Thursday, December 12, 2013

Earthquake damage and emergency preparations

This report makes interesting reading in the light of our preparations for emergencies.

According to a USGS study called the “Shakeout Report”, when a high-magnitude earthquake rocks the San Andreas fault, the damage will go far beyond the collapsed buildings and freeways seen in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

For example, L.A.-area supermarkets now depend on internet systems for warehousing and shipping food to stores, and the food is stored on the other side of the San Andreas fault.

“With the development of the internet and the new just-in-time economy, none of them store food on the Los Angeles side of the San Andreas anymore,” Jones said.

. . .

Fiber-optics is another vulnerability that is expected to be cut off when a disastrous earthquake hits the San Andreas fault.

“Two-thirds of the connectivity from Los Angeles to the rest of the world go through fiber-optic cables crossing the San Andreas fault,” Jones explained. “So we expect at the time of the earthquake when the fault moves, we will break these fiber-optic cables and two-thirds of the data capacity between L.A. and everyone else will disappear,” she said.

Natural gas pipelines also cross the San Andreas fault, so gas for cooking and heating is expected to be in short supply.

And the aging water pipes in L.A., which seem to break with great regularity even without an earthquake, are not expected to stand-up well when the big earthquake hits.

. . .

Much of the high-tech damage could hinder the recovery effort in the weeks and months after the earthquake, according to Dr. Jones, so getting Southern California back on its feet could be a wrenching process.

“The world wide web wasn’t in existence at the time of the Northridge earthquake,” she said. “Right now think of how much both your personal life, but also our economic system, depends on having cell phone communications and internet connectivity.”

There's more at the link.

All the elements she mentions are worthy of urgent consideration.

  • If your family emergency plan involves coordinating movements and rendezvous points via cellphone, what happens to your plan if the cellphone network goes down?
  • If you've accumulated a decent stash of emergency supplies, but your home is too badly damaged to safely enter it to retrieve them, what will you do then?
  • What if you can't get to your home at all, thanks to damaged or blocked streets?
  • What if communication is an essential part of your job?  Your home and work locations might have survived the earthquake, but you can no longer communicate with your clients.  There goes your job and income stream, right there.

It's useful to think about these things before a disaster happens.  For example, I'm preparing a stash of a week's emergency supplies - food, water, a sweatsuit and a change of underwear for each person, a five-gallon jerrycan of gasoline, etc. - that I'm going to store in my small cargo trailer at the rear of our property.  They won't last as long out there as they will in an air-conditioned house, but they can be rotated and/or replaced fairly cheaply - and if we can't get into our home to access our main supply cache, we should still be able to get to the trailer.  I can see where that might come in very handy . . .



Alien said...

Rather than depend on a cargo trailer - for which there may be no alternative, depending on what kind of vehicle you have - I'd suggest a modular approach. For example, if you have a pickup truck, or SUV, containerized or palletized supplies, stored inside, might make better sense.

First, if street travel is disrupted, maneuvering a vehicle and a trailer may be more complicated than conditions allow. Second, "moveable modules" may be easier to manage. For example, Rubbermaid makes a 24 gallon "Action Packer" container that's pretty useful (there are other sizes), and there are others (the blogger at had some waterproof Hardigg cases for sale cheap last April, he may still know where there are some). If you can manage a 5 gallon water container (45 lbs) you should be able to manage a 50 lb waterproof or water-resistant supplies container (the Hardiggs are waterproof, the Actionpackers are water resistant, in that rain won't penetrate, although they are not as sturdy as the Hardiggs). Containerizing also allows for "multiple baskets for eggs" planning: his and her containers, with some overlap between them, a smaller container with food, a small camping stove, a tarp for shelter, a quantity of ammunition, etc. Two is one, one is none, and three is better. Consider this: any packaging should be manageable (meaning moveable) by all the adult members of the party who may need to manage them. Can all the adults in your party competently - and quickly - back a vehicle with a trailer out of a traffic jam?

Protip: when packing a modular container, such as an Actionpacker or Hardigg case, don't just pack it - "combat load" it - think vertical packing, not layers of horizontal so you can easily get to anything you need quickly. Cardboard panels make good vertical dividers.

Paul said...

well, the trailer would be good should you not be able to access the house.

My thinking runs along the lines that if you are caught in a metro when things go sideways you might want to have a low profile in place till the things settle down. Although roaming around 15 to 30 days after you will run into gangs of remainders.

Keep your powder dry and your people close.

Anonymous said...

Having experienced two years of earth quakes some free advice.
- Txt messages are more reliable then calling after the quake when the damaged system becomes over loaded you may be able to make a call IMMEDIATELY after the earthquake but after that if you do get through tell your loved one where you plan to meet because you won't get a 2nd call
- Cash is all way worth something plastic cards not so much
- Keep some bottle of frozen drinking water in your fridge and a large container of water for washing ect in your garage.
- Don't expect strangers or loved ones or your self to act rationally, you will need to let the inappropriate actions of others slide
- Avoid driving and if you must use extreme caution (see above)
- Keep you gas tank above half full
- Hugs, Gin and a stiff upper lip go along way