New Orleans had her Katrina. New York had her 9/11. Houston has her Harvey. No matter where you live, there is some disaster that can put all others to shame, some event so upending that you will always remember what you were doing when this thing happened.
Lets call this your Zombie Apocalypse Scenario.
The Centers for Disease Control actually put out a Zombie Survival Guide, thereby demonstrating that some parts of the government are allowed to have a sense of humor. (Not you, IRS.) The Zombie Survival Guide created such a social media buzz that it crashed the poor CDCs website. The creator of this preparedness hit said, “the whole idea was, if you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’re prepared for pretty much anything.”
When Your Biggest Threat Is Complacency
Realistically, the most challenging emergency a lot of people will face is a couple days without power, but the most challenging emergency they could face is a whole lot worse. The problem is, nobody is motivated by the threat of 48 hours without power. If anyone was, we’d all have the government recommended three days of food and water on hand. (Nearly 50% of the United States does not have that.)
That’s why gearing up to fight imaginary Zombies works but gearing up to fight a gas leak doesn’t. That’s why people who exert 100 units of energy to battle an emergency can’t be bothered to spend 5 units of energy preventing an emergency. That’s why events like Harvey get you off your ass.
Sometimes it takes a little well-placed shock and awe to overcome complacency and to get us going. Don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault – that’s just the way the human brain works. And we are going to use this to our advantage.
There is some event in your region that is your particular Zombie Apocalypse Scenario. Some event that has enough psychological power that it will snap you out of your complacency and get you taking the action you know, deep down, you should have taken years ago.
Let’s figure out what it is.
My Personal Zombie Apocalypse Scenario
When I researched the types of emergencies most likely to affect my family here in the Maritime Northwest, I learned about the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Seattle is in a very geologically active region, crisscrossed by fault lines that occasionally shift or stretch. We puny humans feel this tectonic yoga as earthquakes.
Of the many fault lines that can cause earthquakes in this area, The Cascadia Subduction Zone Fault is the biggest and baddest of them all.
As you’ll recall, in 2011 there was a devastatingly powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku, Japan that triggered the tsunami that eventually let to the failures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Tohoku earthquake was what’s called a megathrust quake. At magnitude 9.1 it was the fourth most powerful earthquake on record. All earthquakes of that magnitude are megathrust quakes.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is the type of fault that creates these extreme, powerful, megathrust quakes. Running along the coastline from Northern California to Vancouver Island, it periodically experiences full or partial ruptures.
Geologists believe an earthquake along some or all of the Cascadia fault line occurs, on average, every 243 years. The last Cascadia quake happened 317 years ago, on January 26, 1700. Geologists don’t like to use terms like “overdue” but c’mon – on a scale of 1 to 243, we’re at a 317.
According to Kathryn Schulz, writing for the New Yorker, the odds are about one in three that a partial rupture of the Cascadia fault will unleash an 8.0 to 8.6 earthquake on the Pacific Northwest within the next 50 years. The odds of a full-margin rupture and an earthquake that measures 8.7 to 9.2 is about one in ten.
A full rip of the Cascadia Fault is pretty much total Zombie Apocalypse territory. But don’t take my word for it, here’s what governmental and scientific studies found when they looked at the likely results of a Cascadia quake.
Oregon Resilience Plan Results
In 2013, The Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission (OSSPAC) completed an exhaustive earthquake preparedness study.
The result was the 314 page Oregon Resilience Plan (giant PDF, be warned). It includes information on how long after a Cascadia quake it would take before basic services were restored to the I-5 corridor area that includes Portland, Eugene and Medford (the “Valley”) and the Oregon Coast.
Time to Restore Services:
- Electricity (Valley) 1 to 3 months
- Electricity (Coast) 3 to 6 months
- Police and fire stations (Valley) 2 to 4 months
- Drinking water and sewer (Valley) 1 month to 1 year
- Drinking water and sewer (Coast) 1 to 3 years
- Top-priority highways (partial restoration) (Valley) 6 to 12 months
- Healthcare facilities (Valley) 18 months
- Healthcare facilities (Coast) 3 years
Cascadia Rising Results
If you’re in Washington State like me, it’s not much better. After participating in a regional 2016 earthquake drill called Cascadia Rising, The Washington National Guard published a summary of their findings about the risks of a Cascadia Fault rupture.
The Washington coast and Olympic Peninsula are expected to be completely inaccessible by road. Because of soil liquefaction, pretty much all of South Seattle along the I-5 corridor is expected to sustain major structural damage.
While the greatest initial damage won’t occur around the highly populated areas of Puget Sound, the knock-on effects caused by infrastructure damage could be terrible.
According the the Washington National Guard:
- 37% of the region’s 48 Emergency Operations Centers will be unusable.
- 46% of region’s 112 hospitals will be unusable and another 17% will be able to operate at half capacity. In all, hospital capacity is reduced by 45%. There will be virtually no hospital capacity west of I-5.
- All senior living facilities west of I-5 will be unusable.
- 30% of the region’s 971 fire stations will be unusable. In all, fire fighting capacity is reduced by 33%.
- 48% of the region’s 178 police stations will be unusable. In all, police response capacity is reduced by 51%.
- Most sea, air and rail facilities west of the I-5 corridor suffer complete to severe damage, and along the I-5 corridor damage is severe to moderate.
- All major roads west of Puget Sound will be unusable. 1-5 corridor roads in liquefaction zones (from Seattle south to Tacoma along the I-5 corridor) are likely to be impassable.
- 8,440 deaths and 12,114 injuries are anticipated as a direct result of the earthquake and tsunami.
- 1,274,327 million people in the Western Washington region are expected to require “mass feeding and hydration”.
- Over 500,000 homes are expected to be damaged.
If the earthquake we Northwesterners call “The Big One” hits in our lifetime, many of us will be totally cut off from the systems that make modern life possible. It will be a very difficult situation. This is not hyperbole; these are just the sober facts about a disaster that will, eventually, hit my region.
When I think about my preparedness, I think about that inevitable, eventual Cascadia quake. That’s the thing in the back of my head that keeps me from getting complacent. In working towards better preparedness for that eventuality (and of course I’m not there yet) a nice side effect is preparedness for all the run-of-the-mill standard regional threats, like windstorms and power outages.
Select Your Own Zombie Apocalypse Scenario
Every region has some kind of major disaster threat – something where Mother Nature just gets really angry. Regional disaster threats tend to impact many people at once by shutting off power, destroying infrastructure and generally overwhelming a region’s ability to immediately deal with the disaster.
These threats are generally expected in the sense that, if you live in tornado alley, you know it. If you live on the Pacific coast, you know the ground might go wobbly at any time. If you live on the Florida coast, you know hurricanes are part of life.
One or more of these scenarios is probably a credible threat to your region:
- Snow and Ice Storms
- Extreme Heat
- Extreme Cold
- Volcanoes and Lahars
If you live someplace immune to predictable regional threats (where would that be exactly?), consider non-regional threats which are more personal in nature or which can happen anywhere.
Anyone’s home or apartment building can catch fire. Chemical spills can happen anywhere a tanker-truck or train could crash, which is most of the country. By their nature, these threats are less predictable. Some require fast action, some require long-term planning. Some require rapid home evacuation, some require hunkering down.
Although non-regional threats can seem more scary because they aren’t as predictable, our basic preparedness will help make these difficult situations easier to handle too.
- Unexpected Job Loss
- Home fires
- Hazardous Materials Spills
- Industrial or Transportation Accidents or Explosions
- Terror Attacks
- Civil Unrest
- Widespread Illness or Pandemic
Today’s Preparedness 101 Challenge: What’s The “Big One” You Are Preparing For?
Pick one specific, credible emergency that really motivates you to increase your preparedness – that’s your Zombie Apocalypse Scenario. Write your scenario down (a comment is great, or wherever you like) then spend 5 or 10 minutes learning about your emergency.
Your emergency scenario could be a major earthquake, Category 4 Hurricane, extended snowstorm, etc. Remember the goal: if you’re prepared for this, you’re prepared for pretty much anything.
Do some research! What emergency events are likely to hit your region? How do people prepare for and come through that kind of emergency? (Follow the links above to get started.) What would it be like if you were in that scenario?
Really see that these types of events do impact real, live people and they could impact you. I don’t want you to prepare out of fear, but if it takes a little bit of fear to overcome inertia – use that as motivation.
Q: I live in an area with multiple risks. Can I pick more than one scenario?
A: Sure, but the main idea here is to find the clear, precise risk assessment that will give you something to benchmark off of as you advance your preparedness. We also don’t want folks who are new to prepping to get overwhelmed trying to prep for everything all at once.
Q: If you live in someplace with a 1 in 3 chance of being destroyed in 50 years, why not just move?
A: Some people do choose to move in order to get away from environmental risk factors. Personally, I love my region – just like Floridians love their low-lying tropical-storm prone coasts and Montanans love their big, open, wildfire-prone land. No region is perfect, but Cascadia has a lot going for it.
Q: Is this whole month going to be thought exercises? When do I get my checklists?
A: No! And soon! We’re gonna get to the Bug Out Bags and water storage and all that stuff starting with the next post. But don’t skip this high-level stuff, ok? If you are thoughtful about your philosophy of preparedness and your risk factors, you’ll actually save money and time in the long run, and you’ll end up ahead of 90% of the Mall Ninja Preppers who go big on gear but short on thinky-thinky.
Re: why not just move… I moved away from Seattle after (but not because of!) the 2001 earthquake. Guess where I ended up? Lisbon, Portugal. Which also has a history of–wait for it–big earthquakes. Probably not the same odds as the Pacific NW, but the whole city was destroyed in 1755.
So sometimes moving doesn’t actually solve anything. As you said, everywhere is at risk foe SOMETHING…
Ieneke Van Houten says
That move reminds me of the UK family who was convinced Collapse was just around the corner, and they wanted to be as far from the crazy world as possible. So they moved to some remote island off the coast of South America, in early 1982. Yeah. The Falklands AKA Maldivas, just in time for the war. See also the classic tale of Death and the gardener.
My husband and I live in central Michigan, and often talk about how safe we are here compared to many other regions. We don’t get major earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, or even the insane blizzards of the east coast. The worst we are *likely* to endure is extended loss of power from an ice storm, in which the most critical challenge is keeping warm. A few years ago much of our city lost power for 5-7 days around Christmas due to a storm like that. At the time I lived in a house with a wood burning fireplace insert, so I was able to keep warm enough. It was cold, in the 50s in the warmest part of the house, but I was ok and our pipes didn’t freeze. We’ve got gas heat here though so that is a legitimate preparedness concern that we haven’t accounted for. I’m really appreciating this series- we’re prepared in a lot of ways, but we’re disorganized and definitely missing a few key things.
I worry about heat should something happen in the winter. I’m well stocked otherwise, but my heat is natural gas and needs electricity. No way to put in a wood stove, either.
I used to live in the Puget Sound and remember learning about those dangerous possible earthquakes (which you’re over due for). Now I live in Southern California, same risk. I try to prepare for earthquakes and also social unrest. And extreme heat is normal for us in the summer so we stay prepared for that too. We’re hoping to move states in the next few years (hopefully before a big earthquake hits) but I am already making plans about I will need to prepare for there that is different than here. Great post!
I grew up dirt poor. Married into dirt poor and for the majority of my kid’s lives, raised them dirt poor. It left some last effects (I call it my Poverty Post Traumatic Stress), one of which is a paranoia about food insecurity. There was a time when we were always hungry, so now that my finances and overall life is on a better track, I make sure that my pantry is well-stocked. There are always staples, basic ingredients and snacks. I learned how to can and dry foods, so they’re always available. Extra toilet paper and paper towels and soap? I have them. It’s not to a degree of hoarding (and god knows, I use the stuff I have), but I’m probably more well prepared than nearly everyone I know. A friend of mine (who is well-off financially) goes to the grocery store every weekend because by Friday evening, they literally have nothing in the fridge or cabinets. She buys only what they need for the coming week. It makes me a bit stressed just thinking about an empty fridge and pantry. (Been there, done that. No way again.)
Even though I’m way further up the east coast (and no where near Florida), with Hurricane Irma moving in, and it’s unpredictability, I’ve increased my stock of gallons of water and extra water bottles. I’ve bought extra pet food, extra canned goods, and will get more batteries and propane (for outdoor cooking in the event the electricity goes out).
And I’ll try not to stress out 🙂
I remember a neighbour who also only had enough food for the week and it was gone by the weekend, by choice not necessity. It always made me nervous- my mother had a ‘blitz’ mentality and I clearly inherited it. Even before preparedness was a thing I knew there was easily prepared food in the house for some time. It might have ended up being odd mixtures but it would have filled us up.
After the riots in London a few years ago, a journalist coined the phrase ‘9 meals from anarchy’. The supermarkets have a ‘just in time’ stocking policy. If the restocking gets delayed through bad weather, civil unrest, no fuel etc shops will run out of food in 3 days. That’s just 9 meals before people start getting so hungry they will resort to force to get food for their families.
It’s probably more like 3-4 meals now. I work for Who.e Foods and we’ve been working to implement a system called truck-to-floor (or order-to-shelf) in which we basically have just a day or twos worth if stock. We get shipments 7 nights a week. And we’re late adopters, most chains have adopted this system already.
You pretty much nailed it for me… earthquake risk has been on my mind frequently since my daughter was born; before that, we were content to “wing it…” No longer. We’ve been slowly stocking food, and I’ve stored water filtration in lieu of water–our neighbors have a big pond, and we’re next to several streams. I stock a few days of water, but not more than that. I do feel like I need a bug-out bag in case we need to leave the house. Right now, I keep all our camping gear packed and fuel for the camping stove on the porch, so we could grab that and go; but I’m sure it’s missing some essentials. Thanks for this series.
My research turns up data that Dallas-Fort Worth is both one of the most dangerous and safest places to live. Ha! We’re susceptible to tornadoes, hailstorms, flash flooding, extreme heat, drought, ice storms, and wildfires, but our risk of any of those being a “big one” is small. Even when we had an F3 tornado downtown, the damage couldn’t compare to Harvey or 9/11 your Cascadian quake.
I like the point you make in your first FAQ. I’ll need to think about this and figure out what exactly my preparedness goal is.
I live in the central Columbia Gorge, live on one side, work on the other. Your predicament is the same as mine except it will all happen a lot farther east that I-5. Liquefaction at the main bridge crossings in Stevenson/Cascade Locks Bridge of the Gods and Bingen/Hood River bridge. This is my zombie situation and I don’t feel like I can ever be prepared as much as I should be. Thanks for these columns. Looking forward to your lists to see what I might have missed.
And this just scared me enough to finally register for the local home earthquake retrofitting class. Been meaning to do it for years.
I don’t gamble because I don’t like the odds, and 1:10 sounds like very bad odds to me (and 1 and 3 downright scary). My background is in environmental science so I don’t get scared by the “overdue” comments, but putting it this way definitely gets me listening. I’d put us at a solid C for emergency preparedness (small generator, some emergency food storage, etc) so a week or two power outtage isn’t a huge deal, but we are definitely not prepared for anything bigger than that. We keep talking about being more prepared but don’t follow though. Time to follow through. Thanks for pounding this into our heads.
Mary Ann Baclawski says
I live in the Willamette Valley so I think about the Cascadia Earthquake a lot. Am I ready? a little, but no way close. Biggest stumbling block- where to put the emergency supplies to be sure they’re reachable. We live on a hillside which will not liquefy, but will the house slide down the hill? If I put it in a closet that currently has no room, where do I put what’s already in there and how do I get in that closet if the house has collapsed, if it’s door just won’t open? Part of me just wants to move, the other part likes living here.
Carolyne Thrasher says
Same here. What good is storing water if your house becomes inaccessible? Should I use my leaky garden shed?
Another person in the same situation. I have been preparing, but I do tend to get stuck on what I should do since I live in an area where liquefaction of the soil is predcited to be severe. If my house won’t survive the Big One, and the people near me are in the same soil situation, then how do I prepare?
Hi Erica, when you get to the part about storing supplies, I wonder if you might discuss storing bottled water. I’ve read that the expiry dates on bottled water are BS and are simply there because all consumables must, by law, have an expiry date. On this theory, we could store sealed bottled water for years and our biggest worry might be plastic toxins seeping in the water; that would be the least of my concerns during The Big One. OR is this untrue and those expiry dates actually do matter for some reason? Any intel on this would be much appreciated. Thanks, Lara. (Vancouver, BC)
The biggest issues are the leaching of chemicals, the plastic degrading over time leading to leaks, and off tastes and smells. In an emergency situation I would drink 5+ year old sealed, bottled water without a second thought. According to this source, the FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water products.
Thanks for taking the time to reply! I appreciate that link; good reassurance.
The CBC (our Canadian public broadcaster) did an amazing podcast series last year on The Big One, called Fault Lines. Some of the info is specific to BC, but plenty of it is applicable anywhere in this region. It runs through likely scenarios of what the first 24 hours will look like, then dispels the myth that help will arrive at the magical 72-hour mark… then on through the first week, first month, and the ‘new normal’ a year and more on. It’s well worth a listen, even for earthquake junkies who think they’ve heard it all!
I live in a cyclone (similar to hurricanes) area in Australia. We have had two major floods within the last decade that have cut power off for days at a time. We also face the threat of bushfires (wildfires). Our storm season officially starts around late October early November. We also have had a few tornadoes in the last five years, and some mild earthquakes. Then there is our long emergency – drought. Those can last from weeks to many months.
Preparations are so important. I have experienced going to shopping centres when people have left their preparations to the last minute and the shelves are bare. Water, bread and milk go fastest. Something as simple as having a way to make your own bread can be a good way of preparing. Alternative methods of cooking food are good too. We are looking at creating an outdoor ‘camp’ kitchen in our place in the future. Not as an emergency preparation, more as a method of enjoying the outdoors and not wasting wood that would otherwise just be burnt as rubbish. However an outdoor kitchen would still be good to have during an extended electricity blackout.
Wow Erica, these statistics about how long basic services would take to recover really got my attention! Months without electric and/or water, yikes. I definitely am square with beginner preps already but now realize that I need to up my game and get more organized. And if major highways are taken out, the supermarket aisles would be stripped, a la Houston and Miami right now, but potentially for a long time.
To the questions about storing water, I have some water in the trunk of my car but now realizing that most of my other stored water is in the garage. If an earthquake makes my garage unaccessible, well not so good. I do already have my basic emergency prep in a large super heavy duty plastic storage container in the backyard. But am, at your prompting, going to get another one or two large containers for all of my camping equipment, more water, more clothing, more propane canisters, and more food. Also of course my garden definitely is part of my prep!
Next on the list is helping my daughters get set up with bug out bags with appropriate supplies (makeup remover, etc, lol). My oldest lives in Capitol Hill in Seattle which definitely worries me. And the younger one in L.A.! Thanks for the help in getting real about reality.
Rebekah Kirby says
I live in San Antonio. To my best figuring, our risks are floods (not where I am), wildfires (haven’t ever had one threaten seriously, despite many droughts), and… well… Something Causing Prolonged Power Outage. That could be from floods or extreme temperatures either direction… anything overburdening the electric grid. We’ve come close before, with brownouts. We really aren’t well-prepared for even 2 days without power. Especially if that happens during the summer. Life without A/C in 95-degree temps (probably with 90% humidity) would be UGLY.
So, I don’t have a catchy specific disaster to fear, but whatever disaster happens, it could cause a long power outage, and THAT scares me.
I’m with you, its the heat that scares me. My coworkers and I looked up routes where we could walk home from work if a tornado closed the roads. For most of us it was less than 10 miles. No problem on a nice day, but a HUGE problem when its 100 degrees in summer.
One thing I hope we discuss when we get to the food storage section is how to store things in the heat. My garage is about as far from a “cool, dry place” as you can get. Houses here don’t have basements. Even my interior closets aren’t exactly “cool,” as I let the thermostat go up to 80 when we’re not home during the day.
Yikes! Days without services? No problem. Weeks? Starting to get pretty uncomfortable. Months? Unthinkable! Thanks for getting us thinking. One quick tip that someone mentioned to me once that’s good for an emergency: don’t forget to tap into your hot water heater in an emergency. It’s basically a big tank full of clean water at your disposal.
I’m most worried about an ice storm. I keep missing them just barely south by a few miles. I was 25 miles south in 1998 and a mere 3 miles out in the most recent smaller one in 2010. Typically the worst hit areas see no power for around 3 weeks. In 1998 some areas went 6 weeks. What scares me about this is by definition it will occur in the dead of winter. 2010 saw an ice storm followed immediately by -20F temps. No power for weeks at 50f? ok, but no power at -20F yikes! I have a small portable propane space heater but a big goal is to get backup heat and learn how to correctly drain/winterize the pipes so they don’t burst when they freeze. (Note it’s great to have a plan to stay in place but a plan to winterize and leave seems equally valid in this case)
I live in earthquake country, have my whole life. The San Andreas fault line was a childhood field trip spot. Never really worried about such things. My plan for my life now, is to not have need of municipal services most of the time anyway (occasional doctor visits), and to be able to live off my land completely if necessary, and almost completely even if not necessary.
I do find it interesting how many people are more afraid of a possible emergency than the daily horridness of their chosen location. Give me the possible risk of an earthquake over living in the middle of conventional farms and their pesticides, or bad political scenes, anyday.
Katie Newcomb says
I live in Portland and always thought my zombie apocalypse was the Big One… now I think its if the Big One hits in the middle of forest fire season, or a big snow storm. I am also of the “community” mentality and don’t know what our community/region would do if we had to face two of the scenarios together. Rethinking my preparedness plan with this in mind…
Mary W says
Erica, this is so great that you’re addressing this. I’m fascinated by prepping myself, but am always dancing that budget line, trying to decide if the cost this minute is justified. But you’re right, when others suffer from natural disasters, I get my butt in gear again. It really does go in surges. (Thanks, brain!)
I have always felt that the very first step in prepping is mental and spiritual preparedness. We need to learn skills, not just buy stuff. We need to be ready to embrace the idea of how to live in a different way, how society may change, how WE may change. In this sense, your blog has been getting people mentally ready for a long time. Your lifestyle would transfer much faster in a long term disaster than most city dwellers.
I’m probably never going to feel finished, but I’m wholly more prepared than I was 10 years ago. Thanks for your info and inspiration! It’s time to get on another surge. 😉
Angela F says
Really great reminder. Living in SoCal most of my life, I’ve always tried to prep (at least minimally) for earthquakes. However, reading this motivates me to go double-check our supplies! Thankfully we used to camp all the time, so we still have all our gear safely stored (tent, sleeping bag, camp stoves, etc). We always have some canned food (like chili and fruit) hanging out in a safe spot in the garage, my husband is always stocking large bottles of water. And due to recent belt-tightening we always have lots of dried beans and rice around. 😉
HI Erica and Friends,
A fascinating topic, one on our minds for quite a while. We live in Cascadia and having recently read Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest by Seattle Times’ Science Writer Sandi Doughton (a very good read by the way), we’re on board for this preparedness thing. While I don’t think we’ld be without drinking water for as long as 3 years as projected as a possibility for Coastal Oregon, just the idea that we could be without water for several months is alarming.
What is interesting to me, is that because we just moved and have even less storage, I seem to be hoping that the big one will just hold off until we buy a new house and I have time to build up stores and I’m all ready.
Got any sand I can stick my head into?
Time to put on my big-girl panties. Thanks for another slap upside the head to get going on this.
We live in a place that is not in serious danger of a Zombie Event, but therein lies the problem… We’re almost exactly halfway between 2 major cities 100 miles or less in each direction, in an area full of farmland.
So where, oh where would starving, desperate people go in search of food if it really were more than *just* a hurricane? Worse yet, depending on the direction; people fleeing several smaller cities (and the 2 major ones) would trample right over us on the way to the vast, lush resources (farms, orchards, dairies, lakes, rivers) of 2 different states. They would be pushed toward us and away from the coast bc there’s a nuclear first-strike target down there. Sorry to be song,omy, but I just recently became aware of the refuge-horde aspect of the problem and I’m still processing.
That’s such an interesting problem to think about and prepare for, that I think a lot of people miss. I think about the benefits of living back in a rural area versus the smallish city we live in now, but that’s one of the things I would worry about. Not that I would actually let that kind of fear dictate where I live over day to day lifestyle concerns, but I definitely think about it at times. And for us city-homestead dwellers, it’s a concern as well. Our immediate neighbors all have good relationships with us and we could band together, but not everyone in the area is that tight knit. It’s a little scary to think about what scares, desperate people might do.
Probably don’t want to read ‘Dies the Fire’ by S. M. Stirling then …. actually quite a good read. Community matters.
Or there’s the option of being super rural. Like, away from a major city, nowhere near another one, more than an hour’s drive from a decent town, down a dirt road in the woods… *waves hi*
(We moved here to be near family. But I’m suddenly appreciating the benefits.)
This is my worry as well. I live in central Washington, so I think damage will be less severe when the caacadia quake hits. Our disaster will be humanitarian, supplying aid to all the refugees from the coast. If they are truly without power and utilities for months, the rest of the state will see a mss migration that our community is not prepared for.
This was a fantastic explanation. I live near you and have worked for the past few years to try to get extended family members on board with being prepared. The old rule about having three days worth of food and water was proved to be useless with Katrina. Same with having one kit. Having an emergency food stash in your basement isn’t likely to be useful if your home floods. Keeping one in the attic isn’t a great choice if your home is in tornado alley and losing the roof is a distinct possibility. So many friends have told me that they prefer to not “worry so much” and believe FEMA and the Red Cross will be all they need. Preppers have a bad rep, but honestly, I wish more people preferred self reliance. Thanks again, I’ll be sharing your post with those friends! This week may’ve been what was needed to change their minds about being prepared.
WORD. I wish people looked at what has a reasonable chance of happening (3 days without electricity within the next few years is… pretty likely, folks) and figured what they’d need to be comfortable in that more-than-likely eventuality.
Robin S says
I’m in the Portland suburbs, and I’m not prepared for The Big One. I’ve been through a flood (Agnes, in Pennsylvania back in 1972) and a couple of hurricanes in Florida and North Carolina. I think a couple of small steps I could take now include buying a small solar charger (even a small light and a radio make a big psychological difference), making sure we have a way to purify water, and building a basic stacked-brick backyard bread oven (which I’ve wanted to do for years). I tend to store a few lbs each of oatmeal, rice, and flour; that could be increased if I had larger pantry-moth-proof containers.
Sanitary outhouses would be a challenge, but essential. That’s something I could learn more about. Plus I haven’t taken a first aid class in years; maybe it’s time to find one again.
Inger @ Art of Natural Living says
Wow, I usually think of California for “the big one”! But even in Wisconsin (where even tornados are rare along the Lake Michigan shore), we went through a 48 hour fall power outage. Going to the Fire Department for water (drinking and toilet flushing), cooking over an open fire and sleeping 3 to a bed for warmth was a bit of an adventure, but it gets old fast. Write-up at: http://artofnaturalliving.com/2011/10/13/ready-or-not-not/
Very timely and thoughtful post, thank you for doing that. Am terrified at what is happening with the hurricane and want to be more prepared for natural disasters that can happen here in California.
We live in rural Quebec -really rural, as in an hour’s drive to the nearest town. We’re pretty much not at risk of anything majorly altering the landscape, but a day or two without power is a yearly occurrence.
So: we already mostly heat with wood, and have an enameled wood stove in our living room that we use to heat the house, electricity available or not (and in a pinch, a pot on top of the stove cooks a great dinner). We have a spring, but our water pump is electric – while we can get some water in the basement, I’d like a better set-up for that.
Frankly, as long as we can stay in our house? We can do ok for a few weeks.
If we gotta leave though… I have no idea where to even start (and that might be a crappy plan regardless, since there’s one road out of town and it’s lower altitude and more likely to flood than our house.)
Jean Brackett says
As I live in a peaceful country without any earthquake, I can’t imagine such a situation where people are facing the buildings collapse and the land crazes. I’m even afraid of going to some earthquake contries which they suffered from before and now they’re good. The most important thing is to let people have some sense of emergency and get themselves well-prepared.
Alaska= earthquakes. We have had one of the few earthquakes where the earth literally opened up and swallowed people. Not many, and not the folks I would have selected, but still…
Absolutely. And tsunami risk. It’s “Ring of Fire” all the way around. The Great Alaskan quake was that same type of subduction zone megathrust quake that those of us in the lower NW need to be aware of. Seattle, Portland and Vancouver area folks would do well to read up on the 1964 Alaska Earthquake.
Erica, thank you so much for this series which I admit I am finding terrifying… but in a good way, because I hope your excellent, highly practical lists (thinky thinky ones included) will prompt me into action, especially as I live in a place (Argentina) where there is basically no concept of drills or preparedness, and government responses are usually less than rapid or ideal (to put it mildly). Once you’ve covered all the more general aspects, I’d be particularly interested in reading a post that focuses specifically on how you approach these issues with your kids. How do you talk to them about it? How do you prepare them? What things did they each need to understand/remember/know how to do at each age/stage? As with your other posts, I’m interested in how this carries over from “standard everyday” problems (like… say… mum passes out and kids are home alone with her, what should they do?) to actual disasters like floods and earthquakes. Thank you!!
Nicole A. says
Ah man, seeing this made me realize that, since my husband works at a hospital–and it’ll be one of the few still operating after a large earthquake–that his Get Home Bag probably won’t be used. They’ll probably require him to stay and work there for weeks just to deal with the fallout. I need to be prepared to take care of myself and our two young kids–and whatever breaks at our house–for weeks all alone. Yikes!
Remember that TV movie “American Blackout”? It followed several different people/families through a sudden, ong-term, nationwide power outage. There was a teenage boy whose mother never came home from work because she was a nurse at a hospital and wasn’t *allowed* to leave. Shake had no way to communicate to her son what’s she was and what he should do. You better believe that would really happen. If a family member is a health professional or first-responder, please have a plan; especially for kids. And watch that movie. Re-watch nnually. Along with “After Armageddon”.
Erica…..my zombie apocalypse scenario is to come live with you in your garden. I figure it would only take us like 3 hours to walk there….and you can’t turn us away cause you know…..#Family. 🙂 Really though….thanks for the awesome posts this past month. Matt and I are going to refresh our emergency bag and I’ve copied down a bunch of your ideas.
Personally, I think you need to look at the entire list of events that could affect you in your area. Some disasters are more challenging. Some preparations that are useful for one type of event, are useless for others. Many preps apply to the entire list of events. I focus on those preps that work across the event spectrum. Here’s my list:
EMP – source: Sun (X10 – X28, X28 is the largest ever recorded – 2013)
EMP – source: Weapon (Terrorism)
Sabotaged Electric Grid (Terrorism)
Volcanic Eruption (potentially near Yellowstone National Park)
War on the US mainland
Economic Collapse – Anarchy
Theft by the Government of wealth (they always do in a crisis)
Nuclear Weapon (Terrorism)
Chemical Weapon (Terrorism)
Dirty Bomb (Terrorism)
Biological Weapon (Terrorism)
Poisoned Water Supply (Terrorism)
Car Accident – stranded