by Jodi Summers
Japan, New Zealand, Chile â€“ three points on the Pacific Ring of Fire have been active in the last yearâ€¦but nothing grand has happened on the Pacific coast of North America. Kind of makes you wonder when then next disaster will hit us?
As a refresher, the Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world's active and dormant volcanoes. Los Angeles is part of the ring.
At home in Los Angeles, weâ€™ve grown comfortable since the 1994 tragedy of the Northridge Earthquake. But, in the back of our minds, we all know another one can strike as stealthfully as the magnitude 6.3 quake did in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb 22, 2011. Collectively, as a city, we pray that nothing as horrible as the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that occurred off the coast of the Maule and BiobÃo regions of Chile on February 27, 2010; or the devastating 9.0 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt down that struck northern Japan on March 11th; will ever happen here.
But, when we have the next disaster in Los Angeles, are you ready?
Statistics show 82% of you just said no.
You can be.
The Red Cross advises that there are two stages involved in disaster preparedness.
This first stage requires three blocks of time for putting keepsakes and documents together. The second stage of disaster prep and maintenance will require one day a month to check on everything.
Time One: Plan
Basic steps: "My No. 1 tip is to make a plan," declared Keith Robertory, a preparedness expert with the American Red Cross. "If you've thought about it, you'll be that much better prepared to act." His suggestion â€“ gather your household together to talk about these three questions. Put your answers on paper.
1. What types of emergencies could occur? Consider residential fires, as well as natural and man-made disasters.
2. Where would you go? The Red Cross says that residential fires are the most common disaster. Choose a meeting place outside and practice two evacuation routes from each room. Map the possible routes out of the neighborhood, and think about where you and your pets would stay if you had to leave your home. (Most emergency shelters do not accept pets. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions.) Next consider a "shelter-in-place" plan should a plague or an earthquake confines you to home - what supplies would you need and, depending on the emergency, which rooms would be safest?
3. Who would you contact? What would happen if an emergency occurred while you were at work or school? Agree on a preferred meeting place and identify two people to call if you can't reach one another: one local contact and one out-of-state contact (long distance lines may be freer in times of crisis.) Everyone in your household should keep these names and phone numbers handy - say, in your cell phone and wallet. Additional steps: Every six months, review and update your plan and conduct an evacuation drill.
Time Two: Survival Kit
Basic steps: A basic survival kit should include enough nonperishable food and water for three days, a battery-operated radio and flashlight, and first aid supplies. Remember to include personal items (e.g., cash, prescription medications, diapers.). Choose a container like a backpack or a box that's easy to carry. Additionally, you may want to put all of your important contact information for such assets as bank and investment accounts, credit cards, loan lenders, medical insurance, etcâ€¦
Additional steps: Every six months, re-evaluate your kit and update items. Be prepared; keep a kit in your car and at your workplace. Prepare a brief list - or even a box - of valuable or sentimental items you would grab if there were time.
Time Three: Review Your Insurance
Basic steps: Read your insurance policies; talk about potential emergencies with your insurance agent to make sure you understand what's covered. You might need additional insurance. Typical homeowners or renters insurance policies don't cover every calamity. For example, most policies in California don't cover landslides, earthquakes, or floods. How much do you want to be insured for? What do you own? Take inventory of the items in your home. This will help you calculate how much coverage you might need for your personal possessions. Additionally, it will serve as a record should you file a claim. Try a room-by-room approach: For each item of value, note its brand, model, approximate date acquired, and estimated purchase and replacement costs. Videotape your contents and put the tape in your safe deposit box. Attach copies of receipts and other documents. This will keep you very, very busy.
May you never need to use your disaster preparedness kit. But, if there is a time when a lot of us are accessing them, you can bet there will be some fine values to be had in Los Angeles real estate.