Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This story in the New Yorker about "the really big one", the earthquake that is predicted to hit the Seattle area sometime in the future, lit the Twitterverse on fire as soon as it was published.  It spawned other news stories, a BuzzFeed list, and even a Reddit IAmA thread.

The article was long (might want to get a fresh cup of coffee before you sit down to read it), but extremely well written (this quality of writing is getting more and more rare unfortunately) and very comprehensive (it hit on everything from the history of earthquakes to the scientific aspects of earthquakes to the human impact of earthquakes).  Bottom line, when the big one hits and you are anywhere in the vicinity (the vicinity being anywhere west of I5), you will probably die.  No one had ever put it quite like that before which is why it caused such an uproar.

At minimum 27,000 injured, 13,000 dead, no electricity for three to six months, no drinking water or sewage systems for one to three years, and no hospitals for three years or more.  Well when you put it like that...

So, what to do?  Move to the desert outside of Las Vegas?  That's one option.  Stay and pray?  I'm thinking that is the most common option.  Stay and hope your town/city/county/state has prepared to take care of you in such an event (fat chance), stay and work diligently to prepare yourself and your family for such an event?

If you are going to stay, you should probably choose option 4.  Here's how:

  • The "be prepared for 72 hours on your own" saying is crap.  Being prepared for two to six weeks on your own is more realistic.
  • What do you need to prepare for?  Multiple sources of water (and the ability to purify it), enough easy to prepare food to last a good long time (make sure you can get to it and it isn't buried in the rubble), earthquake-proof your house as much as possible (but be prepared to not live in our house after the earthquake lest it fall down around your ears), can you live without electricity for weeks or months?  Gas?  Cable TV?  Internet?  Cell service?
  • Do you have a method and a place to evacuate to?  And is your local higher ground high enough?
  • You are going to need money either to evacuate, pay for needed items after the event, pay your bills even if you aren't working (you have an emergency fund right?), etc.  And will this money be accessible? 
  • Do you have multiple modes of transportation?  One winter storm in the Pacific Northwest can block off a community for months if a bridge goes down.  It is only with a concerted effort by multiple agencies that the (few) people this happens to can get out of their community to get to work and get groceries (note this often involves a lot of walking and teetering on ladders and temporary bridge-like structures; cars become unusable).  In the case of a large-scale event, people will be on their own.
  • Medical care will be the most problematic.  If you will even have any sort of medical care available is unknown (probably not).
  • Can you protect yourself, your family, and your provisions?  In small communities people often band together after a major disaster, but in any community, large or small, there are always criminals who won't hesitate to take what they want from you and/or take advantage of the situation.
  • You will need to be flexible, creative, and inventive.  By studying other disasters, you will get an idea of the skills needed to survive "the really big one".  Here's some good places to start (here, here, and here).

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