McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 29, 2013

Earthquake preparation is like other emergencies

By LaDell Emmons
OSU Extension Educator

McALESTER — Most Oklahomans know what to do in case of severe weather or when a tornado is bearing down on them. But, residents might be less sure what do when earthquakes hit. While it might sound a little strange to use Oklahoma and earthquake in the same sentence, the state has experienced multiple tremors in the past two years alone.

Being prepared for emergencies only reduces your risk for injury in case something does happen. Preparing for an earthquake, in many ways, is no different than getting ready in case of a tornado, ice storm or flood.

Pulling together a supply kit and creating a family communication plan are the first two steps in readying for a potential emergency such as an earthquake. For details about what to put in your kit and for a template of a communication plan, visit www.ready.gov.

One of the main concerns in an earthquake is furniture or other items falling over and trapping or injuring someone. That means making sure bookcases, china cabinets, shelving and other tall, heavy items are anchored securely to walls.

Any large, weighty objects should be placed on lower shelves, and breakables such as fragile décor, glass food containers and china should be moved to lower cabinets that close and latch. Also, picture frames, mirrors or other objects attached to walls should be located away from areas where people sit.

Flammable liquids and cleaning products represent potential hazards, too, in case of an earthquake. If these items aren’t already stored in the garage or an outside shed in places that are inaccessible to children, think about relocating them to safer places.

Besides securing your possessions, it is important to check the house itself. The structure should be properly and firmly attached to the foundation, and any cracks in the foundation or the ceiling should be fixed.

Since faulty wiring or gas connections are potential fire hazards in the event of an earthquake, seek appropriate professional help to work with gas and electrical lines.

Tremors could be strong enough to move water heaters, furnaces and other appliances, causing pipes and gas or electric lines to rupture. To guard against that happening, anchor appliances to the wall and bolt them to the floor.

Flexible pipe fittings are more resistant to breaking, so installing some could help you avoid gas or water leaks as a result of an earthquake. You also can check with your gas company to see if it’s recommended that you install an automatic gas shut-off valve that kicks in when strong vibrations occur.

Finally, if there is an earthquake in your area, once it is declared safe to do so, you should walk around your home and property to check for damages. Catching issues early can prevent big problems later.

For more information in Pittsburg County, call 918-423-4120 or log onto www.oces.okstate.edu/pittsburg.

LaDell Emmons is the Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for the Pittsburg County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at ladell.emmons@okstate.edu.