April 7, 2009
Reading about the earthquake that L’Aquila reminded me of a seminar I went to about earthquake preparedness. Several of the presenters were architects and engineers who had been in places like the Northridge earthquake and/or the Oakland earthquake and they made some very good points about keeping yourself safe in an earthquake.
It’s a little known fact that earthquakes can happen anywhere. We had a few tremors here in Southern Missouri and Illinois last year after the big spring floods we had. The thought was that the flooding had an impact on the buried tectonic fault under New Madrid, MO. So even in the heartland, we’re under threat from earthquakes. So much from moving here from Southern California.
One of the stories from that seminar concerned those poor souls who were trapped under that overpass that collapsed in Oakland. They actually did find survivors under there. In fact, most of the people who died were the ones who tried to speed up to avoid the collapsing bridge. They either got crushed by the overpass that fell on them or ran into those who ran into the fallen overpass. One of the points they made was that people who had some food, water and some kind of noisemaker were much better off than those without.
I’ve written about personal alarms before, but it was in the context of protecting yourself from an attacker. They’re much more versitile than that. It can be used as a signaler in cases of being trapped under something that has collapsed or if you’re lost, it can signal searchers to your position. I got lost at Boy Scout camp one year, luckily I found my way back, but I could have sure used one of those then.
Preparedness kits are also essential. Every home and car should have some kind of kit to survive in case of emergency. One of the other things I got from that seminar was the need to stockpile some food, medical supplies and other necessities because if there were another earthquake here like the one in 1812, help could be a week away. Personally I think that’s being kind of optimistic. The 1812 quake caused bells in Boston, Boston, to ring. Also this half of the country is not SoCal, which has been living under the threat of a major earthquake for far longer and have built accordingly. Since this will happen in the Mississippi valley, the shock waves will travel up and down the river and it’s tributaries. Plus the land in SoCal has an attenuating effect on how far the quake will travel. The Midwest has a very different effect, it will actually strengthen the effects of the quake. Long story short, it will take much more than a week for help to get here.
So food and clean water is essential, so are first aid supplies. An alarm is useful in case you’re trapped in a collapsed building or in your car. For your car you might consider a multiple use tool like the one pictured here.
It consists of a flashlight to help you see your surroundings, a flashing light to signal rescuers, a seatbelet cutter and can be used as a hammer to break away glass. If nothing else it can free you enough to move about the cabin and access your stored food, water and safety gear.
As for around the home or an alarm that you can keep with you, I’d suggest some kind of 2 ‘n 1 alarm that incorporates an alarm with a flashlight. Again the flashlight can be useful to get your bearings and to signal resuce personnel and the alarm can let them know there’s someone alive to save.
It may seem unnecessary or paranoid to put all of this stuff together, but it’s one of those things that you might never really need to use, but when you do need to use it, you’ll really need to use it.
Whether or not you believe in a God or higher power, take a moment to remember those caught in L’Aquila and pray for those who have been injured or who have lost loved ones. Please take what I’ve written into consideration and at least think about what you might do in such a situation. At the very least it won’t come as a compete shock and that alone might be enough to help keep you alive.
Stay safe out there.