The Really Big One; Quakenami: Uh, not to alarm you...

by Su T Fitterman

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, I need to interrupt your incredibly busy life for a few words about earthquake preparation.

You probably already know that we’re on the fourth side of the Pacific Ring of Fire—and Chile, New Zealand and Japan have in recent years all experienced giant earthquakes with massive damage.

Food supplies and the car backpacks

Food supplies and the car backpacks

The fact is, ever since the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, I’ve been meaning to get our family earthquake-prepared. I never did before because it seemed a daunting task for something that nobody can nail a date to. But on Friday, I dunno. Something hit me. Maybe it was because I had just read a piece in The Atlantic (“A Major Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest Looks Even Likelier”). This was after getting panicked by The New Yorker in 2015 (“The Really Big One”) and unnerved by Outside in 2011 (“Quakenami: Why the Pacific Northwest is Doomed).

 

I felt an urgent need to get the kit ready. For four of us. But here’s the thing about an earthquake kit. It’s a massive amount of material that needs to be collected, sorted and stored. It takes planning and logistics to locate and if necessary, purchase, all the items, including:

  • Food and water, enough for 10 days to 2 weeks, plus something to eat and drink it in and on (although according to “The Really Big One” it could be up to three months, not to alarm anyone)
  • Extra clothes, jackets, sturdy shoes, toiletries
  • Towels, paper towels, toilet paper
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, mats
  • First aid kit, flashlights, paper, pen, pencils, battery-operated radio
  • Prescriptions and other medications such as ibuprofen and antibiotic cream
  • Extra glasses
  • Money
  • Tools
  • Bucket and shovel
  • Crowbar
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pertinent pieces of ID (also email to someone not living in area)
  • Plan for what to do if we’re not all together: who to call, where to go
  • Backpacks for the car filled with spare set of clothes, washcloth & towel, toiletries, duct tape, plastic garbage bags, plastic other bags, food (on my list: 4 Clif bars, 4 dried fruit strips, pack of dried blueberries, 2 boxes raisins, 2 packages of Lipton Cup-A-Soup, 1 quart water, flashlight, headlamp, Leatherman, pens, pencils, paper)

While I began Friday, dashing over to London Drugs to get all the toiletries and dry goods necessary, the fun really began the next day when Alpha Dog and I hit up Mountain Equipment Co-op. (For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a former climber. For him, walking into MEC is like a five-year-old walking into a candy store. Which is why Alpha Dog is actually not allowed in there—ever—unless accompanied by a responsible adult.) His eyes actually lit up when we walked in. (You know, I have it pretty easy if this is all I have to do to make this man happy.)

Sleeping supplies

Sleeping supplies

We started at socks. Gotta keep those feet dry if there’s a big one. Then we looked at flashlights until Alpha Dog decided that it would be better if we got headlamps, which would free up our hands. After that, it was pocket knives, where we fell hard for the Leatherman Wave. Then we headed to the knapsack wall and picked up some sturdy ones before moving on to sleeping bags. We only needed two. As we were staring at this massive wall of selection, debating, a sales guy came up and asked if he could help. We were in the middle of an argument about where we’d be when the earthquake hit. I was startled to hear myself. We were both talking not in “if” terms, but in “when.”

By the time we were ready to check out, we had added two sleeping bag holders that completely compressed the bags to no space (this is what it means to live with a former climber—you buy stuff like this) and two fleece blankets that folded and zipped into bags (there was no way we were leaving this store without some kind of fleece).

All told, our earthquake kit was running us some big bucks. But damn, I was determined to be prepared.

The portable BBQ

The portable BBQ

From there (with all the MEC staff laughing at us—I would like to say that I look forward to having the last laugh, but really, I want this to all be in vain) we drove to Superstore. We stocked up on water (50 litres) in 10-gallon, 4-gallon and 1-quart bottles—and then to Alpha Dog’s utter delight, a powerhouse of sugar-fuelled processed food: KRAFT peanut butter, KRAFT dinner, Ichiban noodles, Lipton Cup-A-Soup, Honey Nuts n’ Oats cereal, powdered Gatorade, hot cereal packets, hot chocolate packets, tea, sugar, powdered milk, canned tuna and salmon and dry dog food. With the exception of the sugar, tea and fish, these items are not things that I would ever buy for my family. Ever. Except now I have. (Incidentally, the tuna and salmon have the longest shelf life—three and four years respectively.)

Our next stop was Kerrisdale Lumber, where we picked up a portable barbecue (for heating water), bucket (for poop), crowbar (for smashing the jagged edges from windows) and shovel (for clearing our way through the general detritus).

No kit is complete without water and a poop bucket

No kit is complete without water and a poop bucket

Upon return to home (it was now afternoon), I asked the Young Adults to provide clothes that they no longer wore but still fit, plus old running shoes and an old rain jacket. The Boy handed over clothes that had been given to him by his grandfather. Let’s just say that if there is an earthquake, he will be stylishly dressed in Armani. The Girl gave me enough clothes to live without access to her closet for four months.

Then came the packing and sorting. I did this while Alpha Dog drove to the gas station to fill two portable tanks with gas. (I told you we were serious).

By early evening, we were organized.

I really hope I did this all for nothing.