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!

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

  1. That video clip is hilarious! I can see why they still get teased. Then again, I would have done the same thing! 🙂 Thanks for the smile. Have a great evening Debra!

    1. The video of the two news anchors under the desk was made even more amusing to me because the camera guy just stood there! And this was long before youtube even existed, so they probably really lament that it still circulates as a source of humor! I am glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

    1. That is so funny, Martha! I didn’t know the “Kent After-schockney” label! Poor guy! Thinking back to 1987 of course we didn’t haev youtube…so he never dreamed that this many years later that videoclip would stil be circulating! 🙂

  2. Debra, I think earthquakes are extremely frightening, because they hit without warning or any ability to gauge their impact. I can watch a hurricane approach and have a sense of what damage it may do when it hits with enough warning to do some preparing, but one must always be vigilant about an earthquake. It has to be nerve-wracking.

    And, the debris that is washing up from Japan blows me away. I hope you avoid all the hazardous material.

    1. I feek vert sad about the debris that is potentially contaminating some of the bays and inlets off the coast, but in many ways, it reminds us of how the oceans really do all connect! It’s also very shocking to consider the magnitude of the Japan quake. I don’t live in fear at all, Andra. I think there is something perhaps alarmingly numbing about hearing “there’s going to be a big one” you entire life. I can’t consciously really compute that, and for that factor, I guess I’m grateful. But like I’m hammering home, I do think it’s healthy to give it some thought so we have some idea of how to cope.

  3. I can’t believe that all the debris from Japan is washing up in Oregon and all those new fish species. That’s amazing and I do hope it doesn’t upset the ecology. I think if I was involved in an earthquake I’d duck for cover too xx

    1. I think the debris washing up on the western coast of the United States all the way from Japan functions as a good reminder about how interconnected we all are, don’t you, Charlie? It does kind of amaze me, though! D

  4. If a great disaster were to hit us we would be totally unprepared because appart from dangerous lightening storms we do not have any other natural disasters in our area, but our world is always changing and we are seeing tornados now in some parts of South Africa which previously was unheard of.

    1. I really beileve as you do…there is strong evidence of climate change affecting weather and storm patterns all over the globe. It does pay to have some supplies around that would at least assist if we lost power for a few days. In some instances, that is probably enough, yet it’s amazing how many people don’t even do that. We get lazy ourselves, too, and I really do know better! 🙂

    1. I don’t think we are truly prepared. I think I do a lot of “self-talk” here just to remind myself not to grow too complacent! It feels like as the world grows smaller we become more aware, too, of how we are affected by worldwide disasters, as in Japan’s effect on the west coast of the United States.

  5. That debris floe has been a worry for sometime now and though it may leave a specific area, it will only move to another part of the coastline. It is not going to magically disappear nor dissolve harmlessly into the ocean’s waters. Without a means of disposing it, we can only hope the environmental damage is kept to a minimum, that those 30 new species won’t wreck havoc on our Pacific Coast’s marine life.

    1. I am really quite concerned about the marine life, John. We are member/supporters of several ocean conservancy groups and because of our grandchildren and proximity to the ocean we spend a lot of time at aquariums and tide pool areas. We’ve been tracking the flow of debris and it really is concern. At this point it’s a more silent threat than the horrible gulf oil spill, but we may not even know the full impact of some of these disasters in my lifetime. I’m really very good at identifying problems, but sure not well prepared to offer solutions. There are so many environmental concerns sometimes I can barely think about them! I appreciate your very thoughtful considerations. D

  6. Dear Debra, I’m looking forward to any and all postings you do on how best to respond to natural disasters. I suspect some, maybe most, of what you write will apply to other “disasters” in our lives. Thanks for the light note at the end with the video. I would have been right down there under the plywood desk with them!

    That debris in Oregon is certainly something we need to be concerned about because of marine biology. The national news (NBC) at 5:30 pm has been showing all of us pictures from Oregon, so I saw that steel and concrete dock. It’s amazing to me. That’s a new kind of globalization!

    I’m reading a book you may have read. If you haven’t, I think you’d find it truly information and sobering as well. It’s entitled “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back” by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. Peace.

    1. Thank you for the book suggestion, Dee. No, I haven’t even heard of it, but it does indeed sound like one I would enjoy. Isn’t that dock something quite amazing to see? It seems amazing to me that it could travel all the way from Japan and not sink to the bottom of the ocean. I suspect I know very little about the physics involved. Ha! We even had another small earthquake yesterday, so although it might sound like I’m trying to be an alarmist myself, we really do live with the threat, and I think that for the most part we humans are all just a little bit unprepared for worst case scenarios. I’m basically glad we don’t continually live with fear, but once in awhile I think it’s just do a little assessment! oxo

  7. I think earthquakes are one of the scariest natural disasters there can be, and I can’t imagine staying calm in one. We had a freakish one here on the east coast last year, nowhere near what California gets, but it was really scary nonetheless. Everything seems so out of control. My biggest concern is what fracking will do – looks like New York is going to approve it, and none of the decision makers are taking the major fault under NYC into account – of course, they’re downplaying it or ignoring it altogether. I foresee impending disaster at some point. If the NY/NJ area vanishes, you’ll know why you don’t see any updates on my blog! 😉

    1. My very good friend actually hurt herself quite badly with that earthquake you guys had last fall! She tripped on an uneven piece of sidewalk that was a direct result of the earthquake and was severely injured. She’s still having problems. So in some ways it isn’t so much about how strong the quake, but the degree of the damage, and one thing we do have going for us, I suppose, is that our building codes take earthquake potential in mind. I haven’t heard anything about the proposed fracking in New York. I will do a little reading online just to better understand what they’re proposing. I’m always learning something new from my fellow bloggers! As for NY/NJ dropping off, that’s been the “threat” in California–making Arizona beachfront property! Oh dear, right?

        1. Thank you for this link to your poetry! I think you have had some very significant experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about! This is the deeper aspect that counterweights the lightness of your humor. I think the balance is really lovely! D

  8. That made my day, Debra, it was as funny as some of the movies I’ve watched that lampoon news reporters!! Especially when they panned out to show the cameraman just standing there watching them!! I don’t think we’ve got to much risk for disaster here, except for tornadoes and hopefully we never experience that in our city! Earthquakes are frightening and it is so sad that only now debris is washing up on your shores from Japan… what a long-lasting devastation that tsunami was!

    1. I’m glad you took a little look at the youtube “flashback” to 1987, Barbara. I never understood why those poor guys were so maligned for getting under their desks. That’s exactly what the authorities have told us all to do in an earthquake. So funny! Tornadoes are the top of the heap for what would frighten me, but when I get myself too worked up I remember the photo at a local observatory showing an everyday housewife hit by a meteor sometime in the 1950s. I don’t know where we can go that we can avoid all disasters, so it isn’t a good idea to obsess. But supplies on-hand are still a good idea, don’t you think? D

  9. laugh, I certainly did Debra ! But I enjoyed the adverts too – I think they made me laugh louder !!
    On a serious note we are still (as a world) dealing with the literal fallout from the Japanese tsunami and nuclear fall out. Yup, scary stuff !

    1. The residual effects of Japan’s disaster are probably more significant than we can even tell at this point. I think we are a little helpless in these areas. But I do think about how to plan and prepare, and even though a good part of my consciousness does recognize that we can only ward off so much, it often makes me feel better to be actively involved in a response! I thought the adverts (we call them commercials) in the video were really funny, too! I was a little shocked to realize it’s been 25 years!

  10. Oh, Debra, how funny the video is. I try to be prepared for power outages and snowstorms and such, but that tends to wax and wane with the seasons. It is tornadoes that worry me at times. While we usually have some warning, they can come up quickly and violently. Of course, I’ve never actually been a tornado. I just fret about them.

    We have had a climate change. We used to be zone 5 for gardening purposes and now are a zone 6. I’m sure that the onset of West Nile, and other diseases, has something to do with changes in climate.

    Now, having said all this happy stuff, I hope you are having a nice weekend.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the video of the poor news anchors caught in the earthquake aftershock. Poor guys! THey never imagined a time when youtube would draw attention to their actions twenty-five years later.

      I wondered if you had any tornado experience, Penny. I do think they’d be terrifying and at the end of the day, that’s where I’m landing. We can’t avoid the potential of all manner of disaster, but it is a good idea, I think, to at least consider what we can do to have an emergency plan. I’m not sure we can avoid all the struggles involved, but I prefer to actively engage in what seems possible. I’m really intrigued about your zone changing! I would love to know more about that! Enjoy your Labor Day…hope you have a good week, too. Debra

    1. I’ve seen your comments on other posts recently, Cristine and felt frustrated that it was taking me so long to respond. In addition to being busier than typical, we’ve had a few power outages to really throw off our Internet! At one point I just stopped trying for at least a few days. We aren’t anywhere near the wildfires, but apparently our cable provider experienced interruption from a local fire! And about earthquake preparedness, I just experienced another reminder of how we need to stay alert. My son lives in Oakland and he and his wife were wakened yesterday by a pretty good jolt! Since I last wrote the post on my earthquake experiences we at least finally purchased some supplies. It’s amazing how I can put this out of my mind…but with a young family, I’m sure you think of it and plan ahead! ox

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