Showing posts with label earthquake preparedness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label earthquake preparedness. Show all posts

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love yourself, check your supplies

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day around these parts. I think it's a silly holiday, though I do enjoy the extra chocolate that seems to pop up at work. I was thinking about what this silly stupid holiday could be good for and I thought about emergency preparedness.

A year ago we had a dinner party to celebrate the anniversary of the Cascadia quake. It was really fun but I think we scared the shit out of our guests. This year Greg had the brilliant idea to do zombie preparedness instead. I could still harp on people to be prepared for emergencies but within the safety of a discussion about how awesome The Walking Dead is.

In the course of the evening I found out one of my friends doesn't own a fire extinguisher and I proceeded to harangue her ALL night. I am the worst hostess ever. We played a round of Zombo, which is just like Bingo except it hopefully inspires a feeling of panic in those who don't have emergency supplies at home.

So how about this year we check our emergency supplies instead of trying to get a reservation for that restaurant that will charge you twice what it would on any other night? Maybe you can eat that canned food that's going to expire soon. The list above is by no means complete, but it's a great start.

So this is your gentle reminder: give your sweetheart a real gift and check your emergency supplies. If nothing else, when you see the valentines candy at the grocery store, I want you to think "disaster."

Your fire extinguishers: are they still within their expiration dates? When natural disasters hit, emergency services get overwhelmed. Fires are very common after earthquakes/zombie attacks and the fire department may not be able to get to you. If you don't yet own a fire extinguisher, you can order one online or buy them at any hardware store.

Do you have a first aid kit? I'm not talking about the old box of band-aids in your bathroom cabinet. If something sharp fell on you (or your dog or your cat) and caused a deep gash, do you have supplies to staunch the bleeding? If emergency rooms are overwhelmed, do you have enough first aid supplies to take care of non-life threatening injuries?

Do you have enough food set aside for three days of meals? When we first started putting together our kit I thought, "We've got loads of food in our kitchen cabinets!" It turns out a lot of it (assuming we could get to it) wasn't ideal. We had a lot of pasta, which would require a stove, a pot, and precious water. Have you ever eaten black beans straight from the can? They don't taste very good. Instead we stocked up on baked beans, spaghetti-os, canned fruit, refried beans, and things that are edible straight from the can. This is the first time in my life that I bought processed, sugared peanut butter.

You may get caught in an emergency situation while in your car. Do you have supplies there? Remember after Katrina how the highways were like parking lots? You may need to hang out in your car for some time. Having some food and water, plus a small first aid kit would be a good idea. You can buy pre-made kits on Amazon (I don't make any money off of these Amazon links, I just don't like leaving the house).

Do you have spare food for your pets? What if a disaster strikes and you had planned to get food at the vet/store that day? Stores might now be closed or unreachable. Portland shuts down when there is one inch of snow on the ground. Even a minor disaster will likely bring us to our knees.

In our party bags this year we packed mylar blankets, twinkies, and glow sticks. My next goal for myself is to pack "go bags" for Greg and I. Ideally we'd have backpacks stuffed with extra clothes and basic supplies, in case the house was collapsing/on fire and we needed to grab it and go. I also need to get my bicycle in working condition.

Do I have everyone feeling sufficiently panicked? How about we calm down by looking at this photo from the recent snow.

Remember: Valentine candy = disaster. Delicious disaster.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Earthquake safety

This last Saturday was the 313th anniversary of the 1700 Cascadia earthquake. We had a blackout dinner party to commemorate and to encourage our friends to get ready for the next one. (I blatantly stole this theme from EmilyStyle, who hosts an annual party for the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It's a great theme.) We take dinner parties very seriously 'round here and I think we nailed this one.

The first rule of the night: candlelight only. You almost always lose electricity after a quake so you always want candles on hand.

I bought a 12 pack of wide-mouth mason jars and filled them with votives and scattered them around the house. Pro-tip: you need to keep the furnace lower than normal because you have warm bodies AND a bunch of open flames.

I love my friends because they absolutely commit to themes. We had people group into threes and fours and see what they had between them that would be useful in an emergency. Things like smart phones aren't as great when you have no cell service or electricity to charge them. The team that had a first aid kit, tools, and rope in their car, as well as large amounts of cash took that round.

I'm patting myself on the back because I'm finally figuring out how to make large meals without killing myself. We had brisket, rosemary potatoes, and the best kale salad. The brisket was prepped two days earlier in the crock pot, so I just popped it in the oven an hour before people arrived. Because we were using all candlelight I didn't worry about dusting. Who's going to notice? Appetizers were a cheese plate and frozen goodies from Trader Joe's. I even took a nap the afternoon of the party.

After dinner we played a bastardized version of Family Feud, with questions from the show ("Name an animal you hope never sits on you") as well as questions that we made up, like "Name a thing you should have in your emergency kit," and "Name something you should do immediately following an earthquake."

The winning team was rewarded with hard hats and the losers got Spam. Actually, everyone went home with a can of Spam. If that's not winning, I don't know what is. Then we had gingerbread cake and lemon cream ice cream. It was really fun.

But enough about party details. A lot of people living in the Pacific Northwest don't know that such a massive earthquake is due. The Cascadia subduction zone lies in the Pacific Ocean, where the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted by the North American plate. This is an area that stretches from Vancouver Island down to Northern California. The two plates are butting up against each other, building up pressure until one plate forces the other beneath it. This is what's known as a megathrust earthquake. The recent devastation in Japan was from a megathrust earthquake. The 2004 Indonesian earthquake was a megathrust. These are massive earthquakes that cause shaking for 4-8 minutes. I was in the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake and it lasted an eternal 10 seconds. I can't imagine what 4-8 minutes of shaking is like.

Experts estimate that the zone triggers every 300-350 years. It has been 313 years, so we're due. There are some really terrifying articles about what to expect when it hits. The majority of our bridges are not expected to be left standing. Emergency crews will be overwhelmed and we'll largely be on our own. Cell reception will be non-existent.

My greatest fear is that the quake will hit while we're at work. Greg will be stranded downtown and I'll be stuck on the east side. It could take him weeks to get back to the east side of the river.

So what can we do? We can make sure that we have emergency supplies in our homes and cars. We can make sure we have a 72 hour supply of water, as well as a water purifier. We may be harvesting rainwater to drink. We can retrofit our houses so they stay on the foundation. Greg and I are getting bids for this now.

Most importantly, we need to know our neighbors. We may end up saving each other when the big one hits. This one is hard; Greg and I are shy and mostly wave at our neighbors.

Ayse at Casa Decrepit has a really great rundown of how they're preparing for a large quake. She mentions that your sewer or water lines may be severed, meaning you won't want to use your toilets. You'll need a shovel and an area in your backyard where you can dig a hole instead. I'd never thought about that.

Right now we're trying to figure out where to keep our emergency supplies. All of our water and camping supplies are in the basement, which is probably the worst place they could be. We may move our water supply to the garage, which would be easier (and less scary) to access, post-quake.

We have Spam, so at least we've got that going for us. Do you have an emergency kit? Are you preparing for the big one? Have I completely bummed you out?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earthquake preparedness

Man, have there been a lot of earthquakes lately or what?  Haiti, Chili, Mexicali, Spain . . . in Oregon we're right on the area where the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted by the North American plate.  Basically, two plates are pushing against the other, creating increasing pressure.  Eventually the pressure hits a crucial point and one plate jumps a little and moves over the other.  The North American plate is overtaking the Juan de Fuca plate and all that action is taking place along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

I love dropping this knowledge at parties. Before I went to library school I intended to become a geologist.  

They estimate large earthquakes happen because of this subduction every 300-500 years.  The last one, the Cascadia quake, caused a huge tsunami in Japan and widespread damage in the Pacific Northwest.  It took place in 1700, so we're due.

I've been meaning to put safety straps on my water heater so it wouldn't fall over in the case of an earthquake.  I finally got around to buying the straps but then I was stymied by the cement walls in my basement.  I didn't want to create a potential water leak by drilling into the cement walls.  I decided this was one of those things I should hire out.  At the very least, if they make it leak I can call them and make them fix it until it's right.

I used Neil Kelly and the carpenter they sent out was absolutely the NICEST skilled laborer I've had at the house (and I've had some really nice ones).  He waterproofed the bolt holes with some sort of tar-like substance.  He also cut PVC piping to measure so the water heater wouldn't rock and hit the wall.  I definitely wouldn't have thought to do that.

All told it took an hour and $105 to complete.  Since I was already down there I decided to finally flush the water heater.  They recommend doing it once a year to get rid of the sediment that builds up at the bottom of the tank.  You just cut the power, grab a bucket, and open the valve at the bottom.

Commence brown yuckiness!

Here's to hoping all this is unnecessary and that the big one doesn't hit for another 100 years, hopefully after we've retrofitted all the bridges in Portland!