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Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake? 191

With three earthquakes of some significance in the news this weekend (Chile, California, and Iceland), it seems a good time to ask: If you live in an area of seismic danger, how are you prepared for an earthquake (or tsunami, mudslide, or other associated danger) and how prepared are you? Do you have a stash of emergency supplies, and if so, how did you formulate it? In the U.S. alone, it's surprising how many areas there are with some reasonable chance of earthquakes, though only a few of them are actually famous for it — and those areas are the ones where everything from building codes to cultural awareness helps mitigate the risks. I'm not sure I'd want to be in a skyscraper in Memphis or St. Louis during a replay of the New Madrid quakes of 1811-1812, which is probably worth worrying about for those in the region. Beyond personal safety, do you have a plan for your electronics and data if the earth starts shaking?
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Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

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  • by kolbe ( 320366 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @04:22PM (#47743325) Homepage

    I'll be honest, as a resident of a very earthquake prone area of California I have at times forgotten about being prepared. However, there is no excuse for it. For me, I have set aside a small area in a closet with a rubbermaid container with the following set up for my family of 4:

    1 Case of 36 water bottles (changed out annually)
    1 Box of water purification tablets
    16 Freeze Dried "MRE" foods (20yr shelf life)
    1 Coleman propane stove
    2M HAM Radio + spare Li-Ion Battery & Solar Charger for talking with family
    AM/FM 2xAA Battery radio + Solar AA Charger
    2 Flashlights w/ AA Rechargeable Batteries

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @04:54PM (#47743519) Journal

    We have a self-contained travel trailer that doubles as natural disaster supplies. Stocked with canned and boxed food for weeks, 14 gallons of propane (always more than 7, since you swap tanks when one of 'em empties and top 'em off after a trip) can keep the fridge going for months, and we have a couple spare tanks.

    40 gallons of fresh water are good for three days of camping WITH showers. In a natural disaster you can skip the showers and stretch it for a month or so. A couple hundred amp-hours of batteries (i.e. two of 'em) can keep things going for a while and can be charged from solar panels (or the vehicle engine) as well. (And we're just starting to convert the lighting to LEDs, for about a 8-16x improvement in power consumption vs. incandescents.)

    The townhouse also has canned food for months and a case or two of bottled drinking water (as does the ranch house, which also has a well if we ever get a generator, windmill, or solar panels & inverter that can run it when grid power is out.) It also provides redundancy if the trailer is damaged, just as the trailer provides redundancy if the house collapses or burns.

    Travel trailers are not very expensive. Set them up for a weekend's camping, park them far enough from the house that expected disaster cases don't zap 'em both, and they'll give you your "three days until help arrives" in style, or a month's survivalist roughing-it. They also have the advantage that, if they don't get damaged in the initial event or you have warning, you can hook 'em up and move to a safer or more convenient location. All "for free" if you like occasional camping, or cross-country ground travel without having to rent allergenic hotel rooms. B-)

  • by Cliff Stoll ( 242915 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @05:02PM (#47743541) Homepage

    Background: I live on North Oakland, next to Berkeley, in the Rockridge section. Urban, detached 2 bedroom house about 100 years old.

    We bolted down our house, fully reinforced the stemwalls, and installed shearwalls. For our little 2-bedroom bungalow in Oakland, this set us back around $20,000. Earthquake insurance seemed outrageous (around $2,500/year, with very limited benefits). Along with the earthquake retrofit, we set aside a few cases of food & twenty 5-gallon jugs of water. A 2Kw Honda generator. Radio, flashlights, FRS walkie-talkies, etc. Small amount of medical stuff.

    Yes, I have onsite and offsite backups (that's easy); the real problem would be connectivity after a quake. There's probably a hundred telephone poles between my house and the central office.

    Some challenges: Keeping food & water fresh is a problem - cans get rusty as water condenses on cold surfaces. Some camping food goes bad. MRI rations taste, well, horrible. We should replace water & food annually, and generally forget to. (We discovered diapers in our earthquake stash, left over from when our college kids were infants)

        Storing gasoline for the generator is a problem. I'm told that gasoline gets stale after a few months (is this true, or an urban legend?). It's a pain to lug a 3 gallon gas can around, and it's not something I want under my house. (I store it in a shed, where it's out of sight & out of mind - so I rarely refresh it. Is there a small, 5 or 10 gallon under-ground gasoline storage tank?). I should start and exercise the generator every month; it's more like every two years or so. Our experience in the 1989 quake was that gas stations can't pump after an earthquake (no power).

      Our neighborhood's quake group (the Oakland - Rockridge Shakers) meets every summer, and the earthquake drills have been quite useful - we've had several fun practice sessions, where we hunt for human dummies hidden around the neighborhood, search for downed wires, and practice using walkie-talkies. Afterwards, it's a block party, and we compare notes while sharing lunch.

        My home business, Acme Klein Bottles, lost two glass Klein bottles in last night's quake. Both fell off a shelf and shattered on the floor. Good lesson: keep my glassware stored down low, with holders to prevent boxes from shifting. Since most of my glass Klein bottles are stored under our house; a major local temblor that destroyed the house would also wipe out the business.

  • From my experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2014 @05:51PM (#47743781)

    In the last 4 years I have experienced the following:
    1x Magnitude 7 quake
    5x Magnitude 6 quakes
    Lost count of the magnitude 5s. If I wasn't thrown out of bed, I didn't bother getting up and running for cover.

    This was all living in the one city (Christchurch.) Prior to the quakes the city was considered to have a reasonably low risk of quakes - and then it was expected damage would occur from fault lines around 100km away. However it was hit by shallow quakes directly under the city.

    What I learnt (not all from first hand experience, but I know people did):
    Damage to property and services vary wildly - and generally the ground conditions have a far greater affect on damage than proximity to the epicentre.
    Avoid liquifiable ground. Not only is the shaking worse in those areas, all the services and roads will be completely ruined.
    Avoid living on the very tops of hills. Shaking internally reflects and all the energy gets focused at the top of the hills.
    Avoid living at the top or bottom of cliffs or hillsides below rock outcrops. Falling rocks are bad!
    Cell phones are useless in a disaster. You'd think the civil defense would know this, but they decided cellphones would be cheaper and easier than a 2 way radio system. They learnt their lesson the hard way.
    Trying to call people via land lines is equally bad. However, in my case, the internet worked perfectly. (Skype out was very handy for getting hold of people outside of the city.)
    Severely damaging quakes can hit anywhere (even in what are considered to be zero/low risk areas.) It's only the interval between quakes that vary.
    Keep a shovel handy for creating emergency toilets.
    The two things super markets run out of fastest: Bread and water. There are plenty of other food stuffs that can be used in a pinch. I resorted to making my own bread - water supply never stopped, but did have to boil a lot of water.
    Greater magnitude of quake doesn't necessarily mean more damage. You should be more worried about PGA (Peak Ground Acceleration.) The worst parts of Christchurch had PGA of 2.2 G (yes more than 20 m/s^2) in a mag 6 quake. In contrast the single mag. 7 only produced PGA of 0.4 G. 185 people died in the mag. 6, vs only 2 injured enough to go to hospital in the mag. 7.

  • by ciurana ( 2603 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @06:06PM (#47743853) Homepage Journal

    Here you go: http://eugeneciurana.com/fotki... [eugeneciurana.com] -- that's a photo of the stashes we have in our home in Acapulco and in San Francisco. Both are in active seismic zones, and likely to get hit by some disaster at some point.

    Since you can see most of the contents, I rather tell you about our guidelines for disaster preparedness:

    * Have enough supplies to subsist for up to 7 days, normal calorie intake, for everyone in the family
    * Ditto for water
    * Tool box with emergency tools (wrench for gas and water valves, pliers, screw drivers, a couple of Leatherman tools), matches, and
    * Solid alcohol stove and several refills
    * Full first aid kit including gauze, ice packs, antiseptics, anti-diarrhea pills, etc. and a sewing kit
    * Crank radios and flashlights
    * Battery operated perimeter lamps
    * Assorted Cyalume sticks in green, white, blue, and red colors
    * Deck of cards, puzzles, etc. to kill the time

    The food is all either canned or dehydrated, and it works way better than MREs. The only thing we'd miss are fresh fruits; we even have powdered milk. Every year around Dec/Jan I consciously cook with all the things in the food stash that are within ~6 months of recommended use by date. All those things are replenished and ready to go. We found that most cans and dehydrated food have an approximate 18-24 months duration, so we don't go on the Spam and etc. diet more than every other year for more than 2 or 3 days. Plus it's fun readying everything and testing, etc.

    Last night -- the earthquake woke my g/f up (we were in our SF home). The bookshelves rattled a bit, and I was wondering if the quake had been strong enough to knock my motorcycle off the center stand, but the toddler was fine and slept through it, power never faltered, and otherwise it was a nice and uneventful evening.

    I lived through several earthquakes in my life (in fact, all my life I lived in seismic zones) so I'll be happy to address questions, if any.


  • Survival guy (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2014 @06:06PM (#47743861)

    This is my check list of things to do in the event of local/national disaster:

    1. Head to the nearest Wal-Mart, Kmart, Costco or whatever and pick-up 20 lbs. of white or brown rice and 20 lbs. of pinto beans. White rice has a better storage life while brown rice has more nutritional benefits Ã" your choice.

    2. While youÃ(TM)re there grab 5 lbs. mixed beans, 5 lbs. of white sugar, 5 lbs. of iodized salt, one gallon of olive oil (can be frozen to extend shelf-life), 5 lbs. oats, 10 lbs. each of white or wheat flour and cornmeal.

    3. Now head over to the canned foods and pick-up 20 cans of canned fruits and 20 cans of canned vegetables. Be sure to buy only those brands and contents you normally eat and nothing exotic. No need to shock the senses.

    4. Now over to the canned meats. Pick-up 20 cans of various meats, salmon, stews, spam and tuna. Again buy only those brands with contents you normally eat and nothing exotic.

    5. Okay. Now to the to the peanut butter shelf and toss two 40-ounce jars in the cart. The listed shelf life is just over two years and each jar has over 6,000 calories. Peanut butter is an excellent instant survival food.

    6. Over to the powdered drink mix Ã" go on IÃ(TM)ll waitæOkay, pick up two 72 Ounce Tang Orange drink canisters (provides 100% of the US RDA vitamin C requirement per 8 oz. glass). Also grab six 19-Ounce Containers of Kool-Aid Drink Mix.

    7. Off to the vitamin and supplement aisle, pick up 400 tablets Ãoeone a dayà multivitamin and mineral supplements. I buy this brand at the local Wal-Mart Ã" comes in 200 count bottle for $8 each.

    8. Now to the department we all love Ã" sporting goods. Go to the camping aisle and pick up 4 five gallon water containers. Fill with tap water as soon as you get back home.

    9. While youÃ(TM)re there buy 250 rounds of ammunition for your primary defensive weapon. More if you can, but this will be a good start. Also a good universal cleaning kit.

    10. And lastly pick up the best LED flashlight you can afford, extra batteries and bulb. Also grab two boxes of wooden matches and several multi-purpose lighters. DonÃ(TM)t forget to date, use and rotate Ã" remember first in first out. LetÃ(TM)s get started. What would you add to the list?

  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @07:09PM (#47744121) Homepage Journal
    I have 3 identical Backpacks that contain the following 1 Pump Action Shot Gun 1 .45 handgun 10 boxes of ammo for each gun 1 machete 1 Spyder hunting/Utility knife Magnesium Firestarter LED Flashlight Compass a couple dozen dehydrated meals Sumo mini cooker 4 propane cans for teh Sumo 2 gallons of Water A couple pouches of Beef Jerky Bivy Sack Tarp 2 20" lengths of nylon rope 1 travel sized 1st Aid kit I keep one in my Car, one at home in the Hall Closet and one as a GeoStash out in an outlaying sparsely populated area I can get to by foot if needed. The contents of these bags are very versatile and will cover me in the case of Zombie Apocalypse, Governmental Collapse/Tyranny, Alien Invasion and oh yes... Earth Quakes

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