Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Yet another old post that never got finished. Originally written on 14th of August 2007, soon after my NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Training) course.

One night I got woken up by the earthquake. I was surprised by that, because usually I sleep extremely well and nothing is able to wake me up. Consequently that was the first earthquake that I consciously experienced. I knew that it was a small one, but still I was amazed how much the whole house was shaking. It was rated 4.42 in Richter scale. (Comment: Funny thing. I do not remember it at all...)

It is expected that within next 25 years there will be at least one major earthquake in San Francisco with strength 7 or even 8 in Richter scale. That would mean between ~27'000 to ~710'000 stronger than the one that we had here last week. I do not want to even imagine how much destruction that will cause. And in the light of that I definitely do not regret spending two full days on "civilian emergency response training" organized by San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD).

During the last bigger earthquake in San Francisco (the Loma Pietra earthquake of 1989) fire fighters realized that there is both much more work than they can handle and that there are many civilians that would like to help them but just have no idea how. Therefore, in 1991, SFFD started program called "NERT" - neighborhood emergency response training, which was aimed at teaching ordinary people basics of fire fighting search and rescue disaster medicine preparedness. This training is provided to anybody interested for free and I would definitely recommend it. Even though I took several first aid/CPR courses before, I still learned a lot of new things during this course. The idea behind this training is to "do most good for the most people", which is very different than during your regular first aid course. Here it is more important to do things quickly rather than properly. Also you learn how to evaluate condition of the building as to keep yourself safe during search and rescue procedure.

(It is already two years since I took this course, so I guess I should go for a refresher. Also I am thinking about getting a HAM radio and learning how to operate it.)

Here are several key things that I learned during my course:

Before the earthquake - the plan and preparation:
1. Keep flashlight and shoes under your bed (in the bag tied to the leg of the bed).
2. Identify the nearest police station, hospital and fire department.
3. Think of more than one escape route in case of fire.
4. Check where are utility shut-offs in your house, have a wrench next to them.
5. Prepare a reunification plan for your family. Preferably choose contact that lives outside of the affected area - it will be easier to reach them than people living in affected area.
6. Do not phone within first hour - leave the lines open for emergencies!
7. Have some coins for public phones, those will start working first.
8. Have enough supplies to survive 72h or even better 5 days. (You should have them at home, car and work)
9. Annually do safety survey of the home fire extinguisher smoke detectors.
10. In the kitchen put latches on the cabinet doors.
11. Your bed should not be located next to the window (because of falling glass).
12. Do not place any heavy objects on the upper shelves.
13. Secure heavy furniture to the walls.

During the earthquake:
1. Remain calm. Duck, cover, hold.
2. Sit down against the wall.
3. If you are outside stay as far away from buildings as possible.
4. If you are driving stop and put on emergency flashers. Remain inside the car, try to avoid bridges, overpasses and underpasses.
5. If you are downtown even after the earthquake stay inside the buildings.

Local emergency station is KCBS at 740AM. You can sign up for email or txt emergency updates here.