Natural disasters happen. This is simply one of the more disturbing facts of life. In 2005, the mass devastation sustained by New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina made us all wake up.
But as the city’s broken levies were repaired, and the spirit of its natives began to heal, many of us, again, let down our guard, and forgot about Mother Nature’s awesome power. But is this in our best interest?

As we have seen in years past, and recently in Japan, the failure to take precautionary measures against hazards seen and unseen can have dire consequences.

The following steps will help you prepare for California emergencies:

Make a Plan
After a major disaster, it is unlikely that emergency response services will be able to immediately handle everyone’s needs, so it’s important to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Plan to be on your own for at least the first 72 hours.

The following steps will help you prepare for any emergency:
Designate an out-of-area contact person. Try to select someone who is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency. Provide this person with the names and contact information of the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Instruct family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Long distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.

Duplicate important documents and keep copies away from your home, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include: passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, marriage license and prescriptions.

* Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.
* Make a household/family plan (including escape routes, rendezvous points, traveling arrangements etc.)
* Put together a disaster supply kit (water, canned goods, flashlight, radio, blankets etc.). Plan to have supplies for yourself and your family for at least three days following a disaster.
* When planning, consider the special needs of children, seniors or people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English and pets.

What to do in case of a landslide:
Severe storms can cause landslides, flooding, uprooted trees, and downed utility lines. Call 3-1-1 for information on free sandbags to protect your property from flooding.

* Tune to KCBS 740 AM or local TV channels for emergency advisories and instructions.
* If water has entered a garage or basement, do not walk through it; it may contain hazardous materials.
* Do not try to drive over a flooded road. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately. Attempting to move a stalled vehicle in flood conditions can be fatal.
* Try not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you must walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
* Stay clear of water that is in contact with downed power lines.
* Do not allow children to play around high water, storm drains or any flooded areas.
* If you are asked to leave your property, disconnect all electrical appliances and shut off electric circuits. If advised by your local utility, shut off gas service as well

What to do in case of an Earthquake:
If you are indoors when shaking starts:
* If you are not near a strong table or desk, drop to the floor against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
* Avoid windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and cabinets filled with heavy objects.
* Do not try to run out of the structure during strong shaking.
* If you are downtown, it is safer to remain inside a building after an earthquake unless there is a fire or gas leak. Glass from high-rise buildings does not always fall straight down; it can catch a wind current and travel great distances.
* If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head with a pillow.
* Do not use elevators.
* If you use a wheelchair, lock the wheels and cover your head.
If you are outdoors when shaking starts:
* Move to a clear area, if you can safely walk. Avoid power lines, buildings and trees.
* If you’re driving, pull to the side of the road and stop. Avoid stopping under overhead hazards
* If you are on the beach, move to higher ground. An earthquake can cause a tsunami.
Once the earthquake shaking stops:
* Check the people around you for injuries; provide first aid. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger.
* Check around you for dangerous conditions, such as fires, downed power lines and structure damage.
* If you have fire extinguishers and are trained to use them, put out small fires immediately.
* Turn off the gas only if you smell gas.
* Check your phones to be sure they have not shaken off the hook and are tying up a line.
* Inspect your home for external and internal damage.
If you are trapped in debris:
* Move as little as possible so that you don’t kick up dust. Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
* Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort.

What to do in case of a fire
If your smoke alarm goes off or you see a fire:
* Remain calm and get out.
* If you see smoke under the door, find another way out.
* Feel the door with the back of your hand, before you open it. If it is hot, find another way out.
* Drop to the floor to avoid smoke and fumes. Crawl to safety.
* If your clothes catch on fire, stop where you are, drop to the ground and roll over and over to smother the flames.
* Call 9-1-1 from a safe location. Stay on the line until the operator hangs up.
* If you are trapped in a burning building, stay near a window and crouch close to the floor. If possible, signal for help.
* Do not go back inside the building unless instructed that it is safe to do so.