Editorial: Haiti quake cause for pause

The devastating tragedy in Haiti is yet another shocking and heartbreaking reminder of the destructive power of a high-magnitude earthquake — and of the urgent need to do as much as we can to prepare for them.

Here on the quake-prone Central Coast, where many of us grew up hearing ominous warnings about “the big one,” we have special reason to be hyper-aware of the dangers posed by earthquakes, and to feel a kinship with those who face similar dangers in other parts of the world.

Indeed, as news of the quake spread, we were already seeing a compassionate outpouring of local support for the victims of Haiti.

We commend efforts at every level — national, state and local — to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Haiti.

In addition to doing as much as we can to help the victims of this disaster, we also believe it’s incumbent on us to ensure that we’re doing all we can to protect ourselves and our families from death and injury in the event of a catastrophic quake here.

We aren’t implying that we would see the same level of destruction here in California that occurred in Haiti, where, according to news reports, buildings codes were lax or nonexistent.

But at the same time, we should not have a false sense of security.

We can’t assume that modern building codes and seismic strengthening efforts for commercial buildings — as commendable as those are — are blanket protection.

We urge everyone to review a safety checklist and make sure you’re up to date on the latest safety recommendations.

We know; you’ve seen these lists before — probably many, many times before.

Chances are, you glanced at them and set them aside, intending to get back to them some day.

Make today that day.

How to help

Here is a list of organizations accepting donations for victims of the quake in Haiti:

InterAction lists responding agencies and how to donate. Find it here: http://www.interaction.org/crisis-list/earthquake-haiti.

To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text Haiti to 90999. The amount will be added to your next phone bill. The organization is also accepting donations through its International Response Fund, www.redcross.org.

To donate $5 to Wyclef Jean’s Haitian Yele charity, text 501501. The money will be added to your next phone bill.

To find out how to help the International Rescue Committee, visit www.theIRC.org or call toll free, 1-877-REFUGEE.

To donate through Oxfam’s emergency appeal, visit www.oxfamamerica.org.

— Associated Press

How to prepare

Here are some tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; for a complete list of what to do before, during and after a quake, go to www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake.

Check for hazards in the home: Fasten shelves securely to walls; place large or heavy objects on lower shelves; store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass and china in low, closed cabinets with latches; repair deep cracks in ceilings or foundations; store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.

Identify safe places indoors and outdoors: Under furniture such as a heavy desk or table; against an inside wall; away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors or pictures, or where bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over; in the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses or elevated expressways.

Educate yourself and family members: Teach children how and when to call 911, police or fire, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information; teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water; have disaster supplies on hand — flashlight, extra batteries, portable battery-operated radio, first-aid kit, emergency food and water, nonelectric can opener, essential medicines, cash and credit cards, sturdy shoes.

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan: In case family members are separated, develop a plan for reuniting; ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address and phone number of the contact person.