Let’s practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On!” How do you respond in an emergency?

I know I’m speaking primarily of my experiences with earthquakes and it’s possible you just aren’t all that interested. You have your own natural events to consider. But that’s really the point. I can only speak about earthquakes. I’m altogether relieved I haven’t experienced tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons, typhoons…I only know earthquakes. But the consideration I’m giving to shaky ground might be relevant to you, too. How is your personal disaster preparedness? It’s worth thinking about.

It’s been a little over a year since the devastating earthquake and tsunami slammed Japan. If you live near any coast you might see reminders.

It was reported today that The National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Association (NOAA) has given the state of Washington $50,000 just to help pay  for trash bags and bins for the tsunami debris that is hitting the coast. A  66-foot long steel and concrete dock that washed from Japan arrived on the Oregon coast, bringing with it at least 30 species of sea creatures not native to the U.S. coast. It’s difficult to yet know the implications for the fragile coastal marine system. And it must be very disconcerting just to see it!

 This marker is in the same city where my daughter and family live. Do you think I notice it?

And we are now made aware that the California coast is next. The warnings have been broadcast to stay clear of any floating debris. There is concern about toxic materials–fuel canisters, vehicles, industrial chemical containers and other hazardous materials are anticipated.

Tsunami warning signs are feverishly posted all over the coastline. This one was on the beach where we vacation.

It’s sobering to think about an 9.0 magnitude earthquake like the one that occurred in Japan, March 11, 2011. But reflecting on the potential for such a disaster doesn’t necessarily translate into being fearful. It does motivate me to frequently consider what we would do if we are home when a BIG ONE hits. What if we are at work and separated? On the freeway? It’s worth thinking about, as each location needs a little different plan.

I am usually fairly competent in an emergency. I’ve been in charge of enough events, many involving young children, and I’ve had to create earthquake provisions and publish plans for schools and families according to state requirements. In smaller emergency events I usually don’t panic if I’m responsible for other people. But I’m not immune to the strange behaviors that hit when adrenaline pumps too quickly!

A couple of years ago a mild earthquake hit during work hours.  The tremor set our little bungalow to creaking and groaning and we later laughed at the picture of  three of us, Native Californians, bouncing around in slightly frenetic and unfocused activity while the lone New Yorker stayed calm, cool and followed the best practice methods–“Drop, Cover, Hold On.” I may need to practice my response!

While we all continue to watch Isaac hovering over New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on this 7th anniversary of Katrina, it is sobering to look back while also wondering if the $1.1-billion surge barrier, 26 feet high and 1.8 miles long, will be enough. Pumps have been upgraded since Katrina and evacuation and emergency management plans have been fine-tuned. Lessons were learned and we all hope for the best of possible outcomes. What is the major difference between Katrina and Isaac? Preparation!

In my next post I’ll share Fetterly experiences in the Whittier earthquake.  Fortunately I have some funny moments mixed in with the chaos. When I can promise to insert humor you know the scope and scale didn’t qualify the event as a personal disaster, although there were fatalities resulting from the tremor. But on a personal level there was just enough damage and  jolt to teach several lessons that continue to reverberate.

So as someone who promotes well-being, I think I need to end on a much lighter note, don’t you? If possible, take a look at this little clip from October 1, 1987–fast forward through commercials to 1:30.

In the clip Los Angeles news anchors dive under the news desk as an after shock hits, while the camera person just continues to stand still and film the whole event. To this day they are teased for their reaction. With all those lights and booms over their heads? I’d have crawled out and run home!