A loss for earthquake preparedness


Damage after the Nisqually quake

By Vienna Catalani

I was 10 years old, sitting in a bathtub with three dogs, covered by a cardboard box. My parents had gone out, and couldn't return home as the weather had turned suddenly, a tornado was on its way, and they had to seek shelter.

I remember talking to them on the phone and feeling concerned that I should go to the closet instead. Tables were a no go as they're too close to the windows, and just as I was debating making the move, the electricity went out.

Everything turned out fine. A few palm trees fell in our backyard, and the windows in the garage had blown out. My parents made it home and we all went out with our lives.

Whenever disaster strikes, I'm always taken back to that moment in the tub. I wished then for an emergency kit and a special room that was somehow disaster proof. I vowed I would have such a place when I grew up, but little did I know I'd move to the Northwest. While hurricanes and tornadoes are scary and tragic, at least you have warning and can plan for them.

Earthquakes are a different story. When will it hit? Will my dog be okay? Am I ready if it does hit? Answers: Unpredictable, hopefully, and no. "Okay, so let's regroup," I tell myself. What can I plan for? I can plan for the aftermath like I would a hurricane: appropriate food and water provisions, a hand cranked radio, candles, matches, flashlights, blankets, sweater, etc. 

I live in a tiny apartment on Queen Anne hill. Where do I store this sort of stuff? Under the bed with my winter clothes? What if I'm not even at home? What happens to my little corgi, Ramona? Miss Ramona is scared of thunderstorms, I can only imagine how she'll fair in an earthquake. I imagine when it hits, I will sprint from work to my apartment and make sure she's okay. Hmm, that seems rather idealistic.

To top things off, I live with an engineer. I live, with a geeky boy who loves to watch Discovery Channel and subject me to shows portraying horrible disasters like, say, last night's earthquake themed show. Specifically, the Cascadia Fault. Awesome.

So, like any millennial would do, I turned to the Internet and after scouring dozens of sites, came across a great resource: 72hours.org. I kind of love this site, it's even in Espanol! It breaks down what to do in any disaster, and also breaks it down by who you're preparing for. I definitely feel better prepared mentally, but I still need to go out and get all this stuff.

I'm also on a shoe-string budget. I've decided today I'm going to collect what I already own and put it in a container under the bed. Anytime I see a sale on say, candles or batteries, maybe I'll pick some up. I've also decided to make sure everything in my home is secure, like, say, my 75lb frame that's held up by a few tiny nails.

Maybe I'm over doing it. I just don't want to be one of those otherwise sane people looting stores because I've lost my mind. I also try to quell my fears by enforcing the fact that it probably won't be as bad as Port au Prince, and honestly, I'll only have to deal with a ransacked apartment and rubble. But, you never know. (Cue scary music here.)

How do Northwesterners prepare for this? I'm skeptical that any person in their early 20s has an emergency kit, and if they do, it was probably something their parents gave them. In any route, I'd love to see your thoughts on how you have or haven't prepared for an earthquake here, and would love to know what sort of damage you think would happen, and if my fears are unnecessary.

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