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How You Can Really Help After a Disaster: Get Yourself Prepared

Even after witnessing the horrific natural disasters of the past week, most of us aren't prepared for one. Why not get started this weekend?

Those of us living on the West Coast have been on high alert for a week now after Japan's massive earthquake. Last Friday many of us were awakened with calls warning us about the incoming tsunami. Now, with reports that radioactive particles from a damaged reactor may reach southern California this weekend, a new wave of worries has hit, and along with it, a slew of misinformation. While the radiation doesn't seem to be a serious concern, we were still dismayed to learn that only 60 percent of Californians have disaster kits at home, and only half have an emergency plan for their family.


Making sure your family is ready is one of the best things you can do to for your city. If every citizen has the basic resources to sustain themselves for a few days after a disaster, relief workers won't get overwhelmed by providing food and water to the unhurt but unprepared. Plus with basic medical supplies in each home, agencies like the Red Cross can focus on helping the people who really need their services. So why not take this weekend to do something good for your city, and get prepared? We found some great resources for making this process as simple, easy, and fun (yes, fun!) as possible.

First, start thinking about earthquakes as a timeline, using the Seven Steps for Earthquake Safety that can give you a simple, seven-step path from preparedness to recovery. Two steps to note: Making a disaster plan including two places to meet (the second being a backup in case the first isn't safe), and assembling an emergency kit with enough food, water, and medical supplies. And remember you'll need three of these: For home, work, and car.

Next, do some redecorating before an earthquake does it for you. This game called Beat the Quake walks you through the furnishings in your house item by item and gives you tips on how to best secure them. (I'll be making a trip to Home Depot to stock up on furniture straps, velcro, and putty.)

Now, think about where you'll be when an earthquake strikes. Notice in the videos of earthquakes how most people run outside? Not a good idea. Neither is standing in doorways. Drop, Cover, and Hold On uses easy-to-read graphics to show you exactly what to do, no matter where you are. If an earthquake strikes when you're in bed, do you know what to do? Now you do.

Finally, hold a dress rehearsal. The Great California Shake Out is a state-wide drill that happens annually each October. There's information there on how to participate. But there's no reason why you can't conduct your own this weekend.

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