Tuesday, January 12, 2010


(click on the above pictures to see complete maps)
So Haiti had a big one...7.3. It sounds like it was just awful...and a tsunami could still be happening. A hospital has collapsed, houses have been tossed into ravines, and who know what it is like there right now as I type.

Lately I've been having earthquake buzz brain. Lately I find myself checking the news, checking the quake maps. My parents live right on top of a major fault line in San Diego; we live on another major fault line in Utah, and memories of the 9.2 "Good Friday" Alaskan earthquake of 1964 and Santa Cruz area earthquake of the late 1980's still leave me with a sense of awe at what the earth can do.

The Alaskan earthquake had a rippling effect down the western United States coastline. My husband remembers being in Washington state and watching a school bus rattle on the road, then tip over.
I remember being evacuated.

It was the first time I had to consider what I would take with me on a moment's notice. Later I got to think through the question when evacuation due to a storm was required. (I quickly learned that I actually could not take all my photo albums!)

Since then my thinking has enlarged: not only do I consider what I would take with me in a car at a moment's notice (think wild fire, toxic spill), I also think about what I would take if I couldn't take a car. I think about what I would need to stay put for awhile without access to water or grocery store goods. I think about what those scenes would be like in summer and winter. I think about what it would be like to flee or stay in cases of natural disasters, and also menacing situations involving people.

I think about what Bernie and I and the cats would need in each situation.

My girlfriend lived through the 6.5 earthquake known as Loma Prieta. Her neighborhood clung together, cooking outside, and waiting for word from loved ones. She marveled that she had just come in one door and not another, as the other doorway usage would have had her being hit by a falling chandelier. Everyone was glad they could come together over outside barbeques as they cooked up the contents of their now useless freezers.

I saw the damaged freeways, and the impassible areas. When someone said "you can't get there from here" they really meant it.

Bernie and I have had quite a few conversations over the past few years about evacuations and isolation. Just in case you are interested, here are some of the things we have learned:

1. Have a rolling suit case filled with necessities.
(It is really hard to think clearly in an emergency. Don't wait to think through and assemble this until the moment it is needed...you will forget important items! Stock the case way ahead of need.)

Include a few hundred dollars in small bills; in a crisis situation stores will not be able to use
plastic card readers or make change.
Have a list ready of things that you will need to grab: medicine, family heirlooms/jewelry, camera chips (I never wipe my chips now...I know I can carry chips but not necessarily my computer or albums)
Have key phone numbers and addresses and significant papers (birth certificate, passport, deeds, bank acct numbers) listed and stowed in waterproof bags. Make copies, then add the originals to the list of things to grab.
Have DETAILED maps of the area up to 100 miles. Trust me: Main road gridlock in emergencies, only knowing alternate routes will enable to you get out with minimum gas usage.
Have basic hygiene kits: waterless cleaners, soap, toothbrush/paste, sunscreen, pain killers, band aids, anti-infection creams, toilet paper....
Water purification tablets
Matches, flashlight, candles
Can opener
Some high calorie dense foods that are small.
Work gloves. Duct tape. Cap with bill. Extra socks, underwear.
You can find various lists on the Internet...and it is interesting to compare what is suggested.
If possible, ask if you can have a two month supply of all prescriptions. One goes in the roll on, and rotates with each prescription fill.

Once you figure out what you think you would absolutely need to survive in an evacuation situation, pack your rolling case. Add food, pet food if desired. Add a back pack for each person.

Check to see make sure you can lift the case into your car. (No guarantee that the man of the house will be home when the need arises.) If needed, you can unpack and repack once you have lifted the case.

Add sleeping bag, more clothes, more food, more water...etc etc.

Once the absolute necessities of the case is loaded, you can add to the load until you must leave. Remember...gridlock happens. Evacuation spaces fill. Don't be the last one out of Dodge!

2. Have a backpack filled with necessities.
This is a subset of what is in the rolling case. Figure out how much you can actually carry on your back. Make a list; store the list in the rolling case. If the roads are shot, you might have to hike out. You might be able to bike out (motor or pedal power) in which case a back pack is your best bet.

3. Have supplies for at least a week in your house.
Water, food, meds.
Think about doing without power.
Think about doing without water.
Think seasonally: what if it was winter? Summer?

That scenario isn't too troubling...until you stretch it a bit. Water isn't just for drinking. Think about it for a bit. How will toileting be managed? Washing bodies and utensils?
How would it be to be without power or water for a month? Could you stay, or would you needd to leave? Where could you go?

Or what if where you are was inaccessible for a month? Washed out roads...broken roads...

Remember: If you don't have power, neither does the grocery store or any place else that supplies goods and services. If you can't get out...don't plan on anyone getting to you anytime soon.

Kansas City has just one of many emergency plan out in cyberland. You can look at their guidelines here.

How crazy could it get with an earthquake situation? I remember reading about how Alaska had the earth split open, houses would fall deep into the opening and the split would close, the house never to be seen again.

The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were felt over 50,000 miles, and cause the Mississippi River to run backwards from Louisiana, the shaking rang church bells as far away as Boston and the rattling was felt from Louisiana to Toronto Canada. It is felt that the quakes would have registered at 8.2.

The fault that shook back then is still being monitored, and geologists have reason to think that it could shake again at any time...only this time it will impact major cities instead of unsettled areas. In the next 50 years there is a 25-40% chance of a 6.0 earthquake occurring in the same now densely populated area.

Between ice storms, fire storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods (dam failures happen...) electrical grid break downs, water treatment plant failures, toxic spills, economic/political turmoil...well, not to sound like an End Times gloom and doomer, but really... stuff happens.

Personally, I'd rather be one of the prepared people. I'd rather be someone helping, instead of needing help.

And if you live in a rural area and figure you are pretty safe?
Think a minute about where all the people in the big city closest to you will be going if an emergency hits.

It can happen. I saw it happen personally. You may be suddenly called upon to shelter a family in need. There just are not enough hotels in any area to house everyone from one city.

Are you ready for that?

Maybe you could be.

Personally, I think we all should be...as much as we are able.


Vicki said...

Good preparation advice for any emergency, Jill. I was just thinking this afternoon that perhaps we should think along these lines. With the below-freezing weather that we've had here in Florida for the past week plus, the citrus and berry farmers have been keeping the water sprinklers going (ice actually protects the fruit). By doing this, they're actually draining the aquifers, which leaves underground air pockets. In turn, five confirmed sinkholes and one yet undetermined sinkhole have opened up within a 50-mile radius of where I live since yesterday. So far, they've swallowed trees and roads and storage buildings, but no homes so far. Of course, we're used to thinking along these lines during active hurricane seasons, but Floridians tend to forget that we're very susceptible to tornadoes and even earthquakes (Haiti isn't all that far from Florida, after all!)

Thanks for all of the great info, Jill. Time to get ready.

Lovella ♥ said...

I was so sad to see yet another already improvished country with so little torn apart at the seams. So many orphans are there already .. oh so sad.
I am so impressed with your readiness. I'm not nearly as organized as you in this area.
One thing to think about too especially in your situation with family here and there. ..give everyone a central number to call in case of emergencies . .someone in another location all together.

Islandsparrow said...

Terrible news about Haiti.

You have some great info there. We don't have earthquakes here although we've had severe blizzards and hurricanes.

You were asking about Paint.net compared to Picasa - it has more functionality. It's more like Photo Shop - although not as complicated. There are a number of tutorials and a very helpful forum as well. All in all, a good deal for a free product.

Elizabeth G. said...


I just found your blog. I live near SLC in Sandy. I have been thinking a lot about what would happen in a potential quake here. I've lived back East through hurricanes that left us without power for many days. An earthquake would be worse. I'm trying to be prepared for such a disaster here.

Do you have a shop where you sell your hats? I love hats, but no one I know wears them here.