That was a big warning notice the eastern US got last August. You know what I mean -- the 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia. My question for everyone who felt the ground moving that day is: are you okay for next time, all prepared for what could be a really massive shaker?
I know some people will read this and think, "Is he loopy? There's a presidential campaign going on, big trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy is still dragging, and this guy is talking about earthquakes?"
That reaction is normal and pretty much explains why so many people have trouble getting ready for "the big one." Good intentions end up being pushed aside by a parade of other issues that dominate the daily headlines.
No criticism intended. Hey, when it comes to being unprepared, I'm the poster man. I've lived on the west coast my entire life, experienced numerous geological events, and my level of readiness for the big one is still just slightly above zero.
There's always a spike in public concern about this topic right after a major event like the August quake. The news media is filled with stories about "making a family emergency plan" and "what supplies every household should have." I appreciate the advice every time, and can truthfully say I now keep several flashlights on hand, plus some bottles of water.
But moving beyond this first step has been an ongoing, embarrassing struggle. The process of disaster planning is to assume and then address worst-case scenarios, and once you start listing the possibilities, the task of preparing for all of them gets complicated.
Packing a box with a few more basic supplies is my next goal, but where should it be stored? Any part of your home, or all of it, might collapse in a major quake. It's probably a good idea to disperse supplies into multiple locations throughout the house, or even build a shed for them in the backyard.
A giant quake could strike while you're out driving, so it makes sense to get the car prepped to serve as a mobile survival pod. Should you keep a small tent in the trunk, and a camp stove? Now we're looking at two supply lists.
Children add extra calculations into the equation. If they're at school when the big one rolls through, you need a plan for retrieving them. Should you coordinate with other parents to do a group pick-up? What plan does the school have for allowing students to leave?
Do you have pets to deal with? Elderly relatives in the area who depend on you? As you try to sketch out the disaster blueprint, it's hard to set any boundary lines. And with each day that goes by quake-free the potential danger feels less urgent. The news cycle moves on. Your attention shifts to other issues that seem more important. It's a pattern I know well.
One of my resolutions for 2012 is to improve the household readiness, even if it just means buying an extra propane tank for the barbecue and some more bottles of water. Of course, I had the same intentions last year and didn't follow through. But this time I'm positively determined to make some real, measurable progress. I can almost guarantee it. Maybe.
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