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Safety First

Earthquakes, earthquakes everywhere. Last Thursday I felt some shaking in my office which turned out to have nothing to do with the crazy tenants on the 10th floor and everything to do with a 4.1-magnitude ‘quake centered near Fremont, about 40 miles away. Friday, there was a 3.8, which I did not feel, but still seems that it must count for something. Saturday, there was another one which I also did not feel, this time a 6.5 quake just outside Eureka. If we can judge earthquake strength by the icon size used to represent it on the usgs site, this one was a monster:

Picture 1

Since my office is full of (mostly) engineers, some of which specialize solely in earthquakes, I have heard quite a few presentations about the likelihood, even immanence, of a large quake striking the Bay Area and the necessity of preparation. The crazy part is that there is still, as far as I can tell, very little we know about earthquakes when it comes to prediction. I haven’t been able to get a straight answer on whether A) these quakes are just the warmup for The Big One, or B) these quakes are releasing some built-up tension between the plates and therefore reducing the chance of a disastrous quake. I don’t think anybody knows the answer.

We do know, however, that if a big quake hits, there probably would be no electricity, natural gas or tap water for weeks, limited bridge access, and all sorts of other significant challenges to the typical California lifestyle. So I decided what better time than the present to update my earthquake survival kit? Turns out, even though my laptop-using, cubicle-working, train-commuting, urban-loving lifestyle wouldn’t seem to classify me as a survivalist, I had a lot of fun doing it. Here are some highlights:

Tools ($31)

A crescent wrench, a hammer, bungee cords, and a crowbar round out this part of the kit. I haven’t held a crowbar since I worked in house construction just after college, but while carrying it to the checkout counter, some strange and evidently destructive side of me enjoyed imagining using it to break windows and escape from my partially-collapsed house. Until I remembered that the kit is stored outside my house. Hmmm.

Technology ($33)

For Christmas this year I gifted someone with this sweet device which includes a light, radio, and a cell phone charger and is powered by solar panels and/or a hand crank. Upon seeing it open and in operation, I realized I had made a mistake (in not buying two). Thankfully, my earthquake kit is now home to one.

Water ($9)

Six gallons and six one-liter bottles. If I can’t find replacement water in the one week those will last, then I guess I will have to migrate to a creek, or, better yet, out of the area.

Food ($32)
Costco is the place to get the most calories-for-the-buck. Seriously. I got two items (one box of 24 clif bars, and one jar of mixed nuts) that combine for over 12,000 calories! And, unlike the 32 burgers I could get from the McD’s dollar menu, this food is “best before Oct 2010”. I’m not sure that McD’s could be said to be “best before” anything, except possibly Lent.

If you live in the Bay Area, or anywhere that could be disaster-prone, I highly recommend putting together your 72-hour kit. It’s fun.

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