Matt Springer has been giving presentations around San Francisco about home earthquake preparedness since 2008 (for more information about the presentation, go to his earthquake preparedness website). This Quaketips blog is devoted to posts ranging from technical "how-to" articles to more philosophical "should-you" topics. New articles will be posted at most about once a month, so people who subscribe won't be subjected to lots of e-mail.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Know any students moving to the West Coast? Send them this!

Fall is almost here, and college/grad/med/etc. students are moving to new places.  Some of those places are less stationary than others.  However, it's easy for new arrivals to feel as though earthquake risks are for other people and not for people who might be in a place for just a few years.  With that in mind, I wrote the following article last fall for The Synapse, the student newspaper at the University of California, San Francisco, where I'm a professor.  I am reprinting it here in Quaketips because it really applies to anyone who is about to move to a quake zone and will get around to figuring out the deal with earthquakes "after finals are over," or "never because I'll graduate and leave."  Actually, it's good to know before you get there, so that you can set up your home to at least a minimal standard of quake readiness.

It might get a little surreal toward the end of the article because I mention this blog!  It's like standing between two mirrors and seeing an endless loop of reflections...


(Originally published at The Synapse, Sept. 25, 2014)

Advice to new and old students alike about earthquake preparedness

      True or false: “I don’t have to worry about preparing my home for earthquakes because I’m a student, and I’m only going to be here for a few years.”

      Translation: “Earthquakes don’t occur while I’m a student.”

      Ok, future scientists/clinicians, let’s evaluate that hypothesis and its corollary, “Earthquakes don’t occur when anyone is a student.”  Therefore, because earthquakes occur with regularity in the Bay Area, “Nobody is ever a student.”

      I probably don’t have to hit you over the head any heavier than that, but I will point out that during the destructive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I was a grad student at Stanford!  Once the quake occurred, I was no different from anyone else in that I had to assess damage at home and in my lab.

      Fortunately, there was no damage in my home, even though my housemates and I had not taken earthquake preparedness measures, and the only damage in my lab was that something fell on the keyboard of the lab’s Mac (yeah, in the late 80’s, we had “the lab computer”) and ruined the E key, making it impossible to type “Eureka!” and therefore impeding scientific progress and discovery.  However, we lucked out; thousands of people were injured with 62 fatalities, and many more had moderate to considerable damage inside their homes.

      Welcome to San Francisco...but I mean that sincerely, not facetiously, because most of the problems experienced by people in California earthquakes in the past 100 years have been preventable by taking certain precautions, many of which are not that hard to do.  People just don’t get around to them, and so when even moderate events like last month’s [original article was Fall 2014] Napa quake occur, you end up with lots of people in the vicinity with substantial damage in their homes that simply would not have occurred if they had taken the recommended precautions for life in the Bay Area.  Although city governments are trying to make structures safer, when “the Big One” comes, even a home that isn’t structurally damaged will contain a lot of damaged possessions unless you have taken your own preventative measures.

      Here is some quick “starter” advice for those who aren’t familiar with earthquake safety and for those who have only heard the myths.  These are easy and don’t require a bunch of precautions:

1) Don’t hang heavy framed pictures over the head of your bed (and don’t have anything unfastened that could fall over onto the head of your bed).

2) If you are inside during a large quake, know the following: 
3) Other precautions you should take to substantially cut down your risk of being injured the next time two parts of the Bay Area try to move in different directions include: 
  • Brace tall furniture to the wall 
  • Have enough food, water, and other necessary supplies to enable you to be self-sufficient for at least 7 days. 
       Of course, there are more ways in which you can prepare. Since 2008, I’ve given talks about home earthquake preparedness at UCSF and to the public at SF Public Library branches.  The next regular cycle of UCSF talks will take place during the first half of 2015. Videos from previous events are also available on my website. Keep your eye on the talk schedule and the streaming video resources using links available at my lab website

      You can read even more at my Quaketips blog.  I post articles about how to do things, why some things should not be done, does bottled water really expire, etc.  Here’s an excerpt from one of the first articles:

      “Those in other parts of the country might say that at least they have advance warning about the hurricanes, etc… We DO have advance warning about earthquakes; we just have it much farther in advance than for other, there's going to be an earthquake, do something about it.  There, you've been warned!”

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