Usually media scare tactics don’t faze me. Remember when six months before the new millennium we started getting bombarded with warning that all our computers would crash come Dec 31? Nothing happened. Nor was the US attacked again on a 9/11 grand scale. Not many people died of the swine flu last year and the list goes on.
Somehow, though, a news item buried in the NPR morning drone of world catastrophes caught my attention because I know it’s likely to happen. Highly likely. And I know I am far from prepared.
It’s the Big One. The One that Los Angelenos pretend to ignore and live with as the trade-off for blessed weather and natural beauty. Scientists say the San Andreas Fault gets a massive shake every 30 years or so and we are sort of due.
When I first moved here, I armed myself with earthquake survival kits from the Army store – packaged food, thermal blankets, lots of water, batteries and torchlights. Just the bare essentials. In my car and at home. I knew the meeting point closest to my building and every night, before going to sleep, I would lay clothes and shoes near my bed so they wouldn’t find me naked under a pile of rubble. I would jump out of bed at the first hint of a shake and occasionally would huddle on the landing with my neighbours to decide whether we could safely resume our sleep. Then I became complacent. The bed would shake and I would open one eye, give it a few minutes and turn over. Eventually I started sleeping through the minor ones as if it were a badge of honor. As if I belonged.
Well, none of my cabinets are secure and my china is guaranteed to be destroyed should an earthquake hit. I removed the bookcase from the wall near where the dogs sleep because they would most likely be killed. But my pantry is still devoid of canned food nor do I have enough water to survive (forget bathing) for a few days. And the best I can say for my car is a forgotten pack of gum somewhere in it.
Statistics indicate that the Big One will shake the earth for a couple of minutes. 300,000 buildings are expected to be severely damaged and 45,000 lost. Power, water, telecommunications will be lost for days and in a rural area like the one where I live in it will take longer to restore most of it. Assuming I survive, I need to plan for a week of feeding, bathing, lighting without support from the City. Easier said than done. All I have done so far is pick an out-of-state contact my loved ones can call to get news as it will be easier to call out-of-state than in. If I am separated from the rest of my family, everybody knows to call that number to let them know where they are.
As to the rest, I have to start shopping for food, water and blankets. Stack up on medications, batteries and wood for the fireplace. I am hoping scientists are wrong but this is one of those instances where it doesn’t pay off to take chances.