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Be prepared for earthquakes

Earthquakes are capricious. Seismologists don't know when the next potentially dangerous quake will strike. That makes earthquake preparedness crucial.

There are a number of handy websites that provide broader emergency preparedness tips. Among those:

A parent's checklist

After discovering your child's school has been identified in a higher-risk zone, your first reaction may be, 'Should I get my kid out of there?'

Transferring schools can be complicated - and may not be safer. Instead, disaster-response groups recommend preparing your family in case of an emergency. We've also included contact information if you'd like to get involved.

Preparedness is important for parents of students in private or charter schools. Private schools are not legally required to meet Field Act safety standards, and the California Seismic Safety Commission has said they're likely not as safe as public schools of similar age. Only some charter schools are subject to Field Act provisions.

We spoke with a preparedness education specialist with the American Red Cross to create a parent's checklist. Download a printable PDF version in English and Spanish. This list can and should change according to the age and understanding of your child or children.

  • Talk to your child about disaster preparedness as soon as he or she is mature enough to handle it.
  • Discuss what to do when the earth starts shaking (drop, cover, hold on).
  • Drop to the floor.
  • Take cover under a piece of sturdy furniture; protect your head with one arm.
  • Hold on to the furniture with the other arm.
  • Visit or call your child's school to find out its emergency plans. Does it have supplies? What are the resources?
  • Make sure the school is doing regular earthquake drills. State law requires one drill per quarter for elementary schools and one drill per semester for secondary schools. Ask to participate in school drills. The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter has preparedness resources for schools here.
  • Make sure your school is conducting regular fire alarm checks.
  • Make sure your child's school has your current emergency contact information, including at least one out-of-state contact number. Local phone lines can sometimes be down, and it's good to have a contact who likely would not beaffected by the same disaster.
  • Prepare an emergency contact sheet for your child to carry. Help your child memorize the most important numbers. These PDFs in English and Spanish are designed to make it easy for you.
  • Preparedness organizations often talk about having an emergency kit in your home, car and workplace. But kids need them, too. Once your child is old enough to understand - and carry the extra weight - include a bottle of water, small amount of food, first-aid kit, contact information and whistle in his or her backpack or cubby.
  • Designate a meeting place in case an earthquake happens while family members are separated.
  • Have an emergency plan at home that you can practice with the family. This is a good opportunity to discuss earthquake safety at home and elsewhere.

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