remember to take into consideration if parents will be traveling a long distance from work, if children need to be picked up from school by a designated person, if you have elderly family members who may need assistance, or if you have pets at home to care for.
  • Practice Drop, Cover & Hold drill in each room of your house to be sure your family knows what areas are most safe and what are hazards to avoid. For young children make this drill into a game. They still learn the safety skills and will be less fearful during the actual earthquake.

Knowing your risks and making an earthquake plan will allow you to care for the needs of your family and accelerate the community’s recovery after a major earthquake.

Author of this post, Katharine Turkle, is the founder of Quake Plan Consulting which offers customized earthquake preparedness for families and businesses. Formerly, she was an earthquake and tsunami researcher at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

Top photo by Katherine Turkle (c) 2015: View of Menlo Park looking north while flying over Palo Alto. On the left side is CA-280 heading into Sharon Heights. Upper right corner shows west edge of the Bay. 

Map: Liquefaction hazard map of Menlo Park. Source credit: Association of Bay Area Governments Resilience Program

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