Earthquake Preparedness: Experts show how to be ready if `Big One` hits Washington

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SEATTLE — Washington state sees more than a thousand small, harmless earthquakes every year.

But, experts say the “Big One” could hit at any time — bringing serious danger and disaster to the area.

So, to help people protect themselves and their families, I spoke to an expert about the potentially life-saving ways you can prepare and the simple thing you should do right now to stay safe if a massive earthquake ever strikes.

“Washington is earthquake country,” says John Schelling, Earthquake Program Manager with Washington State Emergency Management.

Because of a fault line that runs off the coast called the Cascadia Subduction Zone, our state is vulnerable to strong earthquakes.

Experts say taking time to prepare now will help if the “Big One” hits. “There’s going to be loss of power, loss of communication, especially for larger earthquakes like magnitude eight or nine that we know will happen here in the Pacific Northwest and Washington state.”

The phone lines will likely be tied-up and first responders are given priority to get emergency calls through, so send text messages instead as they often go out even if phone calls do not.

Schelling adds, “Neighborhood preparedness is really critical especially in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.”In events across the world, neighbors often end up being the first responders so having a plan in the community where you live is important.

“Having a minimum of three to seven days worth of food Is really important, especially if you have little kids at home, make sure you have a kit, make sure that you have formula and enough diapers for example, things that if you can’t get to the grocery store,” Schelling continues.

Remember, when disaster strikes, it can take days before emergency vehicles can get to you so stock up on supplies now. And if you take medication, keep your prescriptions filled and protected. “If you’ve got refrigerated medications, maybe you want to go out in advance of a power outage, or winter weather or an earthquake, and buy some freezer packs so that you can take your meds in the refrigerator, move it to a freezer until that’s no longer cool and then break the ice pack and keep it in a cooler for example.”

Another way to prepare is by making sure you have emergency supplies inside of your car. Things like extra shoes, warm clothes, an emergency shovel, bottled water, snacks, flashlight and extra batteries-basically things that can help you survive a natural disaster if you were stuck inside of your vehicle for several hours or even a couple of days.

And if you’re not in a car when an earthquake happens, Schelling says, “We always recommend if you are beginning to feel the ground shake, first thing you want to do is drop, cover and hold on.” Get under a desk or table if you can. If you’re in a grocery store, however, move to the center isle away from shelves and falling items.

But what if you are at an outdoor sporting event? “Especially with football season upon us, if you find yourself at century link field same kind of things: drop, cover and hold in between seats,” Schelling explains.

Because tsunamis can happen thirty minutes after a larger earthquake hits, after you drop, cover and hold, Schelling says head for higher ground immediately.

The important thing is to have a plan and talk it over with your family and community sooner rather than later. Schelling adds, “It’s going to give you peace of mind because you’re going to know that you’ve done these things well in advance of an earthquake and be prepared when the time comes.”

Schelling also recommends checking with your insurance company as most home owners and renter`s insurance does not cover earthquakes.

CLICK HERE for more information about ways you can prepare for an earthquake.