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Learning from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: Getting Prepared for the Next Natural Disaster

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(ARA) – The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire revealed how vulnerable urban landscapes are to the brutal effects of natural disasters. The quake which struck at 5:13 a.m. was comparable to 8.5 on today’s Richter scale and lasted more than 40 seconds. The destruction was unprecedented: thousands were killed and the four-day fire left more than half the city’s residents homeless.

One of the businesses affected was Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company – its San Francisco headquarters and all of its records were destroyed in the fire. Yet, by paying out a combination of cash and stock in a newly formed company, Fireman’s Fund honored all disaster-related claims, the only American insurer to do so. That legacy continues today – the company is recognized for its catastrophe management expertise, and it has renewed its founding social mission to support the fire service through its Fireman’s Fund Heritage program.

Because Fireman’s Fund has experienced disaster first-hand, educating consumers on basic preparedness is one of the company’s key priorities. According to a recent Insurance Information Network of California/Fireman’s Fund survey, 60 percent of Californians expect a devastating earthquake in the next five years but don’t see any real incentive in preparing themselves.

‘Clearly, it is critical for consumers to get better prepared for natural disasters — both physically and financially,’ says Chris Heidrick, vice president, Personal Insurance, Fireman’s Fund.

Fireman’s Fund’s Web site ( offers disaster preparedness tips. Consumers are encouraged to prepare with a few basic supplies and to make the necessary plans. Every household is different – and emergency supplies must address each household’s specific needs. Here are the essentials:

Basic Supplies

  • Extra clothing, including sturdy shoes and work gloves
  • Cooking supplies: a small camp stove, plates and utensils
  • Food: a large supply of canned and packaged goods
  • Manual can opener
  • Water: one gallon per person per day
  • Adequate foot and water for pets
  • First aid kit: include prescription drugs; replace prior to expiration dates
  • Sleeping bags or blankets
  • Flashlights
  • Portable radio
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Large trash bags to keep supplies dry (and for trash)
  • Liquid detergent, feminine, infant supplies, and toilet paper
  • Tools: especially, a large wrench to turn off gas
  • Cash
  • Insurance: homeowners and health insurance policy numbers and phone numbers
    Prepare an Emergency Plan
  • Map out and practice escape routes from your house
  • Pick a third party outside of your geographic area as a central telephone contact
  • Establish where to meet
  • Photograph or videotape your home and possessions
  • Learn where your gas valve, electrical panel and water valve are located, so you can turn them off, if needed
  • Turn on the radio
  • Avoid driving
Beyond these essentials, include items that will make isolation less depressing, especially for children, like candy or cards or copies of favorite books.

Courtesy of ARA Content