Monday, December 14, 2015

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

[New York Times] ‘‘Bolt heavy objects to the wall,’’ says Ross S. Stein, a geophysicist who teaches at Stanford University. Loose things cause many earthquake injuries; broken bottles cut feet, falling armoires and flying televisions break bones. So fix your bookshelves in place and hang framed art with quake-­proof mountings. Latch cupboards containing breakables like glassware. Keep a headlamp by your bed, because there will probably be a power failure. ‘‘These are the easy, cheap fixes,’’ says Stein, who studied earthquakes and their aftershocks for more than 30 years as a senior scientist with the United States Geological Survey. Last year, he introduced temblor.net, a website and app that enables users to calculate their seismic exposure.

Even in quake-­prone regions like the San Francisco Peninsula — where Stein lives, three miles from the San Andreas fault — buildings end up with fundamental vulnerabilities that require more expensive fixes. If you live near a fault, make sure your house is fastened to its foundation. Buildings tend to be cube-­shaped, and cubes, Stein says, ‘‘have no structural integrity’’: When jolted, they collapse into parallelograms. Strengthen your cube (or press your landlord to do so) with materials like crisscrossing cables or plywood bracing.

Because our homes generally aren’t built to handle shaking, Stein stores a crowbar under his bed in case he needs to jimmy a damaged door. He keeps extra propane for cooking and a solar-­powered cellphone charger. His surgical mask, work gloves and shovel are always accessible (‘‘be ready to rescue someone’’); three-­gallon bottles of distilled water are stored in his garage. Everyone in his family has an orange emergency whistle.