In as much as we’d like to predict when and where the next Big One will hit, we really can’t accurately tell the exact place and time so it’s best to come prepared. But in preparing for a natural disaster as unpredictable as an earthquake, we need to keep in mind that the groundwork for readiness goes way beyond just stocking safety and survival supplies at home. The preparation has to start with educating our family members on what can be done to keep our homes safer and what they must do during an earthquake.

Be prepared at home. Many times an earthquake can begin and end so abruptly that heading outdoors may not always be your best option. Your kids need to know that not all areas in your home are safe to take cover in during an earthquake because potential hazards abound. Get your kids involved in identifying these hazards and agree on which spots are best to hide in during an earthquake. Identify one safe area in each room so that your kids will know where to take shelter once shaking begins.

Tell your kids that it’s unsafe to stay near windows and fireplaces, or in areas that have poor structural support. The safest spots are those that are away from hanging lights and home decors, bookshelves, cabinets, unsecured appliances and other objects that are likely to fall during an earthquake. Hence, it’s wise to place lightweight objects on the topmost shelves and allocate the lowest layer for heavier items.

To keep your surroundings safer, you may want to check on bracing kits that will secure your water heater to the wall. Flexible water connections are ideal because they don’t easily rupture with movement. To prevent accidental fires, store flammable liquids away from ignition sources. Even if you don’t get earthquakes too often in your area, these small adjustments in your home can go a long way in keeping your family safe during an earthquake.

Create a disaster plan. You need to educate your kids on what to do during an earthquake. The first few minutes are crucial because earthquakes generally last for just a few minutes but in that span of time, they can already be very destructive.

When indoors: Teach your kids that once shaking begins and they are indoors, they need to go to the safest place of the room and they need to drop to the ground and take cover under a strong table or desk.  Your kids need to know that when an earthquake starts and they are indoors, their goal should be to protect themselves from falling objects. Studies have shown that most injuries incurred during an earthquake occur when people try to head to a different part of the building or when they try to run outdoors. If your kids are in a mall, they should avoid the elevator at all costs.

When outdoors: When outdoors, tell your kids to stay away from trees, power lines, street lights and buildings. Majority of the injuries and fatalities of an earthquake are due to collapsing walls and debris, so help your kids to identify safe spots outside your home and even outside their schools. They should remain in that open area until their teachers or caregivers tell them it’s already safe to head indoors.

When inside the car: If you are driving and shaking begins, stop as soon as it’s safe but stay inside the car. Do not stop near or under buildings or in areas where debris may fall.

We can never tell when and where the earth’s crust will shift next, but we can at least prepare by educating our families on safety measures that can give them the best chance of survival.