Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Whenever I’m asked which event I dread most, I invariably say “Earthquake.” Setting aside the inevitable economic collapse for a moment, let’s take a look at how we can prepare for this most disruptive sort of natural disaster.

I lived in California for a few years and in Hawaii for nearly a decade. I have been all around the Pacific “Ring Of Fire”. But I had never experienced a major earthquake until August 23, 2011. It wasn’t particularly destructive and didn’t take any lives but it certainly changed how I think about earthquakes.

Two things have stuck with me from that sunny Tuesday afternoon in August: cell phones are totally worthless in a widespread disaster; and nobody on the East Coast is prepared for an earthquake. The 5.8 magnitude “2011 Virginia Earthquake” didn’t knock out the power or water but it did completely shut down cell service. My 5-mile drive home from work that afternoon took over an hour, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on the disaster and my own preparedness. As soon as I got home, I filled both bathtubs in case the quake was just a fore-shock of a bigger one. I also examined the pantry and everything fragile that was stored on shelves. If the quake had been just a tad bigger, I might’ve had some clean up to do. I moved all the glass containers back to the rear of the shelves and large glass storage jars went back into the cardboard boxes they came in.

The important thing to know about earthquakes is that they are happening continually around the planet and that no place is immune.

If you watched “Doomsday Preppers” on NatGeo last week, you know that some preppers are concerned about quakes but not all. I find that misguided in the extreme. Quakes are what we should all be prepared for.

Awareness is key. Since earthquakes tend to occur in clusters, knowing where the earth is currently active is half the battle. The US Geological Survey has a great website that can keep you up to date on recent quakes. I check it (and NOAA’s awesome “Space Weather” site) every morning before I head out the door.

So other than keeping your head up, rearranging your pantry, and filling your bathtub, what else can be done? Well, if you’re a prepper you’ve probably got the rest covered: alternate sources of cooking fuel and heat, hand-cranked flashlights and radios, a week or two of non-perishable food, lots of water, and temporary home repair items like plywood sheeting and the ubiquitous blue tarp. Let me add one you might not have thought of: a set of FRS/GMRS radios.

Most folks simply couldn’t function without their mobile phone. Rather than mock them, I shall offer a cheap and cheerful prepper’s alternative. For less than $40, you can yack it up with anybody in a 22-mile radius on a “Family Radio Service” (FRS) radio. Sure, you’ll need a case of batteries if there’s a blabbermouth in your family. But, if you set up a small portable solar panel and a spare car battery, you can keep your radios charged even in a grid-down scenario.

The only downside? There’s no texting capability. Oh, and no “Angry Birds” either.


2 responses to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

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