Not if. When.

About a week ago, Sean posted about earthquake handwringing. Yes, we all know it’s coming, but are we really ready? Are we ready as a community? Are we ready as individuals? I know that, right now, I am not. I don’t have enough food to get me to the weekend, let alone supplies for up to 72 hours, for my family of four, two dogs and a cat.

It’s stupid, it’s irresponsible, and it’s all about to change, spurned on by this story:

As many as 18,000 people dead. More than $250 billion in damages. Hundreds of thousands of people left homeless. That’s not the latest estimate of Hurricane Katrina’s toll on the Gulf Coast. That’s a worst-case scenario if a major earthquake were to hit Los Angeles.

The figures are hypothetical, from a model published in May by government researchers studying the Puente Hills fault under the city. Scientists warn that there’s little doubt a major quake will hit California in coming years or decades, though many scenarios are not as disastrous as Puente Hills.

As was the case with Katrina, experts say the federal government hasn’t done enough to prepare.

Imagine the riots, plus the northridge quake, plus the brushfires, all at the same time. That’s how bad it will be, if we’re lucky, and the federal government has been too busy with Operation Pour Money Into The Desert (nod: billmon) to get properly prepared.

I’ve learned a lot of things in the aftermath of Katrina, and two of them go hand in hand: it’s incredibly important to be prepared for a disaster (and that includes some sort of terrorism that disrupts things the same way an earthquake would, for different reasons) and, right now, despite their propaganda campaign to the contrary, the federal government under George W. Bush is about as unprepared to protect and care for us as they could possibly be. And I really don’t have a whole lot of confidence in The Governator to have anything approaching a fucking clue, either. In fact, I have more faith in my magic terrorist repelling rock, than those guys.

So it’s up to me to protect and provide for my family. My wife and I are working in our garage (that’s carhold to you, The 909) this weekend, and part of the cleaning up will involve making a space to hold some serious disaster preparedness supplies. I’m going to do some research, and if anyone is interested in what I uncover, like prices, places to shop, and all that, I’ll follow-up.

8 thoughts on “Not if. When.”

  1. Reading this NY times article earlier in the week, and talking to a friend about how totally unprepared we both are, inspired me to start getting my act together. For starters, I now have several gallons of bottled water in my apartment (including one in the freezer). It takes up space, but it’ll be damn nice to have in an emergency.

  2. I remember that when the last earthquake struck, in ’94, the crime rate actually went down.
    Then again, maybe this was because there had already been riots a little over a year prior – so maybe the tension that fueled these acts was gone. And maybe a similar earthquake could now result in further civil discourse.

  3. I didn’t mean civil unrest. I meant the chaos and fear, and how hard it was to get anywhere in the city, not the tension that helped blow that whole thing sky high.

    I hate it when I’m unclear. Sorry about that.

  4. Here’s what I think should be done: LA should organize a monthlong (or more) preparedness drive – with daily reminders in all the media to stock up on various items, week by week.

    Do it with the cooperation of major grocers and other retailers (Smart and Final, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club) so there wouldn’t be anything in short supply. In a month or so the city could be incredibly well prepared and it could save thousands of lives when the next big quake comes.

    Example: week 1 is water, week 2 is canned food, week 3 is paper goods/sanitary supplies
    Week 4 is first aid items. And so on. Tell people every day in all media what they need to do for the week.

    I’ve written to some radio stations suggesting this – I think it could make a HUGE difference and with the glaring preparedness failure of Katrina we can’t say we weren’t warned. (And quakes don’t give any lead time for evacuation.)

    As soon as Katrina slips off the news cycle, preparedness will become a “yeah, one of these days” sort of thing. That’s just the way people are.

  5. Thanks for this post Wil, it’s exactly what I was talking about the other day and I think we’d all do well to take a looksee at our backups and how we can improove them.

    Karen – that’s a great idea, maybe we’ll do it right here on!

  6. Dear All:

    Soooooooo glad you planning to do this. We all need to take responsibility for our survival.

    Don’t forget a smaller trash can w/lid & plastic bags for a portable ‘potty’, a bottle of bleach to control insects in standing water & spreading molds, etc. ,AND iodine which can purify your drinking water.

    Good luck & here’s hopin’ we never have to use our ‘stash’. Jo-Ann

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