Hurricanes may not be a major threat in Nevada, but we have natural disasters of our own. Aside from wildfires, earthquakes are more of a factor than most people realize, especially in northern Nevada. Here’s what you need to know about earthquake hazards if you live in the Silver State, plus some handy tips for being earthquake prepared (AKA, general disaster preparedness).
Sometimes locals jest about “the big one” that will knock California off into the Pacific Ocean and give northern Nevadans beachfront property. While it’s a running joke, it is based in some truth. Between the 1840s and 1960, quake activity in Nevada was highly active. There were several earthquakes with a magnitude of 6 or greater, and Nevada was definitely considered an “earthquake state.” Since that time, we’ve been in a relatively calm phase. But if Christchurch, New Zealand is any guide, we may just be overdue for a decent shaker. In 2008, there was a magnitude 6 earthquake centered in Wells, NV (about a five-hour drive to Reno, closer to the Utah border), with damage that ended up costing somewhere between $11-$15 million. And that was in 2008 dollars. It was a good reminder, considering many people in this region tend to forget that it really is earthquake territory. After all, there are over 1,500 potential earthquake faults crisscrossing the state.
Prepping for an Earthquake
In a nutshell, being properly prepared in the event of an earthquake involves a few considerations:
- Making preparations designed to reduce damage
- Making preparations for self-sufficiency for at least a few days until relief efforts can begin, i.e. a Go Bag
- Water, water, and, oh yeah, water. Storing and maintaining a back-up supply of water is easily one of the best moves you can make for any disasters, and according to most people who have lived through a good disaster, one of the most important
According to the CDC, the best way to protect yourself during a good shake is to drop onto your hands and knees to avoid being knocked to the ground. Cover your head and neck (at the least, but try to cover your entire bod) beneath a strong table or desk. Then, hold on until the shaking stops.
Keep in mind that you’re less likely to be injured if you stay where you are once the shaking begins. The CDC notes that most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by falling objects, like televisions, lamps, glass, and bookcases, or by being knocked over.
What if you’re watching an Aces game with hundreds of other people, sitting on the beach at Lake Tahoe, in a high-rise building downtown, or tooling around in your car? The CDC has very specific instructions, so hop over for a look.
Prepping for an earthquake involves a little planning. No one can predict when an earthquake will hit, so cover your bases with a few different plans.
- Get a battery powered radio, and make sure to check the batteries yearly. Keep solar chargers on hand, they make very powerful compact versions these days.
- Plan an evacuation route, and factor for any specific needs in your household (kids and pets).
- Create a household communication plan — it can be as simple as a dry erase board, as usually cell reception goes out.
- Build an emergency preparedness kit — a go bag. I keep one in my car and one in the garage.
- Water! Store at least one five-gallon water jug and make a schedule to change it out every quarter or at least every summer and winter solstice.
- Heavy duty gloves, rolls of duct tape, and large garbage bags: are three of the most valuable things to have in any disaster according to my team member Rob LaEace, who taught PEP courses for large condominium complexes for the SFFD. Heavy duty lawn garbage bags and duct tape can cover broken windows, a garbage bag placed inside a toilet (or bucket) doubles as an effective camping toilet until water goes back on, and gloves to clean up broken glass, help your neighbors or clear debris is a life saver. Plus, these are all easy to pop into your go bag.
One particularly useful tip, and this applies to ALL disasters, is to document your property. Walk through each room of your home to photograph your belongings for an inventory of your property’s contents and store them someplace in the cloud so you can access them later. In the event of an emergency, this inventory can help prove the value of what you owned. In addition to photos or video, write down descriptions and include specifics like year, make, and model number as appropriate.