Homecare staff, managers, clients and emergency partners practice for senior emergency preparedness

Growing up in Los Angeles, I vividly remember experiencing frightening earthquakes. One distinct memory that stands out is a morning before school, where a booming noise and shaking prompted me to dart into the doorway of our home, as we were taught to do in the 1980’s.

Senior emergency preparedness during an earthquake
Seismograph printing seismic activity records of a severe earthquake.

Turns out, the doorway is not the strongest part of the house, and experts now say running to straddle the doorway is the wrong course of action.  

That’s one of the lessons to be learned as part of senior emergency preparedness, and quality home care companies practice senior emergency preparedness at least annually.

In the event of an earthquake, the new best practice for seniors and everyone else is to:

Drop, Cover, Hold on!

Drop, Cover and Hold On for Senior Emergency Preparedness
Drop, cover, hold sign during earthquake

Or for someone in a wheelchair or who uses a walker, to:

Lock, Cover and Hold On!

For senior emergency preparedness, someone in a wheelchair needs to lock, cover and old on during an earthquake.
Closeup shot of an unrecognizable man sitting in a wheelchair

The reason for the change is research showing people often can’t see well, can’t hear well and can’t keep their balance during an earthquake, so dropping where you are is the safest action to avoid injury. Also, it’s not recommended that people run outside, another common previous practice that has been debunked by statistical reviews of earthquake injuries.

Every year that there isn’t a real emergency, such as a wildfire, earthquake, or pandemic like COVID-19, At Home Nursing Care participates in an emergency drill.  With the emergency pandemic portion of COVID-19 winding down, our home care agency this year is is focusing on practicing our preparedness for a major earthquake.

Each year we participate in the Great California Shake Out.  We invite all our clients and community members to join us.  We will be practicing Drop, Cover and Hold On, or Lock Cover and Hold On, along with testing our emergency procedures.

Here are seven steps to take to prepare for an earthquake.

And here are Key Earthquake Accessibility Tips for those who are bed bound, using a walker or wheelchair.

One issues with every emergency is communication, as phone lines or power may be lost.  Our in home care agency protocol is for caregivers/nurses to simply send a text to our hotline number to indicate their status, the status of the client and whether anything is needed.  If a caregiver must evacuate with a client and can’t reach anyone, our protocol is for the caregiver to at least leave a note on the refrigerator of the home indicating they’ve left with the client.

Each client has an emergency plan, completed by a registered nurse upon admission to our homecare agency – and those plans will be reviewed with the clients that day to make sure the plans are understood and still relevant. 

Also, this year, we are focusing on tsunami risk.  A tsunami is a series of long-period sea waves caused by earthquakes or a volcanic eruption.   More than two dozen tsunamis have been recorded in San Diego since 1806 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). (see list).

Our main office is located 1.5 miles from the coast in Encinitas, so we’ve checked the tsunami risk map and we know our exit route is to take Encinitas Boulevard east.

picture of At Home Nursing Care office during senior emergency preparedness drill.
The Importance of Senior Emergency Preparedness 6

 The highest danger areas of Encinitas include Moonlight Beach, which is just west of our office, and the low-lying areas of Cardiff.   Our office is in a regular risk area.   Clients and employees should take the time to view their risk level online.  You can do that here.

The At Home Nursing Care Culver City branch office is located inland and is at low risk of Tsunami.

What to do in case of a Tsunami? 

Senior emergency preparedness during a tsunami.
tsunami danger sign

According to Holly Crawford, San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services Director, “If the earth shakes for 20 seconds, that’s a really significant earthquake. You need to leave the coast, go to a place that’s at least 100 feet above sea level or two miles inland if you can’t evacuate vertically.”

If surfing:

Do not try to surf tsunami waves. These waves are not like normal San Diego waves-you can’t duck dive under them. The current will drag you along with it and smash you into whatever is in its path. Get out of the water and follow the general guidelines below.

If boating:

According to the NOAA, if you are on the water, less than 100 fathoms (600 ft) deep, and you can’t get to shore and safety within 10 minutes of a local quake, pull up your anchor, cut your lines (if necessary), and head to an area deeper than 100 fathoms.

Proceed perpendicular to the shore

Sail directly into wind waves, keeping in mind that wind waves opposed by tsunami currents will be greatly amplified.

Maintain as much separation as possible from other vessels.

Synchronize movements with other vessels to avoid collisions.

If on shore:

Do not go to watch the waves from the beach, or piers. Multiple people have been swept into the sea and drowned.

Know your evacuation routes. Signs have been posted all over San Diego County to help direct traffic, however it’s best to have a plan ahead of time.

For more information on The Great California Shake Out, click here.