Since I lived through the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, I have a pretty good sense of what the heck can happen when the earth decides to shake. I woke Katie up early for the big ShakeOut (because of class, we had to miss the 10:15 time) but it worked just the same.

For us, the “quake” hit at 8:30am, she was still in bed and her room was “wrecked” by the shaking. As we walked around and took in what might happen, we learned a few things.

1. Earthquake shaking is unpredictable.
Katie thought when we have an earthquake it would deliver a predictable, steady shake. But after watching a news report on KTVU, she realized the shaking would be pretty crazy. I think she’s better prepared now – at least on what not to expect!

2. Some places in our house are so much safer than others.
Looking around at what we have on the walls, our cupboards, shelving and more, we realized there are some places in the house that will really present a danger if the shaking is significant. The couch, our beds and under the island in the kitchen are probably the safest places to be!

3. There’s going to be a lot of stuff on the floor.
The corollary to number two is that if we really shake, there will be a lot of stuff on the floor. We like picture frames, glass and other knick knacks and we realize now, they will be flying around depending on which way the earth moves. I still remember all the stuff that flew out of the cupboards in 1989. I thought I would never get it all cleaned up (or own another wine glass!).

4. Putting on shoes is important.
Right after our “fake” earthquake, I pointed at all the fake stuff on Katie’s floor and told her shoes would be her best friend. In 1989, I never saw so much broken stuff. I wore shoes all the time for a month. I told her to always put on shoes before venturing out – even in the house – if she sees that things have flown off shelves.

5. We don’t keep our cell phones in a “regular” place.
In theory, our phones would have flown across the room. We would never have found them in the debris. Even in moderate shaking, an adrenaline rush is likely to make us airheads. We realized we don’t keep our phones in predictable locations. We will need to change that behavior right away.

6. We need to post a list of important phone numbers.
We used to have it posted before our remodel, but I haven’t put one back up. Katie doesn’t know who to call if she needs help (not that she could if the phone lines were down). But if the phones worked but we needed help, I need to have a list of important numbers for her by the land line. I am on it.

7. We need to expect aftershocks.
I kept the morning moving by announcing “aftershocks” as we made our way around the debris. She didn’t realize they would come that soon (or not) and that they could be strong. I emphasized that she’d already be very worked up from adrenaline and that clear thinking was her greatest ally. I think she got it.

8. Neighbors are important.
In one scenario, we talked about the chance I got hurt and she’d be on her own to get help. She remembered our usual plan – get a neighbor. We have some great ones and I am glad she knows they are available to help her if we get stuck.

9. Everyone needs to know where the fire extinguisher lives.
In the midst of everything, I told her a spark had caused an electrical fire near the microwave. She knew just what to do – grabbed the fire extinguisher and aimed. Good kid! I was relieved to know she knew where it was and how to use it!

10. Our extended family has no communication plan.
Perhaps the most embarrassing part of this whole thing. We are third generation Californians. All told, we have collectively lived through dozens of small, medium and even large earthquakes. But we don’t have our familial act together. I think we finally agreed on an out of state contact, now we just need to get our plan formalized. That’s our homework.

This was an excellent event. But it was only as good as you were willing to make it. For us, it was a real eye opener. I have a lot of work to do to get things in order. Just having our emergency kit, radio and light aren’t enough. We need to do more. But I feel much better even knowing what we need to work on. Thank you Great California ShakeOut!