Getting ready for 'Oregon Shakeout Day'

The day after the 6.0 earthquake struck Klamath Falls on the evening of Sept. 20, 1993, geology professor Eric Dittmer held his geology class as scheduled at what is now Southern Oregon University.

"I wanted to talk about the earthquake so I asked a young lady from Klamath Falls what happened in her house when the quake struck," he recalled. "She said her dad swore, her mom ran into the kitchen, her younger brother in kindergarten dove under the coffee table and her teenage brother said, 'Way cool.'

"Well, it was the kindergarten kid who did the right thing," he concluded, noting the youngster had apparently learned that in school.

He and SOU adjunct professor Harry Smedes hope to educate Southern Oregonians about how to be prepared for a strong earthquake in the future. In his classes, Dittmer requires students to prepare an emergency plan for their home in the event of a big quake.

A statewide "Oregon Shakeout Day" is planned for Jan. 26, 2011, marking the 311th anniversary of the last big earthquake that struck Western Oregon on Jan. 26, 1700, Smedes said.

"It will include things like a mock drill to teach people to duck, cover and hold," Smedes said.

The point, they stress, is that emergency responders would have their hands full immediately following a substantial earthquake, making it incumbent upon residents to fend for themselves.

Awareness, knowledge and preparedness will help many survive a severe earthquake, they say.

If they were to teach an "Earthquake Survival 101" class, it would include:

  • Prepare an emergency plan now. Discuss the plan with family, co-workers and neighbors. Suggest this as a topic for discussion at your church or club.
  • Conduct periodic earthquake drills as a family. Establish meeting places in the event you are separated. Take a first-aid course.
  • Know where and how to turn off mains for gas, electricity and water in your home. Buy fire extinguishers and have them checked annually.
  • Expect to be totally self-sufficient for at least three days. Set aside a supply of food, water, first-aid supplies, prescription medicine, flashlight, a battery-operated radio, warm clothes and bedding. Obtain a tent for use as an emergency shelter.
  • Check your home, school and workplace for protected locations such as under a sturdy table or desk, or in a doorway, away from hazards such as glass and tall heavy objects.
  • Anchor your water heater and refrigerator to the wall with perforated metal straps so they won't fall over.
  • Make sure everyone knows phone numbers used only in the event of a serious emergency.
  • Duck under or alongside a desk or sturdy table and hold on to the table leg while facing away from any windows during the quake. Step into a doorway if nothing else is available.
  • Don't run outside if you are inside when the quake hits. If you are outside, stay away from buildings, large trees and overhead electrical lines.

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