Rollin' Like Sisyphus

Terra Infirma – Losing The Ground Beneath Your Feet

Posted in We All Fall Down by Huckleberry on April 3, 2014

As foretold by the prophet Johnny Cash, we're falling into it...

As foretold by the prophet Johnny Cash, we’re falling into it…

So you’ll be standing there, at some point, maybe in your study or the hallway or the threshold to your kitchen, and you’ll hear distant thunder coming from the floor, and the windows will lightly rattle, as though a Peterbilt were rolling by, but the thunder builds and the rattling rises and after a couple of more seconds, yep, you realize it’s an earthquake.
This is the one aspect of an earthquake that creates panic, fear and near-psychopathic hysteria – it’s always a surprise. Also, it’s a little unsettling to feel solid rock and earth that is miles deep essentially turn into a trampoline, because at least other disasters have the decency to simply amplify the things we know rather than transmogrify the familiar into the profane. A hurricane, a tornado, a flood; that’s wind and water and we see it nearly every minute of every day of our lives. It only becomes dangerous with amplification, and we know when the dial will crank to 11 a good spell beforehand. An earthquake takes the thing we require incredibly powerful machinery just to barely scratch and dent, and tosses it around like a sack of lightly fluffed laundry.
But I digress.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I’ve learned a few things about earthquakes.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that the “experts”* are completely useless, and are either inept or are outright liars. When I was a little child, the experts advised everyone to get under their tables or desks in the event of an earthquake, apparently not realizing that a desk or a table usually isn’t sturdy enough to support the weight of a partially collapsed house falling on top of it. When I was a little older, the advice shifted to standing in the nearest doorway, not realizing two important things: most doorjambs are purely cosmetic and cut into the wall without regard to layout of the structure’s joists; and that in a rolling, roiling earthquake, open doors hung on hinges tend to swing about rather wildly, and standing in the doorway is an excellent idea if you want to have a few fingers crushed, or have a door slammed into your shoulder multiple times. Now, that advice is kaput, and the experts suggest you curl up into a ball next to a large, flat piece of furniture, such as your bed, to create an “air pocket” if the house collapses on top of it but not you.
My advice, if you have an area outside that is completely open and free of powerlines, trees and structures, and you can run there in a few seconds, run there as soon as you feel the shaking. If you don’t have such a clearing, move to a home where you can run to such a place.
Part of the panic with earthquakes, especially the ones that strike Southern California, is that no one here is used to them. Most people in LA right now were not born here, and did not grow up here.** They came from Ohio and Pennsylvania and Iowa and anywhere else where winter is 11 months long, and many of them get jobs as reporters. Reporters, already prone to panic, go full retard when the ground starts quaking, they have no idea how to cope with it, and they resort to implications that the world is going to end. Compounding the problem is the fact that many of the people that were born in Southern California and did grow up here have moved away, so any hope of maintaining even a basic semblance of institutional memory is a longshot at best, and a joke at worst.
In the spirit of helping everyone out, I’m going to share what I know and have learned*** about earthquakes.

1) The earth is always quaking, nearly continuously, we just can’t feel most of it.
2) There absolutely is such a thing as “earthquake weather” and “earthquake season” even though the Cal Tech eggheads insist there isn’t, reminding everyone that they themselves haven’t found any such links. Correlation is not causation, but it is correlation. The big earthquakes have always happened in the Spring and Fall, near equinoxes, during unseasonably warm or unseasonably cool weather — basically when it goes from quite warm to quite cool in a day or two, or vice versa.
3) The big ones always occur in the early mornings or in the evenings. Every emergency kit needs to include a flashlight, and if possible a small LED lantern. Or if you want to go tactical, night vision.
4) The one thing the experts get right is to turn off the gas feed to your home right away.
5) Have several kits stashed throughout your property, including your car, because there is a possible chance that parts of your home will not be accessible.
5a) Make sure each kit has water, a multi-tool, a gas valve wrench, flashlight and lantern, a radio with either batteries, a hand crank or a solar charger, salt tablets, protein bars, first-aid and trauma kits, and have the kit nearest your bed contain a set of day clothes, rugged shoes, a weapon, a hat and sunscreen. You may have to grab this bag at 4 AM and bug out. It’s best to not then be trying to make your way through the next day in your pajamas and bare feet.
6) Have a bug-out spot in an open, clear space that you and everyone in your family is instructed to go rally at following a quake. This space only needs to be suitable for a few hours to allow everyone enough time to arrive. Local parks are ideal.
7) If your structure is still standing AND if your immediate area has survived the quake without too much issue, hunker down, inspect the property and try to ride it out. If any part of your neighborhood has collapsed, get out of town as soon as possible. When one structure in your neighborhood gets rattled enough to collapse, there’s a high probably others near it will as well.
8) Avoid freeways and bridges. A significant minority of the deaths in the 1994 Northridge earthquake were people driving in their cars in the dark who couldn’t see that an overpass in front of them had collapsed, and they dove headlong right off the freeway. Take surface streets if you’re bugging out.
9) Aftershocks usually drag out the ordeal, and they can occur even weeks after the original quake. For the purposes of this post, I’m deeming all follow-up quakes as “aftershocks” even though the term usually has a specific definition. Aftershocks are why it’s important to gather the clan, inspect everything and quickly assess fight or flight. If a building in your area goes down, chances are other buildings were weakened enough where an aftershock can cause follow-up collapses.
10) Avoid apartments, especially those with the dug-out carports directly beneath two or more stories of dwellings. These buildings are notorious for collapse and agonizing death as you starve and suffocate for days awaiting rescue.

With strings of earthquakes rattling all across the Pacific Rim, it can be tempting to declare a STATE OF EMERGENCY and give in to the panic generated by a commentariat that knows nothing, and is all too eager to share that ignorance.
I’ve seen my share of nearly every type of natural disaster, and I’m here to tell you, the earthquake is the easiest to prepare for and survive, so long as you actually prepare for it and have a plan to survive.

* From Cal Tech even!
** Also why an NFL team won’t work in LA – too many transplants bring their football allegiances with them.
*** Learned through experience. Almost everything I’ve ever read about handling earthquakes just doesn’t jibe with actually going through an earthquake.


6 Responses

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  1. Doom said, on April 3, 2014 at 10:00

    This is advice I can use. While I don’t live in an area that gets frequent, or bigger, hits, we get hit about every quarter of a century and time is due. Past due. I have no idea how to deal with this. Tornadoes? Sure. Flood? Give or take. Massive thunderstorms, snow storms, power outage, cold weather, hot weather? But this is something totally foreign. As for gas, I am going to try to have a flexible connector added, or several, to my system. Wherever there is a rock, a hard place, and a gas pipe. If I can afford it. Bleh.

    By the way, any recommendations on emergency radios? None of the emergency radios I have seen reviewed get good reviews. I’d love to have a couple, at least. But it’s hard to shell out $50, $100, or more, on something people equate to crap. Just curious.

    • Huckleberry said, on April 3, 2014 at 10:28

      I have three of these stashed throughout the house, one more in the garage and one in the truck, but sadly I see they’re now discontinued.
      You can find them on eBay still I think for a good price. They’re not expensive at all, and I love the ones I have. I use one of them as my everyday radio on my workbench.
      Click the picture for the Amazon listing.

      • El Borak said, on April 3, 2014 at 11:57

        sadly I see they’re now discontinued.

        Apparently you didn’t buy enough of them.

      • Huckleberry said, on April 3, 2014 at 13:56

        Well, just continuing the family trend.
        I still remember when my father brought home a new VCR – long before most people knew what one was – only to watch in horror as it became obsolete, because he’d chosen BETA instead of VHS.
        DNA is a peculiar thing.

  2. Doom said, on April 4, 2014 at 11:22

    I just won’t buy used electronics, or anything on Ebay. But if you hear of anything that can be bought new, that does work well…

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