October 17, 2013

Are you ready for an earthquake? Make sure today.

Posted by Austin Elliott

Image: University of Canterbury, September 2010

Image: University of Canterbury, September 2010

What if an earthquake hit right now, the moment you read this? A big one. You get a few seconds of puzzling low rumbling to figure out what’s going on, and then the room you’re in lurches to the side and back. The floor bounces, the walls creak and crackle, books and papers topple and slide, and heavy things all around you start to wobble and flop over. You had no idea today was The Day. You also have no idea what’s going on: how big is this earthquake? Will it get worse? Where is it hitting hardest? What’s going on in the rest of the city? Are buildings and freeways crumpling? Will I be able to get back to friends and family? Are we about to suffer through days in a devastated city? Weeks? Will I have water to drink?

It’s unlikely that that just happened. But it will be no less surprising when it does happen, which very well could be the moment you read this. It’s a heavy thought to ponder, and most of us who live in earthquake country tend to put the chilling thought out of our mind so that we can function in everyday life. Nonetheless it will happen, as it has repeatedly in the past. Life will be interrupted, buildings will be trashed, and the infrastructure that roots your life on a behind-the-scenes foundation will fail.

This is a difficult concept for most of us to grasp, for reasons that are well studied by psychologists. On the other hand, we have the immeasurably useful asset of the ability to think about abstract future events and prepare for them, even if we can’t convince ourselves they’re scary. We collectively know how to protect ourselves before, during, and after an earthquake. We just have to share and exercise that knowledge before the real threat faces us.


Today is the day for that. The approximate anniversary of three major U.S. quakes and a host of modest ones, and roundly in the beginning of the new school year, today marks the day you should Drop, Cover, and Hold On in the 6th annual ShakeOut. Still the world’s largest earthquake drill, and ever expanding, the message is that there’s no excuse to be Totally Unprepared. Use this day to gain and raise awareness, and use these resources that have been compiled to empower you when the ground heaves. Explore the links for things you may not have thought of, like how to deal with food and water after a disaster.

Don’t just Drop, Cover, and Hold On today. Stop in every place you go and imagine The Big One striking. What do you do? Celebrate today as earthquake awareness day… talk about it with your kids, your friends, and your parents. Share with them some amusing PSAs… and the dire reality.

These websites have all the resources to help you, your neighbors, friends, and family prepare smartly for the looming disaster, which for California will occur within a generation.

http://www.earthquakecountry.org/ – the Earthquake Country Alliance
http://www.ready.gov/earthquakes – the Federal Emergency Management Agency
http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/earthquake – the Red Cross
http://www.earthquakeauthority.com/CEAindex.aspx – the California Earthquake Authority, insurance granter
http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/Food_Safety-Recent_Around.htm – Food Safety in a Disaster