Here in my new home state of Massachusetts we don’t usually have to worry about earthquakes. Drivers, yes. Snow, definitely. But ground tremors that shake the house and send pictures rattling off the wall? Not so much.
So last night, as I sat in my home office and wondered whether a helicopter was actually about to land on our house, and then whether it was possible that a rare earthquake was hitting New England (yup), I had a revelation:
I had carefully put those little plastic thingies into all of our electrical outlets, I had cleared the living room of sharp corners and tippable furniture, I had even installed a dubious plastic strip that is supposed to keep our oven closed to little prying toddler fingers. But I was totally, completely, unprepared for taking care of our family in a natural disaster. I actually had to do visualization exercises to figure out whether something heavy could fall on my daughter in her crib.
(Nope. Point 1 for Mommy! I thought. Until I read on some earthquake preparedness websites that cribs should not be placed near a window where children can be hurt by broken glass. Sigh.)
So bring on the parental guilt. And, once again, the feeling of panic that, despite regular admonitions from the Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness – even the ASPCA, for goodness sake – we have no Plan. Not even a working flashlight.
Sure, last night’s quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey says was centered in Lake Arrowhead, Maine and measured in at a 4.0 magnitude, might have seemed like child’s play to those tectonic veterans over on the West Coast. And the fact that it was one of the biggest quakes here in decades might make you think that I could relax in my preparedness slackerdom.
But no. Check out this info from the Geological Survey’s website:
“Earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states,” it reads. Significant risk! A phrase to get the helicopter parent in all of us churning.
And sure enough, go to the USGS's earthquake list and you see that earthquakes are happening everywhere all the time. (That’s a little exaggeration, but not much of one. Seriously, there have been more than a dozen this morning already, in Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, not to mention the Dominican Republic and Japan.)
And this from the Northeast States Emergency Consortium:
“Believe it or not, the Northeast US is earthquake country!” it reads. And then it talks about the Pilgrims, because that’s what people here do. (They apparently felt their first earthquake in 1638.) It also describes “big ones” that have occurred in this part of the country over the past few centuries, and how one might happen again.
Now, this isn’t because there is a major fault line waiting San Andreas-style to send buildings crumbling. Seismologists say they don’t exactly know the cause and mechanisms of earthquakes in New England. The plate tectonic explanation applies to California, but not here, where we live on the middle of a plate. The geology, actually, is totally fascinating, and if I were on my game it would be an awesome teachable moment.
But I’m the mom who doesn’t have working batteries, remember? So first things first.
I checked out the tips from Ready.gov, which even if you do not live in earthquake territory has a list of potential disasters (from wildfires to “space weather”) that will freak out any nervousness-inclined parent:
First, it suggests you prepare your home for a possible earthquake. You know all those heavy items you’ve been meaning to bracket to the wall? Time to do it. Repair deep cracks in your foundation and ceilings. Make sure the water heater, refrigerator and furnace are strapped to wall studs and bolted to the floor. Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. And my personal favorite: “Be sure the residence is firmly anchored to its foundation.” Gotcha.
During an earthquake, it says, drop to the ground, cover by getting under something sturdy, and hold on until the shaking stops. Stay away from glass, windows, and outside doors and walls. Don’t go outside until the shaking stops – research shows that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location.
There’s more, but ... whoa.
I live in New England. This is way over my head. And freaky.
I decided that I’d start at a more basic level: the emergency preparedness earthquake kit. This, according to disaster organization websites, should at minimum include a few days' worth of food and water for each family member (dog and cat included), a first aid kit, and some diapers. And yes, a flashlight with working batteries.
Consider it on my to-do list. This, at least, could work with snow storms, too.