-Brian Atwater, geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington, to the Associated Press.
“The amount of devastation is going to be unbelievable… people aren’t going to be ready for this.”
-Rob Witter, coastal geologist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
"There is no question that centuries of pent-up stress in the Cascadia Subduction Zone will eventually cause the plates to slip in a cataclysmic way, but there is no way of telling if that will be in our lifetimes or centuries from now. It could happen tomorrow morning, or it could happen in another 100 years."
Quotes taken from Truth or Hype: Is Seattle Really at Risk for a Devastating Earthquake?
To me, "The Big One" is right up there with aliens landing on earth. It's a distinct possibility, but nothing has ever officially happened and how do you prepare for something like that anyway?
Now that I've decided to prepare, to what extreme should I go? Should I keep a couple cans of extra tuna in the pantry, or should I dig a bunker in the back yard?
I looked at three distinct groups of people to determine the best Earthquake Prep steps for me and my family.
1) Californians- they've been dodging earthquakes forever and they have their act together when it comes to preparation beforehand and an immediate plan of action during and after.
2) Mormons/ Latter Day Saints- The LDS community had always been taught to be self-reliant in times of "adversity." Adversity is a nice, generic term, which in this case, will apply to earthquakes.
3) Doomsday Preppers- This TV show on National Geographic explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Unique in their beliefs, motivations, and strategies, preppers will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.
Before I executed my earthquake preparation plan, I had to address my lingering questions, do some research and make an educated guess at the answers to my own Q and A.
FAQs (Asked by me, then Answered by me, my research and the Internets.)
Q. How big will the quake be?
A. Freakin' BIG. It will be one of the highest ever recorded, as the "Cascadia Fault (or Cascadia subduction zone, to use the more precise term) runs just off the coast from the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island past Seattle and Portland down to northern California. Scientists believe this tectonic fault is capable of creating extremely large earthquakes, topping 9.0 on the Richter scale, and that there is about a 40% chance of such a mega-quake happening in the next 50 years." (Sourced from "Is Seattle Ready for a Major Earthquake?") A quake of this magnitude may last around five minutes.
Q. Will the house fall down?
A. Probably not. My house was built in 1998. The real question is, will food stored indoors be accessible? Will I be able to collect my clothing, boots and contact lenses? If you live in a brick house, move, cause it's coming down. Or just go outside when The Big One hits.
Q. What if we're not home when it happens?
A. Start walking. Some Californians have their 72-hour kit (more on this below) in their car, along with a compact bicycle to ride home. The likelihood of you being somewhere that can accomodate you for three days until help comes is foolishly optimistic. If you can't walk home, make a plan now, to make a plan for a disaster.
Q. What about the kids?
A. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Keep a 72-hour kit in your car, one per person.
Q. How long will we be stranded?
A. Supposedly, federal aid should come in at least 72 hours. Local aid, by police and the fire department may take a couple days, as communication and well, everything will be in utter chaos. People will need to rely on each other and I'd rather have people relying on me, than the other way around.
- Keep a 72-Hour Kit in their car
- Keep their emergency stash "off-site" or out of their homes. Some people use their garage or an out-building on their property.
- Have a plan. They know what they're going to do when they hear the deep rumblings of the earth.
- Keep three months worth of food, by always having more than they need. Usually this much food can't fit in a pantry and so it spills out into one bay of the garage. They eat from their stock pile and rotate through, to keep it fresh. Some people even have a long-term 30-year food supply, by storing wheat, rice and beans.
- Are organized and have procedures in place to account for everyone and offer assistance if needed.
- Offer resources today for families who are trying to keep food for tomorrow.
- Perform emergency drills annually and create mock "what if" situations.
- Believe that within 24 hours of a catastrophic event, most people will have run out of food and will be desperate to find what they need for their family.
- Store years worth of food, seeds to plant their own food, keep lots of guns and ammunition
- Are fully prepared to live outside of society and be self-sustaining for a long time, possibly forever.
But I digress...
My Seattle Earthquake Paranoia Plan of Action!
What I chose and why I chose it.
My "Off-site Earthquake Kit" is going into my garden shed in case the house falls down. I'm keeping water (Rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person, per day), some high-protein foods with a year+ shelf-life (clif bars, peanut butter, beef jerkey, almonds...), a PreparePack full of who-knows-what (First Aid stuff and a water purification system?), one outfit, eye glasses and a pair of old shoes... okay, I admit it, I also packed toothbrushes and a little toofpaste... and some baby shampoo.
Inside my house, I'll keep more shelf-stable food than usual in the pantry.
In my car, I have another PreparePack full of who-knows-what, two gallons of water and and Go-Bag.
Go-Bag (from 72Hours.org)
A component of your 72-hour Kit (below) is your Go-bag. Put the following items together in a backpack or another easy to carry container in case you must evacuate quickly. Prepare one Go-bag for each family member and make sure each has an I.D. tag. You may not be at home when an emergency strikes so keep some additional supplies in your car and at work, considering what you would need for your immediate safety.
- Radio – battery operated
- Dust mask
- Pocket knife
- Emergency cash in small denominations and quarters for phone calls
- Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat
- Local map
- Some water and food
- Permanent marker, paper and tape
- Photos of family members and pets for re-identification purposes
- List of emergency point-of -contact phone numbers
- List of allergies to any drug (especially antibiotics) or food
- Copy of health insurance and identification cards
- Extra prescription eye glasses, hearing aid or other vital personal items
- Prescription medications and first aid supplies
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Extra keys to your house and vehicle
- Any special-needs items for children, seniors or people with disabilities. Don’t forget to make a Go-bag for your pets.
72-hour Kit (from 72Hours.org)
After a major disaster the usual services we take for granted, such as running water, refrigeration, and telephones, may be unavailable. Experts recommend that you should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days. Store your household disaster kit in an easily accessible location. Put contents in a large, watertight container (e.g. a large plastic garbage can with a lid and wheels) that you can move easily.
Your basic emergency kit should include:
- Water – one gallon per person per day
- Food – ready to eat or requiring minimal water
- Manual can opener and other cooking supplies
- Plates, utensils and other feeding supplies
- First Aid kit & instructions
- A copy of important documents & phone numbers
- Warm clothes and rain gear for each family member.
- Heavy work gloves
- Disposable camera
- Unscented liquid household bleach and an eyedropper for water purification
- Personal hygiene items including toilet paper, feminine supplies, hand sanitizer and soap
- Plastic sheeting, duct tape and utility knife for covering broken windows
- Tools such as a crowbar, hammer & nails, staple gun, adjustable wrench and bungee cords.
- Blanket or sleeping bag
- Large heavy duty plastic bags and a plastic bucket for waste and sanitation
- Any special-needs items for children,seniors or people with disabilities. Don’t forget water and supplies for your pets.
I checked Amazon for an emergency radio and the reviews were so frightening that I didn't want to pay for anything that wouldn't work. During this supposed earthquake, I'll have to rely on rumors and fear-mongers for information.
Also, please remember, dear readers, that I live inland. I'm not prepping for a tsunami. I'm worried about having potable water, food and shelter for my family and since my husband scoffs at my request for Earthquake insurance, I'm readying my family for life without water, heat, natural gas, electricity... and plumbing.
If you live in Seattle, PLEASE read: 72Hours.org It's an awesome, simple Earthquake Prep site.
Now that I'm prepared as much as I care to be, I can put Earthquake Preparedness to rest and get back to my life. I know I've done as much as I can to ready myself, and it's time to move on.
Although I was a little embarrassed to write this post, thus revealing my Seattle earthquake paranoia, I decided to go ahead with it, with the hope that other, well-adjusted people will take the time, money and energy to prepare a disaster kit or plan for their family. Worst case, just have some water, beef jerky and a first aid kit out in the garage and in your trunk.
If you need another kick in the pants to get started on your own disaster kit, know this: You need to get your act together and prepare for yourself because it's your job to be responsible for you and your family. The government will not be able to help for at least a couple days and you (presumably) don't want to be "that guy" breaking into a neighbor's house for food, because when people feel threatened, things turn nasty quickly.
Here's more about My Seattle Earthquake Paranoia on Pinterest.
That's all. xoxox