My husband and I lived in Studio City when the 1994 earthquake hit. Pre-dawn, first a thunderous WHACK, and then heart-stopping shake, shake, shake, shake. I had a broken arm, so just threw the covers over my head. Husband jumped up. We both were yelling orders at each other, of course.
You could hear glass smashing, HEAVY roaring brick and mortar noises, and then… silence. Strangely dreamy darkness. A few seconds later, an aftershock. And another. Pray, pray, pray. Breathe.
There was no power, so the cloudless sky was filled with stars. Within minutes, people came out of homes, quietly comparing notes. A car in the distance turned on headlights, and an ET scene emerged as “earthquake dust” filled the air and people walked back and forth in the light.
Once the sun came up, we started what you have to do… clean up.
First note… the earth moves differently for practically every structure, and one block to the next. We had a wavelike action, so while our house sustained structural damage like a downed chimney and cracked foundation, much of our “stuff” survived. The glass smashing was glassware flying across the dining room… yet the vase of fresh flowers 3 feet away didn’t budge.
My friend, Marlene’s condo rolled differently. At the end of the shaking, she had two distinctly different outcomes than ours. First, she had never bolted her home office furniture to the wall, which moved so violently that it all jammed up against the door. There was no getting in there.
Second heartbreaker… her entire kitchen from top to bottom shook with such force that the end result was totally empty cabinets and every surface a sloggy, glass shard and liquid heap of broken bottles on top of broken dishes on top of the entire contents of her refrigerator. Which, if left even just one day would start to stink. Eggs. Meat. Ice cream. Olive oil. Vinegar. A-1 sauce. Pancake syrup. The under-sink stuff – bleach, liquid soap. All slopped over her counters, floors and mixed together with her pots and pans, broken dishes and “earthquake safe” foods of cans, water bottles, dry cereals.
So, now that I have totally freaked you out, what can you possibly do today to save yourself the misery of Marlene (oh, by the way, neighbors helped break a window to her office and shoved furniture enough to get the door open. And then they left to clean up their own messes).
Besides the earthquake kit backpack, visualize where in your home there are vulnerabilities. Overwhelmed? Today… start with the kitchen:
- Kitchen cabinet latches that don’t annoy but will secure the cabinets in the event of a shaker. We installed these throughout our kitchen.
- Storage of earthquake-ready dry foods and water in places not just kitchen. Under beds, in the garage, on the floor at the back of closets are accessible dry spots.
- Cleanup gear. Thick rubber boots, heavy duty gloves, brooms, dust pans, buckets, mops and TONS of plastic bags. Get that broom closet Earthquake Ready.
That’s enough for today. Order the latches online. Go to Home Depot for the broom closet stuff.