We were in Southern California when the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Baja California. Although the quake was centered several hundred miles to the south of our location, we felt like grains of sand caught in a beach blanket toss.
We realized that the earthquake was not centered locally and that somewhere else was being trounced by it. The rolling motion was extreme and the house we were in was rolling back and forth like the waves on an oscilloscope. The chandeliers were swinging in wide arcs and continued to do so for several minutes after the earthquake ceased. Needless to say, our adrenalin level was at its peak and our heart was racing. It was not so much the shake itself, but the fact that it was extremely long. Everyone we spoke to about it said the same thing “We began to wonder if it was ever going to end.”
Although the Baja quake caused little damage in our area, the consequence were much more severe as one moved south towards the epicenter of this powerful earthquake. The episode reinforced our belief in “being prepared” for calamities that may happen to you while on the road.
While there is little you can do to avoid being in an earthquake, there is a lot you can do to help ensure your survival if you are traveling when an earthquake strikes your location. The preparations are not complicated and they could make a big difference.
First, be sure to read the evacuation notices and plans posted in your hotel room. Know where the exits are – yes, actually open your door and find the best path to the nearest two exits, noting how far they are, should you have to make the journey in the dark. Avoid planning to use elevators as exits, since power is often off in major disasters.
Next, Be sure to travel with a small flashlight for use in emergencies.
While many travelers empty their pockets and place keys, wallets and other stuff on a desk or a countertop so they are prepared to reload them the next morning. We have a different approach. Keep the flashlight and your room key in a pocket in your pants; along with your wallet and keep “yesterday’s clothes” including your shoes near your bed while sleeping (we usually layer these items on a desk chair near the bed). If you use a purse, keep the purse and the outfit you wore that day on the desk chair. If you need to (or are required to) evacuate during the night, just slip on your pants, shoes and a jacket and head out, knowing you have your money and identification, as well as something to illuminate your path, if there is no power.
Many travelers recommend keeping a bottle of water and a sealed granola bar or other snack in your other pocket, backpack or purse. While all of this may sound like too much organization for some of you, think of it this way. Just leave everything that was in the outfit you wore that day in the outfit and place it on a chair near your bed. All you have to do is add the flashlight and you will be ready to go if you need to evacuate your room. If not, you can empty your pockets in the morning – with the added benefit that everything is already in place.
From a practical perspective, the odds of being caught in a natural or man-made disaster while on vacation are extremely small. On the other hand, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
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