In modern homes, taking cover in a doorway is not the recommended response to an earthquake. To find out what the recommended response is, keep reading.
How to Stay Safe
When you feel shaking, curl up under a sturdy piece of furniture, with your face down and your back to the ceiling. Cover up the back of your neck with one hand, and hold on to the piece of furniture with the other hand until the shaking has stopped. If you can’t get under sturdy furniture, curl up next to an inside wall, away from objects that could fall. If you use a wheelchair or walker, remain seated, lock your device, bend over and cover the back of your neck with one hand, while holding onto your device with your other hand.
What if I am not in a home or classroom? Link to how to stay safe in other environments.
Securing your home
Check out these tips from the American Red Cross for ensuring your house does not become a danger during an earthquake:
- Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs. Have a professional install flexible fittings to avoid gas or water leaks.
- Do not hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, near beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
- Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
- Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
- Place large and heavy objects and breakable items (bottled foods, glass or china) on lower shelves.
- Anchor overhead lighting fixtures to joists.
- Anchor top-heavy, tall and freestanding furniture such as bookcases, china cabinets to wall studs to keep these from toppling over.
- Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports and garage doors.
- Have a professional make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation, as well as strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports and garage doors.
The Town of Los Gatos has developed a comprehensive program to address the threat to public safety that the possibility of dam failure poses. One of the final steps of that program is the installation of flood evacuation route signs, directing evacuees to the safe zones of Los Gatos Boulevard on the east, and N. Santa Cruz Avenue/Winchester Boulevard on the west.
The evacuation route signs have been posted on the east-west arterial routes of Main Street, Highway 9/Saratoga Avenue, Blossom Hill Road and Lark Avenue. In the event an evacuation is ordered, people and traffic west of Los Gatos Creek or Highway 17 would be directed to N. Santa Cruz Avenue or Winchester Boulevard. Those to the east of Los Gatos Creek would be directed to Los Gatos Boulevard. View Evacuation Map
After a significant earthquake the integrity of the dam would be evaluated. If the safety of the structure was in doubt, the evacuation of the flood inundation zone could be ordered. Evacuation announcements to the residents and business in the affected area would be made via the public radio and television Emergency Alert System (EAS,) Alert SCC reverse 911 system, by door to door contact by emergency response personnel, or by vehicle mounted public address systems. View Press Release from February 2, 2012.
In addition to evacuation route signage, the following other components of the plan have been completed:
Training has been provided to Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police by water district dam safety personnel on how to recognize and report post-earthquake damage to the dam.
The Town of Los Gatos Emergency Operations Plan has incorporated a Flood Evacuation Plan annex which establishes evacuation zones and routes as well as incident command procedures.
- Know types of flood risk in your area. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center for information.
- Sign up for your community’s warning system.
- Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response.
- Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately, or if services are cut off. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets. Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
- Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect and can protect the life you've built. Homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding. Get flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
- Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
- Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.
IF YOU ARE UNDER A FLOOD WARNING, FIND SAFE SHELTER RIGHT AWAY
- Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
- Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.
- Depending on the flood: evacuate if told to do so, move to higher ground or a higher floor, or stay where you are.
- If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
- Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
- If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, then stay inside. If water is rising inside the vehicle, then seek refuge on the roof.
- If trapped in a building, then go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising floodwater. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.
- Listen to authorities for information and instructions. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
- Avoid driving, except in emergencies.
- Snakes and other animals may be in your house. Wear heavy gloves and boots during clean up.
- Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
- Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris and be contaminated. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
- Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
Lexington Reservoir/Lenihan Dam
Vasona Lake Dam
While the Lenihan Dam at Lexington Reservoir is considered to be structurally sound and is carefully maintained by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the fact that the lake’s 19,000 acre feet of water is just minutes upstream from downtown Los Gatos, makes it a concern to Los Gatos emergency managers.
Built in 1952, the Lenihan Dam is an earthen structure that is designed to withstand earthquakes. Water District studies show that in the event of a catastrophic failure of the dam, with the reservoir at capacity, flood waters would reach Main Street in about six minutes, and would inundate nearly all of the area between Los Gatos Boulevard and North Santa Cruz Avenue/Winchester Boulevard.
At 400 acre feet capacity, the Vasona Lake Dam represents less of a hazard to Los Gatos. Also an earthen dam, a catastrophic failure of Vasona would almost immediately inundate the portions of Los Gatos bordering Los Gatos Creek from the dam to the border of Campbell.
The Santa Clara County Fire District provides fire services for the Town of Los Gatos. Fire Department programs and services are dedicated to ensuring residents are informed of potential risks to their property and families. The County Fire District offers many services to residents and are especially concerned with hillside fire safety.
If you live in the hillside (or Wildland Urban Interface) areas around Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council has resources available to assist in keeping your home Fire Safe. A recently revised 20-page, step-by-step guide for homeowners and residents is available on-line or by calling (408) 975-9591. The guide, Living With Fire in Santa Clara County, includes recently updated information on creating Defensible Space, fire resistant plants and roofing materials.
In 2010, CAL FIRE launched the Ready for Wildfire website to assist homeowners in preparing for wildfires. The site offers residents simple tips and a preparedness toolkit for homeowners to make their home more resistant to wildfires and to ensure that their family is ready to evacuate early and safely when a wildfire strikes.
- Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
- Know your community’s evacuation plans and find several ways to leave the area. Drive the evacuation routes and find shelter locations. Have a plan for pets and livestock.
- Gather emergency supplies, including N95 respirator masks that filter out particles in the air you breathe. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including and updated asthma action plan and medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets.
- Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.
- Keep important documents in a fireproof, safe place. Create password-protected digital copies.
- Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate, or make repairs.
- Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.
- Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home.
- Review insurance coverage to make sure it is enough to replace your property.
- Pay attention to air quality alerts.
IF YOU ARE UNDER A WILDFIRE WARNING, GET TO SAFETY RIGHT AWAY
- Leave if told to do so.
- Listen for emergency information and alerts.
- Use N95 masks to keep particles out of the air you breathe.
- Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.
- If trapped, then call 911 and give your location, but be aware that emergency response could be delayed or impossible. Turn on lights to help rescuers find you.
- Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
- If you are not ordered to evacuate but smoky conditions exist, stay inside in a safe location or go to a community building where smoke levels are lower.
- Listen to authorities to find out when it is safe to return, and whether water is safe to drink.
- Avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. The ground may contain heat pockets that can burn you or spark another fire. Consider the danger to pets and livestock.
- Send text messages or use social media to reach out to family and friends. Phone systems are often busy following a disaster. Make calls only in emergencies.
- Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator dust mask and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
- Document property damage with photographs. Conduct an inventory and contact your insurance company for assistance.
- Wildfires dramatically change landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains, flash flooding and mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect the life you've built and to assure financial protection from future flooding.
The Santa Clara County Fire Department has launched a new product to help simplify evacuations called Zonehaven.
In the event of a wildfire or public safety emergency, fire department and law enforcement agencies will issue evacuation orders and other protective actions for impacted areas. Zonehaven is a web-based platform that provides real-time evacuation updates.
Zonehaven makes evacuations easy to understand, allowing you to determine evacuation status for your community, your neighborhood, and each individual address.
Search for your address and learn your Zone by visiting community.zonehaven.com.
Following are guidelines from Santa Clara County Fire Department on how to create and maintain effective defensible space zones:
- Remove all plants and vegetation, especially those touching your home.
- Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
- Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
- Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
- Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to block embers.
- Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.
- Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
- Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.
- Mandated for new construction
- Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).
- Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
- Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
- Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
- Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
- Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees. (See diagram below)
- Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees. (See diagram below)
- Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
- Remove dead plant and tree material.
- Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
- Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
- Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.
- Trees 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.
Over the last several years the Town Council has taken policy and budgetary actions to address the Town’s significant risk of wildfire. Of note, the following recent actions were taken:
October - December 2020: Town Council approved the creation of a Town Council Ad Hoc Committee to study wildfire mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The Committee studied a broad variety of wildfire mitigation policy and project options to improve the Town’s wildfire resiliency. The Committee examined best practices of similar WUI communities, lessons learned from recent fires, and other relevant areas of wildfire science. Ad Hoc Wildfire Committee Report.
June 2020: Council budget actions include:
- $250,000 toward 11 miles of roadside fuel reduction in the WUI
- $1.5 million toward rehabilitating portions of Shannon Road
- $500,000 toward ecological assessment and first year of fuel removal in Town owned open space
- Town of Los Gatos Roadway Vegetation Management Plan
April 2020: Council authorizes the sale of property at Winchester and Lark to the Santa Clara County Fire District. Transaction sets the stage for County Fire to build a state-of-art fire station at the location and house significant wildfire fighting equipment in Town.
January 2020: Town Council takes several actions:
- Amends Chapter 9 (Fire Protection and Protection) of the Town Code and adopts a 5 foot nonflammable zone requirement around new structures in the WUI. Council also adopts language which require defensible space beyond property lines in certain circumstances.
- Amends Chapter 11 (Garbage, Refuse, and Weeds) of the Town Code and increases required weed abatement along roadways from 5 feet to 10 feet.
- Amends Chapter 29 (Tree Protection) of the Town Code and categorizes trees removed or maintained in the furtherance of defensible space as exceptions to tree protections.
- Amendment to Chapter 9, Chapter 11, and Chapter 29
November 2019: Town Council amends Chapter 11 (Garbage, Refuse, and Weeds) of the Town Code, expanding the definition of weeds.
October 2019: Town Council accepts Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Evacuation Assessment Report.
April 2019: Town adopts Annex 9 of the Santa Clara County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).