1. Why fire and earthquake preparedness together? Aren't they two completely different things?
No! The biggest threats to people's safety immediately after a significant earthquake are fires and explosions caused by escaping natural gas and downed power lines. Also, people living in residences where household members are fire safety-minded and who have a fire survival plan are much more likely to be earthquake prepared, as well.
2. What can we do to prepare for fires and/or explosions caused by earthquakes?
Have a household escape plan showing two emergency exits from every bedroom (usually a door and a window) and a family meeting place outside well away from the structure. This escape plan would also be useful in case of a gas leak inside your home with or without a fire.
Practice your home escape plan twice a year with home fire drills. They could be combined with earthquake drills, as well, in which household members would identify potentially hazardous areas of the home and practice duck-and-cover techniques in the designated "safe" areas.
Have a working smoke alarm installed on the ceiling of the hallway outside bedrooms; and, be sure to test it monthly. (Note: if you have an electric smoke alarm, please consider purchasing a battery-powered back-up detector, as well.)
Have multipurpose (A:B:C-rated) fire extinguishers on hand in your kitchen, garage, and vehicle. When a major earthquake occurs, water and sewer lines will often be broken. Unless you have multipurpose fire extinguishers handy, you will be unable to put out the most common type of fires -- ordinary combustibles (type "A" fires), which include wood, paper, plastics, cardboard, rubber, dry vegetation, fabrics, etc.
Use only battery-powered flashlights and lanterns for emergency lighting. Candles, as open flames, are too dangerous to use safely, and, could even cause an explosion if there's a gas leak!
3. What can we do to prepare for earthquakes?
Make sure that at least one person in your household knows first-aid and C.P.R.
Keep a minimum of five-days-worth of emergency food and water on hand for all household members, including pets.
Have additional emergency supplies handy including: a mechanical can-opener; first-aid kit; extra trash bags (to line toilets and dispose of human waste); flashlights and batteries; paper cups, napkins and toilet paper; spare supplies of medicine for those taking prescription medications; a battery-powered radio; an approved camp stove; and extra blankets. It's a good idea to sleep with a pair of sturdy shoes and a flashlight within easy reach as well as emergency clothing that includes heavy socks and jacket. Emergency supplies are best stored down low in cool, dark places.
Select an out-of-area emergency contact person whom every member of your household can call for information on other household members should they become separated during an emergency.
Discuss a disaster plan with your neighbors. You could be dependent on one another for help for three days or longer after a major earthquake. It could take emergency workers that long to reach your particular neighborhood to render aid.