That morning we confronted a force of such raw power:
- Power that sends crayons flying 18 feet across the living room, leaving colored marks on the ceiling to trace their arc.
- Power that does not leave a single stick of furniture standing upright and hurls wall clocks across the room
- Power that empties every cupboard on all sides of a kitchen
- Power that walks refrigerators across the kitchen floor, ripping up linoleum, and then slams it into the drywall with such force that the magnetic letters on the frig go THROUGH the drywall
I had open shelving in my kids' rooms, an unsecured bunk-bed, a gallon sized glass fish bowl on top of their dresser (which went sailing across the room...remarkably, the two goldfish survived in a shard of the bowl, on the floor, in about 1/2" of water when I found them!). The pictures on the walls, the items on the shelving, the books in the bookcase - NONE of it remained where it had been. ALL of it became airborne. I had left these possible projectiles unsecured where my babies slept.
And you know what else? We had very little food in the house, and no cash.
We did not realize that all the businesses we depended on would be closed for at least a week after a disaster. Does that sound ... dumb? We just had not ever thought about it.
The inspector on 1/18/1994 said, "Whoever reinforced these walls, saved this house."
I had argued with my husband until I was blue in the face over CHARGING that money to do that work ON A CREDIT CARD. He had felt so sure it needed to be done. He had worked diligently to do all the work himself, to lessen the cost. I was SO ANGRY that he was running us into debt.
Yes, I have apologized for being so wrong, in so many ways.
See that little boy in the picture? He is three years old. See that sweet face? Can I just tell you how deeply terrified I was that morning, mostly because we had not prepared to take care of this little guy and his sister? I am not one to bemoan or regret things that are beyond my control. I don't spend a lot of angst or worry on the "what ifs" of life. I tend to trust God, and not look back. But I am fully aware that our family was protected by grace that day. The "Should have" list is long.
Since that day, I have told my friends and family repeatedly to be ready in case of an emergency -- in fact, I'm sure they are SICK of hearing about it! Today, I am telling you.
Here are my TOP FIVE thoughts:
#1 - (On a scale of importance, I believe securing your environment is even more important that stocking up. Frankly, if you get conked on the head by a clock you won't care how much water you stored.) Assess your environment: Make sure you look at every room in your home. Do you need to secure large furniture/mirrors/pictures to the wall? Check out your bed. Don't have anything big hanging over it? Make SURE your hot water heater is strapped. Not only could it be dangerous if it toppled over and ruptured a gas line, that hot water heater is your best friend after a disaster - it holds 40 gallons of clean water! Protect it! Figure out now where your water and gas shutoff valves are. Put a shut-off wrench in the gas meter vault. Take a look at your foundation. Is your house actually CONNECTED to it, strapped down?
#2 - Plan Make sure everyone knows where to go in case you have to get out of the house. Front yard? Back yard? Out into the street? Look for someplace away from power lines and out of the line of anything that might fall. Designate a phone number to call if you get separated. (Somebody out of the immediate area - grandma? Auntie? memorize the phone number, and have your children memorize it too as soon as they are able.)
#3 - Prepare the House: Secure all the items you noted in #1, maybe put magnetic latches on cabinet doors. Don't skip the garage...secure heavy shelving units too! Tie a wrench on the gas valve with a string, so you can always get it turned off. Put a flashlight and heavy shoes next to every bed. (You will need the shoes after a severe disaster - lots of broken glass.) Make SURE your hot water heater is strapped in. (Yes, I know I already said that. It's important!).
#4 - Prepare Emergency Kits: Your biggest need is water, then food, first aid, tools & Supplies, clothing/bedding, and documents. We bought some backpacks and a duffel bag at a thrift store and have them hanging next to the outside door in the garage. We also have a huge plastic tub with some bigger things - also by the door. You could store them in a shed...it needs to be someplace you think will still be standing and accessible. Whatever works for you. I protect my water heater and have lots of bottled water hanging around. Plan on a gallon per person per day. Yes, that is a LOT of water. It is surprising how little we can actually "make do" with for a few days. Water. Canned food. First Aid basics. ( You don't "need" to cook the canned food, but you may want to boil water.) and warm clothes/bedding. You want a source of light (flashlights, battery operated lanterns, or even glow-in-the-dark sticks). You will want a way to get communication from the outside world (battery powered or solar powered radio).
#5 - Keep some cash handy. Fireproof safes are a great investment anyway - keep your original important documents in them...with some cash. Secure it in a bizarre place that you could get to, but no one else would think to look. Maybe between 2 x 6's in the garage walls? You won't need much, probably, but in 1994 in Fillmore there were no ATMs or open banks for days.
Don't get overwhelmed. Google ideas for first aid kits, pantry storage, but keep it realistic. Get started - maybe secure some tall furniture this weekend. THINK about storage next time you go to the grocery store. Grab a gallon of water and 2 cans of soup to start. Begin somewhere.
Do I sound a little alarmist? Sorry. That is the price I pay for living through this event, twenty-five years ago today. Being on top of an earthquake is a whole lot different than just being able to say, "Oh, yeah, I felt that!"
Make sure you are ready to care for your sweet family, for yourself, for your neighbors. I pray you never have to.