By Janet Stephens

Are you worried about your family’s safety during an earthquake? You’re not alone. Earlier this year, I was inspired by Martin Bond’s blog about the “big one” to start thinking about what more I could do to stay safe during an earthquake. Ten years ago, I had my home bolted and braced, and I added shear wall in two rooms, since we were renovating anyway. Those were the right things to do to reduce the risk of major damage to the home itself, but what about its contents–mainly, me, my husband, and our cats?

go-bucket-image-1I promised my husband I would set up an emergency survival kit with water, food, and some first aid supplies. That was three months ago, and I haven’t gotten started yet. Until today, that is. I knew that I needed to break the task of earthquake preparation into smaller chunks. So I downloaded a document called “Preparing the Home Activity Guide” from the City of Berkeley web site, which has eight different activities to make a home safer in a disaster.

The first activity I am going to tackle is #2, “Put a flashlight and a pair of shoes where each person sleeps.” We have several flashlights, and it will be easy to put a flashlight in the top drawer of my night stand. It’s a simple measure that will take me just a few minutes. I’m aiming to take one measure each day between now and the New Year.

I can also already check off activity #7, “Inspect your water heater.” I know that our heater is already strapped to the wall, a measure that was required during our home renovation.

I think the most difficult measure for me is going to be #6, “Remove falling hazards over beds and play areas.” I heard that falling hazards are the biggest cause of injury during an earthquake. We have eight-foot-tall bookshelves in several rooms, and I know they’re not attached to the wall. I’m a klutz with a hammer or screwdriver. Luckily, my husband is very handy, and he can help with this. But what about those families that lack a handy person?

bookshelf-safetyThe answer: Berkeley Seismic Safety services from Community Energy Services (CESC). A licensed contractor, CESC can provide you with all the services you need to make your home safe in an earthquake. A small grant from PG&E and the City of Berkeley’s Fire Department are helping CESC offer these services free to Berkeley households, whether they are renters or owners. “Preparing your home for an earthquake could prevent many injuries and should be a part of every household’s plan. Through the City’s Berkeley Ready program, we’re partnering with our community to look at potential hazards in the home and to mitigate those before an earthquake,” according to David Brannigan, Deputy Fire Chief.

The program includes a preliminary assessment; a “go bucket” or emergency kit containing a fire extinguisher, emergency rechargeable flashlight, an emergency radio, and other items, a strong educational component including educational materials, and seismic safety upgrades such as securing large furniture, book cases, water heaters, and picture frames and mirrors to the wall.

The program will be able to serve about ten households without charge. If you’re not among the first 10 households to qualify for free services, you can still pay a reasonable fee and have the security of knowing you’re hiring experts to help make your home safe.

And that earthquake survival kit I promised my husband? I don’t think that will take very long. According to the Preparing the Home Activity Guide, I already have most of the supplies on hand; I just need to gather them and put them in an old backpack or bucket. Some of the items are a surprise: copies of important documents, photocopies of prescriptions, an extra pair of eyeglasses. I’m glad I downloaded the document.

Want to know more about the Seismic Safety Services and how you can get help preparing? Contact CESC.